Have a listen to: "Spared In Hell" and "Borrowed & Blue"
Defeater – Abandoned
Release Date: 28th August 2015
For those who haven’t yet discovered Defeater, this album is their seventh release – following three EP’s and three full length albums – but it is their first release under label giants Epitaph. They have released the vast majority of these previous recordings under Bridge 9 Records but recently ascended into major label territory and ‘Abandoned’ marks their arrival.
Defeater’s song writing revolves around a rather bleak conceptual story following a dysfunctional post world war two family. This grim subject matter lends itself well to the atmospheric feel of the tracks throughout their back catalogue and ‘Abandoned’ is no exception. The entire album is told from the point of view of a priest that is introduced in their debut album ‘Travels’, on the track ‘Cowardice’. It follows the protagonist struggling with losing his faith, feeling hypocritical in his work and guilty feelings from previous transgressions. He is then overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness.
See? Told you it was bleak.
I won’t go too far into the background of the story, but it is all interwoven very well and fans of previous albums will no doubt pick up on points where the narratives overlap, fleshing out the story that the band are telling throughout their discography. If you are new to Defeater, I would highly recommend having a quick read of the backstory as I found it really increased my appreciation of the album and the in-depth creative process that the band would have to go through.
The opening track ‘Contrition’ has a constant sense of tension to it, starting slowly and eventually building to an enormous, angst-filled crescendo to set the tone for the rest of the album. This then leaps straight into ‘Unanswered’, a track full of high-energy vocal screams and a rapid guitar assault, backed up by tight drum work that really gives the song an impact.
The forth track and debut single ‘Spared in Hell’ continues with the extensive use of religious imagery, really hammering home the themes of the album. It is arguably the most “hardcore” sounding track on the record and is definitely the one you’ll see the circle pits opening up for at the gigs, especially towards the end.
‘Borrowed & Blue’ features guest vocals from James Carroll of fellow post-hardcore band Make Do and Mend. He lends his vocals to the catchy harmony in the chorus which is a nice respite from the all-out vocal assault that is present on the album up until this point and allows a good sense of contrast.
Final track ‘Vice & Regret’ opens with a steady guitar rhythm, accompanied by an almost tribal-sounding drum beat. Over the top is a spoken word introduction that is dripping in references to religion and regret. It ties together the themes of the album and adds layers onto the track as it continues, ending in vocalist Dereck Archambault screaming at the top of his lungs until the musical accompaniment fades out. It is a strong end to an album that is less about getting people riled up, but more about creating an atmosphere around the songs.
Throughout the album the band add and remove layers to the songs in order to create variation. In most of the cases they do this in place of changing tempo or having riff-heavy breakdowns. I think this may put off some fans of the style but it is clearly done to maintain the mood of the album and Defeater use this technique to great effect.
This album won’t be for you if you want something to bounce around and swing your arms too; the band seem to be looking for a way to put across their music and the story that they are building more artistically, but may be alienating some potential fans by doing so.
I really enjoyed the mood of ‘Abandoned’, from the slow steady build up, to the hoarse screams and the incredible atmospheric guitar work that creates such a sense of oppression throughout the record. Add to this the varied drumming that really compliments the songs and shines when it needs to and you have a truly excellent melodic hardcore album.
You can check out our interview with guitarist Jay Maas at Download Festival here.