Another Defeater album to reduce you to a melancholic mess.
Ah, Defeater, a band that has been making even the most burliest and toughest of hardcore dudes cry since 2004, are back with a brand spanking new album. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of ‘Abandoned’; yes, it’s emotional and as cathartic as they come. Yes, it’s conceptually about that family/community following the fallout of World War II. Yes, it’s still packed with powerful instrumentation and short, intense songs. And yes, it’s still fucking awesome.
Defeater’s batting average has been actually quite remarkable, no mid-season injury or anything like that and this record continues the band’s insanely good track record. Musically, it’s nothing really that new for the band, as a lot of familiar ground is being covered here when compared with their last, more conventional album, 'Letters Home'. Yet the supposed safety of this record’s sound doesn’t ever once reduce the quality of it. In fact, if there’s one thing that the band has nailed on here it's the ebb and flow of the songs, how they all build up to their stunning conclusions, and the strong sense of passion and atmosphere surrounding them. This is in part attributed to the polished production of the record, but also to the band’s brilliant musicianship.
The tight and dynamic drumming of Joe Longobardi is still such a crucial part of the band’s blistering sound, and so is the interweaving cleans chords and fast distorted riffs that guitarist Jay Maas and Jake Woodruff switch between to show both the raw and melodic side of the band. Then you add the final layer, Derek Archambault’s emotional and heart-felt screams, all of which make the lyrics and their meaning resonate that much more with the listener, as why the story is condensed, the themes are universal. Once you put all of that together you have one immensely powerful sonic package to sort through, and arguably one of the year's best hardcore releases.
Conceptually, as opposed to focusing on the issues and differences between the two brothers in ‘Travels’ and ‘Empty Days & Sleepless Nights’, or the glimpse listeners got of the Father and his war-related PTSD issues in ‘Letters Home’, this full-length, if the songs and videos are anything to go by, tells the tale of a priest (introduced back on 'Travels') his time in the war, his falling out with his faith (hence the album’s cover and title) and the downward spiral that he eventually succumbs to. It’s a very dark and a very human story that’s been told here, and it's being woven into the band's hard-hitting and raw hardcore soundscape exceptionally well. This record is one of those rare records that backs up the argument that bands of this ilk are not only expert storytellers, and that hardcore can have real meaning and isn’t as cliché as some would like to think.
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Sure, ‘Empty Days & Sleepless Nights’, the one part Have Heart/one part Bob Dylan sounding record, is probably still the band’s highest achievement, and while this record definitely isn’t that, it would perhaps be disingenuous for the band to attempt an album like that again without being written off as trying to make lightning strike twice or trying to play off old glories. It’s a kinda of damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t situation. But with a record that’s as powerful and as consistent as ‘Abandoned’, maybe Defeater won’t ever have to retreat to earlier days to impress us.
With these 11 songs, Defeater take you on a roller coaster of emotion; of sadness and regret, of depression and self-destruction, and to a degree, of hope. 'Abandoned' is extremely consistent in its tone and its pacing, and from the beginning of 'Contrition' to the snow-balling 'Vices And Regret', it grabs you by the neck and it doesn't let go, not until that final note rings out. And if you’ll excuse this terrible pun, with ‘Abandoned', this reviewer is just happy that the band hasn't abandoned playing music just yet. (Kill me.)
3. December 1943
4. Spared In Hell
6. Borrowed In Blue
9. Pillar Of Salt
11. Vices And Regret