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3.96 | 16 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2002


1. Numbered Days (3:37)
2. Self Revolution (3:10)
3. Fixation on the Darkness (3:39)
4. My Last Serenade (4:15)
5. Life to Lifeless (3:19)
6. Just Barely Breathing (5:44)
7. To the Sons of Man (1:59)
8. Temple From the Within (4:06)
9. The Element of One (4:10)
10. Vide Infra (3:30)
11. Without a Name (1:47)
12. Rise Inside (5:54)

Total Time: 45:16

Bonus disc
1. In the Unblind (2:48)
2. When the Balance Is Broken (4:35)
3. Untitled and Unloved (3:20)
4. Numbered Days (demo) (3:37)
5. Fixation on the Darkness (demo) (3:38)
6. Just Barely Breathing (demo) (5:13)
7. Fixation on the Darkness (3:39)
8. [AoJB studio out takes] (1:17)

Total Time: 28:11


- Jesse David Leach / Vocals
- Adam Dutkiewicz / Guitar, Drums
- Joel Stroetzel / Guitar
- Mike D'Antonio / Bass

About this release

Roadrunner Records
May 27th, 2002

Roadrunner Records re-released this album as a 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
on 11/1/05 which includes a bonus CD of rarities from the album sessions.

Thanks to bartosso, andyman1125 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

When you look back at 2002's Alive Or Just Breathing it's difficult to believe just how well this seminal and genre defining album has aged. Even now the music is just so fresh and exciting, who can listen to the crushing `Self Revolution,' without judging it an absolute genre classic ? Great music, great vocals and great production, the song is absolutely huge in every way, from the battery of the kick drum patterns to the very heavy riffs then the emotional impact of the well thought out and interesting lyrics. The whole album is so clever, balancing between light and shade in a way that no other band even gets close to.

Chugging riffs, uplifting guitar harmonies, catchy choruses and heavy double kick drum filled verses have always been the Killswitch sound, but this album is heavier and harsher than the bands later work, with songs like `Just Barely Breathing,' and especially `To The Sons Of Man,' having a much more aggressive and brasher sound than you may be expecting . The music is so well written, thoughtful and just plain good that it's not hard to see why the band eventually became so successful.

The production is also amazing, the guitar sound is gigantic and the kick drum beaters absolutely pound your speakers, which is especially impressive when you think that it was self produced, with current guitarist (then drummer) Adam D handling a lot of the responsibilities in the studio as well as musically.

Adam is responsible for touches of piano, the superb heavy hitting and kick pedal abusing drum performance as well as a number of guitar riffs that would hint at his future position. On top of all that you still get Adam D's excellent backing vocals which are so good they always become a real highlight of any Killswitch song.

Pete Cortese, Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroezel have a distinctive playing style which mixes Fear Factory influenced staccato rhythms with quick twin guitar harmonies in a very particular fashion that is laced with both melody and agression. The album contains a lot of the finest work Killswitch have ever done, which still grace Killswitch concerts to this day such as the singles `Fixation of Darkness' and `My Last Serenade.'

Standout tracks include the brilliant fan favourite `Life To Lifeless,' the unique and ever enjoyable opener `Numbered Days' and the previously mentioned ` Just Barely Breathing,' which remains to this day one of the heaviest songs in the Killswitch catalougue.

Alive Or Just Breathing is a undeniably classic album, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Before I start, I'd like to preface my review with a small clarification: I'm not a metalcore fan so my opinion shouldn't be considered as a guideline for the fan of the genre. The album deserves one more star when compared to any other core stuff I've heard. If you're a listener of other genres (especially prog and/or death metal), this review may turn out to be useful.

Killswitch Engage is an important act on a metalcore scene - ambitious band with eclectic approach to the music and admirable ability to combine genuine, brutal metal assault with melodic passages typical of hardcore. Their second release, ALIVE OR JUST BREATHING is the last one recorded with vocalist Jesse Leach' participation. In many fans opinion this is their best album. In my opinion... well, it certainly has on board some of their best tracks to date.

Playing good metalcore means to be eclectic, to draw from many sources from outside the genre - Killswitch certainly can be described as a good metalcore band. AoJB is full of fast, palm muted, thrash metal gallops, death metal heaviness and blasts, and even some black metal spices. A few songs are surprisingly heavy, I've been astonished. Sometimes band try to diversify a rhythm a little bit, thereby adding an enjoyable progressive edge. The record is well produced - clean yet natural sound works well both with softer parts and extremely heavy ones. Diverse harsh vocals - ranging from high pitched screams to medium pitched growls - alternate with professional and emotional clean vocal parts.

What's wrong then? What is the problem? The problem is that this is somewhat erratic collection of songs - sometimes pleasing with incredible power and creativity, but more often annoying with lack of interesting ideas. All these features I described above are true, but they do not concern every single composition in the album. Most of them are just well executed - it seems like the band hadn't sufficient interesting solutions. Another thing are those melodic choruses, so typical of metalcore. In such songs as "Just Barely Breathing" or "Rise Inside" they are great, flawless and enjoyable, but these are rare cases - trite and simple melodies still predominate and spoil the fun.

As I said, this is a musthave for metalcore fan and a good pick for anyone who wants to check the genre. However, if you're new to the band, their third album, THE END OF HEARTACHE may seem more accessible, therefore more appropriate for a start.

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 9/10: Just Barely Breathing 8/10: Self Revolution; Rise Inside 7/10: Vide Infra 6/10: Numbered Days; My Last Serenade; Temple From the Within; Without a Name 5/10: Fixation on the Darkness; The Element of One; Life to Lifeless; To the Sons of Man

Members reviews

What is it about Killswitch Engage and their record Alive or Just Breathing that makes them one of the greatest and most important metalcore and New Wave of American Heavy Metal acts? Put simply, Killswitch is one of, if not the first, metal band to temper metal’s testosterone driven aggression with existential and emotional vulnerability. Their music, like their melodic death metal peers and progenitors in Sweden, is uncompromisingly dark and heavy. And yet, on this record, Killswitch made the bold and, to this day still, controversial choice to add melodious emo/pop-punk sensibilities to their choruses and various other passages in the music.

Metal fans, as a population, are notoriously fond of “gatekeeping” and ensuring that only bands that meet their own subjective standard of authenticity get crowned as proper metal acts. This tension between more purely heavy or classical metal and the emotive metalcore sound was definitely perceived as a major fault line between fans in the mid 2000’s at the height of the New Wave of American and Heavy Metal. And while much of the criticism of metalcore’s emo-like excesses is justified, it is impossible to deny the absolute authenticity of this record. Whether its Jesse Leach’s passionate calls for self reflection or the band’s brutal riffage, this is an album that will hit you as hard as any great metal record from the two decades prior.

Still, I can’t give the album a perfect score. While the first four tracks are metal bliss, the latter half of the record does, at times, merely re-tread material already handled earlier on in the record. Despite this, Alive or Just Breathing is still classic!

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