This ‘Defeater’ article was written by Josh Hummerston, a GIGsoup contributor
Boston based hard core group Defeater supply their fourth album since their inception in 2004 – just after signing to new label Epitaph records. Epitaph is renowned for housing artists such as Parkway drive, Bring me the Horizon and Architects, amongst many other metal-core heavy hitters. Although sonically Defeater remain distant from such household names, they have defined themselves as one of the most outstanding and relevant bands of the melodic hardcore world, proving themselves amongst the throng of unnamed and forgotten hardcore bands that have risen and fell alongside them in the passing decade.
From the off it becomes immediately apparent that ‘Abandoned’ is by far the most sophisticated and well composed album that Defeater have ever released. Its musical composition and lyrical content intertwine to create a comprehensively listenable concept album. Known for their penchant for storytelling and working amongst concepts, Defeater deliver yet another instalment of narrative based music that explores a multitude of different notions and feelings that are explicitly the struggles of a man caught amidst the horrors of war, alcoholism, heartbreak and hurt. Probably the most poignant topic to the album, vocalist Derek Archambault discusses the sensation of being abandoned by God in a time of chaos and pain and being left to fend for yourself. These, whilst all being pertinent and entertaining tales of melancholy and woe end up feeling like carbon copies of the last album that lyrically don’t bring anything new to the table, making ‘Abandoned’ feel like “Letters From Home” part 2. Intentionally or not “Letters From Home” inevitably begins to feel like a furtherance to previously unfinished work. The weakness derives from the very fact that it doesn’t seem to make much of an effort to distance itself from the previous lyrical content at all, leading one to wonder whether the band have run out of ideas over a decade later in their career. This aside, Archambault provides a strong vocal delivery that infers the appropriate pain and heartfelt immersion that is necessary for such an album to actually work. Tracks “Penant” and “Remorse” render an emotional and powerful show, both instrumentally and vocally, implicating a band that have truly become masters of the craft that they themselves helped to create.
Lyrical content aside, Defeater stride confidently through the current mass of melodic hardcore groups, currently holding themselves high as one of the most hardhitting and prominent bands of the genre. Although the album doesn’t redefine the genre by any stretch of the imagination – and voices the same tone as bands like Touche Amore and Being As An Ocean – Defeater still offer a solid contribution to the melodic hard core 2015 repetoire. Song after song rasp and swirl in raucous harmony, incorporating the characteristic emotional turmoil and angst driven vocal delivery associated with the bands previous releases. Instrumentally, the band are on fine form as beautifully melodic yet hard hitting guitars strum and pick amongst a flurry of blistering drums showcasing the bands esteemed abilities as musicians, made all the more potent by the genres enduring reputation for simplicity over technicality. Tracks “Spared in Hell” and “Atonement” lay testament to the bands focus upon instrumentation and methodical texturing that contributes to the albums impressive scope. Drums flitter and glide around huge sounding chords that provide much of the melodic sensibility of the band. “Borrowed and Blue” sees the band experiment with a difference in dynamics and a more melodic rendition of Archambaults vocals that provide a welcoming breath of fresh air amidst a consistent maelstrom of harsh vocalization. Adept at setting the scene with the appropriate musicality, Defeater impart feelings of melancholy and loss through repetitive riffing and droning high register guitar, effectively propelling the narrative and further aiding the feelings that each song tries to convey.
Although a solid album that is sure to be a big hit amongst fans and the hardcore community, it seems that defeater have no intentions of branching out beyond this comfort zone anytime soon. The band as a whole have obviously progressed sounding tighter and more focused than on their previous albums, but at the same time seem to be relying on a tried and tested conceptual formula that fails to excite or innovate.