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Times of Grace on the perfectly-timed ‘Songs of Loss and Separation’

Times of Grace, featuring Adam Dutkiewicz (guitars/vocals) and Jesse Leach (vocals) of metalcore Mass-holes Killswitch Engage return after a 10-year hiatus with second album Songs of Loss and Separation, out today (July 16th) via Wicked Good Records.

The second-full-length from this passion project arrives amid a rather different environment to 2011’s The Hymn of a Broken Man. The outfit’s first music materialized during Dutkiewicz’s recovery from near-crippling back surgery, and at the time of Hymn…’s release, Leach was yet to officially rejoin the Killswitch Engage fold.

Now firmly entrenched in that band again, Leach has tackled anxiety, depression, vocal cord surgery, and divorce in recent years. Much of this has been channelled into Songs of Loss and Separation, an atmospheric, deeply melodic, and emotionally draining album that straddles various heavy music styles and beyond. The LP also features their official third member in drummer Dan Gluszak. “It feels like 20 years,” Leach laughs on the time between releases from his home in the Catskill Mountains. “It’s been a lifetime, dude. Crazy. This one really captures a time in my life. I’m proud of that, and I’m proud of being able to navigate through such a dark time and capture it.”

You’ve made reference to this being a cathartic album. Is Times of Grace a different type of catharsis as compared to Killswitch Engage?

It is, for sure. There are similarities that run through, but this one specifically just feels more personal. Whereas a Killswitch record, it has a songcraft to it where we really strive to give it a positive spin and give it some triumph. We know we’re going to be playing it live to audiences who want to be able to sing along. Whereas Times of Grace, that’s kind of an afterthought, because we don’t necessarily do this to tour or have a career with it, at least at this point. So it’s a bit more like opening up my journal and just reading what’s going on. It’s definitely a lot more personal.

I do use poetic license to say certain things so it’s not just a straight, [it’s] obvious what’s going on. But there’s no forced optimism I guess, because we really want to keep Killswitch [about] triumph. So this is definitely a bit more melancholy and honest.

Times of Grace doesn’t need those arena-sized choruses.

[Sings in uplifting Killswitch Engage style] “It’s gonna be okay!” This one’s like, “Yeah, it might not.”

There are a number of memorable lyrical excerpts on the record; such as “I lost a lot of sleep with my restless mind/I can’t conceal the bleeding of the pain we hide”, and “Caught paralysed in our sadness/Integrity traded for madness”. Do words like that just stem from life experience?

Yeah, life experience, and those lines you just quoted are mine. It’s about dealing with crippling anxiety; going through a very dark time and not having a clear perception of the outcome of a situation. That can be a very scary thing when you’re in the grey, in that grey area of, “I don’t know what comes next.” And not knowing is sometimes worse than knowing.

The public’s perception of Adam is the persona of the wise-cracking, shit-talking, beer-chugging Killswitch Engage guitarist who sometimes wears bizarre outfits on-stage. Does Times of Grace enable audiences to see another, more vulnerable facet of his personality?

There’s always going to be wise-cracking, he can’t help himself. It’s funny, when we toured on that first record, that was an actual discussion. If you look back on any videos or pictures from that era, he’s wearing a button-up shirt and denim jeans. I remember saying to him, “If we’re going to do this, it’s got to be different than Killswitch. It has to be, because [otherwise], what’s the point? If we’re going to go out there and you’re going to be that loudmouthed asshole and we’re going to sing songs about deep things, it’s not going to come off as well. People are going to expect it from you, but let’s give them something different.”

So he does “behave” himself, it’s not even behaving himself, because there’s a huge part of him that’s a very serious, brooding, introspective person. That’s the guy that’s one of my best friends, that’s the guy I know off-stage. If you catch him off-stage, hanging out around his hometown, he’s not automatically a goofball. He can go deep on some stuff. So I think people are just going to see an extension of who he is. And then occasionally that side of him comes out, because he’s definitely a sarcastic prick at times.

He’s taken on more vocal duties on this record too. You’ve mentioned how he’s helped shape your lyrics, and coached you in the studio. But have you in any way assisted him in refining his vocal approach?

As much as I can. From what I’ve learned from Melissa Cross, I’ve taught him some of the techniques she’s taught me. And also, I think if I’ve taught him anything, it’s just to make sure the soul is there. He’s very much a perfectionist when it comes to certain things, and I love imperfections. I’m a punk – I love when the voice doesn’t sound 100 percent perfect, as long as it’s close and you’re getting the emotion. He kind of sharpens my dull edges, and I sort of relax his perfectionism. So I think we feed off each other.

The album was largely completed prior to the pandemic, but do you think a lot of the themes will resonate even more strongly with audiences in a COVID era who have dealt with isolation, depression and the like? In a way, do you feel this record arrives at the ideal time?

One hundred percent. I think it’s serendipity, it’s the way of the spirit, good luck, whatever you want to call it. I do believe that this all played out for a reason. And if nothing else, the one thing I would say, regardless of any ideal of success, to me…The main thing I want to do is just to help people deal. I want to be a therapeutic voice for people.

Because this album saved me, and music constantly saves me from myself and my darkness, and gives me a feeling that I’m not alone, knowing other people have suffered, they’ve gotten through it and they’re writing these songs to help you get through it. I love the idea someone could put this record on and go, “Wow, yeah, I get it. This is totally like what I’ve gone through.” So it’s perfect timing.

Songs of Loss and Separation is out today (Friday, 16th July).