Album Review: Defeater – Abandoned

It’s strange to think that Defeater are as well known for the concept behind their music as the music itself. A lot of bands wouldn’t want to give off the impression that they’re shackled to a concept, and indeed, sometimes it can severely limit their scope. Having previously stated that all of their work would take place within the conceptual framing of exploring the life of a working class New Jersey family living in post-World War II America, you would think that Derek Archambault and his band would be treading water at this stage. There’s only so much that can be gleaned from such a narrative, after all. Perhaps the most surprising thing about ‘Abandoned’, the Bostonians’ fourth full-length and their debut for Epitaph, is how liberated it sounds. Archambault is clearly firing on all cylinders: this is his second 2015 release following side-project Alcoa’s ‘Parlour Tricks’ earlier this year.

The album focuses on the story of a lapsed Catholic priest who fought during the war, opening on a pessimistic and insular note (‘Contrition’) as he fails to reconcile his warlike actions with his faith (“Forgive me, my Father, for I am a sinner”) and details his slide into faithlessness and despair. It’s a dark, bleak and unrelenting document of one man’s figurative descent into hell, and while the band’s sound has been cleaned up slightly (with guitarist and in-house producer Jay Maas guiding the band towards a more expansive sound), this just means that the intense narrative can have significantly greater impact than before. The “melodic” side of their melodic hardcore tag has been brought to the fore, with ‘Spared In Hell’ and ‘Remorse’ providing strong hooks and glimpses of the band’s heightened ambition.

Every member of the band has their moment in the spotlight, but drummer Joe Longobardi is probably the star of the record – behind Archambault and his relentless, barked vocal delivery, of course – and the punchy sound of his expressive playing provides the album’s backbone as it races towards climax on penultimate track ‘Atonement’, possibly the high point of Defeater’s career thus far. Closer ‘Vice & Regret’, meanwhile, acts as a fittingly dramatic finale as the record plumbs new depths of introspection and bleakness, coming full circle with an explosive reprise of the opening track. The band haven’t ever sounded as devastatingly powerful as this, and ‘Abandoned’ should bring them legions of new fans, all eager to explore the rest of the compelling and emotional story that is Defeater’s lifeblood. Four albums in, they’ve taken things to the next level.


‘Abandoned’ by Defeater is out now on Epitaph Records.

Defeater links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

Words by Gareth O’Malley (@vetusmemoria)


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