Written by: MIN on 07/11/2015 15:23:27

When listening to Boston, Massachusetts-based melodic hardcore band Defeater’s new album, “Abandoned”, it is difficult not to compare it to their previous efforts. Their sound is still dark and ominous – the atmosphere often seeming like a musical equivalent to muddy streets and a smell of ashtrays filled with wet cigarette butts, and the lyrics are heavy and emotional as always. While all of this sounds good, I’m afraid we’ve heard it all before – just better. While most other bands coming out of this “wave” that Defeater emerged from (La Dispute, Touché Amoré, Pianos Become the Teeth, etc.) have fleshed out and developed their sound to something new, Derek Archambault and co. seem to be stuck in a rut on this, their debut on Epitaph and their fourth LP.

Although the lyrics differ by not concerning the post-World War 2 family of the three previous albums directly, they revolve around the priest introduced on the track “Cowardice” from the first album, “Travels”. But the priest has lost his faith, sinned, and his guilty conscience constantly weighs him down. Proof of this is best found in the prayer repeated several times during the album, especially in the album’s opener, “Contrition”, where the following lyrics are yelled at you over the sound of atmospheric guitar-picking and slow drums building up constantly:

Forgive me, my father // For I am a sinner // Unanswered, Abandoned // Unanswered, Abandoned.

It’s a cliché and uninspiring way to kick off an album. But this misstep could easily be forgiven, if it wasn’t for many other lines on the album being just as cringe-worthy and repetitive, such as the album’s second track, “Unanswered”, where "I was a good man once, I was a good man once // But years of unanswered prayers have left me faithless." is just too obvious. Archambault’s lyrics have always been rather direct and descriptive, but they’ve also been interesting, layered and somewhat relatable. Add to this that his vocals are now a lot less diverse than you’ve heard him before (although still harsh and intense, I’ll give him that), and you have a disappointing key-element to a once very intriguing band. The story may have a new main character, but it’s the same old song and dance. Just not as well-executed.

But luckily, it’s not all a letdown. Several of the songs still have interesting moments and dynamics that remind you why many considered Defeater to pick up where such bands as Poison the Well or Modern Life is War left off. The single, “Spared in Hell”, is energetic, the lyrics are well-written and the song-structure is organic and high-paced. Especially the drum-pattern raging over the eerie guitars takes a hold of the back of your neck and won’t let go until it’s wiped the ground with your face. You suddenly feel like Defeater is a quality hardcore-band once again.

Another glimpse of clarity is when James Carroll of Make Do and Mend suddenly joins in on “Borrowed and Blue”, delivering some of the finest vocals and lyrics of the album. The timing and longing felt when he crashes in and pulls on your heart-strings is excellent. You almost feel like the first half of the album has been worth it just for this moment.

On the album’s final songs, the atmosphere becomes more soothing yet depressing, and the guitars finally really show what they’re worth. Once again, we’ve seen this from the band before, but the post-rock feeling adds something to the album; something genuine and sincere, despite the fact that the lyrics keep repeating what you’ve heard several times on a majority of the tracks. Just this time, you almost feel like you’re in there, inside the church, with the priest, praying for his redemption.

Conclusively, this album won’t make it in the long run, such as “Travels” or the “Lost Ground”-EP will. The band’s first misstep was the predecessor to this album, “Letters Home”, and “Abandoned” doesn’t progress a lot from that. It has better cohesion and each member is still good at doing what they do, but it’s not enough to make up for the uninteresting aspects of it, and too many of the songs are forgettable or just flat-out boring. If Defeater want to stay relevant, they have to step up their game. Otherwise, they’ll just become another one-trick pony like so many of their peers.

Download: Spared in Hell, Borrowed and Blue, Atonement.
For The Fans Of: Modern Life is War, Manners, Touché Amoré.

Release date 28.08.2015
Epitaph Records

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