In hardcore, there’s an extremely thin line between being cerebral and being pretentious. Depending on who you’re asking, Boston’s Defeater could fall into either category, and it isn’t exactly difficult to see why. True, their brand of super-melodic, super-emotive hardcore alone isn’t viewed with much disdain in the majority of the community, but it’s the ongoing story arc that’s ran through their albums that has put people off, chronicling the lives of a working-class New Jersey family in the midst of the Second World War.
Abandoned, the band’s fourth full-length and first since frontman Derek Archambault’s hip surgery last year, is no different in its verbose ways, but takes the focus off of said family, and onto a new character in the ever-growing story. This time the band tell the tale of a priest at the same time period, but while the narrative may have changed, stylistically Abandoned is verbatim Defeater. That’s hardly going to get any fans aggravated though – it’s still Defeater at their most impassioned and intense. Opener Contrition builds ups to the full extent of the album’s power with its single sombre guitar and feverish screams, while the likes of December 1943 and Divination make for uncomfortable but extremely satisfying listening, with their almost overbearing extremity and red-raw lyrical content and delivery. It’s the definitive progression on the album that impresses as well, entwining lyrics and themes throughout the album in a way that full mirrors the lofty aspirations in their ongoing narrative.
Archambault is a true shining light in the modern hardcore scene, carrying a sobering weight that the vast majority of other vocalists struggle to muster, especially in the bludgeoning Borrowed & Blue, contrasting with the soaring, powerful punch of Make Do And Mend frontman James Carroll. They’re at their most affecting in the slower, calmer passages as in Penance, seeing his to-the-bone vocal delivery cascading over the slow-burning guitars to tremendous effect.
While Abandoned sees Defeater coming out with another great album – and, in some instances, it’s almost remarkably so – it’s very one-paced, and that dulls its impact slightly. The reason why their sophomore album, 2011’s Endless Days & Sleepless Nights is often considered their best album to date is because of its understanding and embracing of nuance in its four beautiful acoustic tracks. Abandoned does no such thing, taking a far more direct approach to emotional bloodletting. That’s fine, but in the long run it’s never going to receive the same plaudits that saw Defeater break out of their relatively restrictive scene and inhabit hitherto unexplored territory, and that’s what will undoubtedly see it stumble.
That shouldn’t be taken as too harsh a judgement, as Abandoned proves once again that Defeater are still one of the cleverest, most ambitious hardcore bands out there but, more importantly, they have the skill to pull it off. And while it may not be held in such high acclaim as some of their previous releases, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it’s another brilliantly raw and uncensored effort from one of modern hardcore’s most intriguing bands.
For fans of: Touché Amoré, Landscapes, Modern Life Is War
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Abandoned’ by Defeater is released on 28th August on Epitaph Records.