Album: Letters Home
Genre: Melodic Hardcore
Label: Bridge Nine Records
As many already know, Defeater’s body of work has always been deliberately conceptual, with each release contributing to a greater story centered on a dysfunctional, working class family struggling to make due in post-WWII America. Whereas the group’s previous albums have focused on the youngest members of this fantasy household, their upcoming release, Letters Home, (due out July 16 via Bridge Nine Records) spotlights the trials and tribulations of the father figure at the head of said family unit, who has been notably ravaged by his service in WWII.
This shell-shock is made clear immediately, as from the word go, Letters Home is an adrenaline spike. Much like the war which is so frequently reflected upon by vocalist Derek Archambault, the entire album is wonderfully unpredictable, laden with peaceful moments of solace which ignite into utter chaos without warning. The lead-off track “Bastards,” which fans were first introduced to earlier this Summer, takes off with a full head of steam, only to be followed by “No Shame,” a three-minute grind which builds to an ear-shattering climax that will leave listeners short of breath. Additionally, tracks like “No Faith” and “Rabbit Foot” are equally blood-thirsty yet pleasantly calculated, showcasing the unique blend of melody and aggression that first put Defeater on the map with 2008’s Travels. Still, if unadulterated beauty is what you seek, look no further than the elegant guitar work of “No Saviour,” which ebbs and flows to a cinematic peak before gradually resting on the shoulders of a hypnotizing drum fill, courtesy of the always spot-on Joe Longobardi.
Lyrically, Letters Home also remains fixed on the battlefront, though this approach does more than simply add to the narrative established on previous releases. Aside from setting the mood, Defeater superbly uses the complex characters and intricate storyline they have created to comment not only on conflicts faced by the common man, but also contemporary issues. Not surprisingly, war is one very apparent example. In “Blood In My Eyes,” Archambault’s disjointed wail captures the disorder of battle and the dehumanization of war, as he proclaims “Now we’re ragged and torn like the flags that we fly–see those eyes staring back, the boys we used to be.” In addition, similar undertones are expressed by the line “Still all I see is the bastard in me,” which appears several times throughout the record, assumingly in an attempt to illustrate the weight which war carries, even long after the fighting has ceased.
At its core, Letters Home is a more than fitting conclusion to the narrative which Defeater began to flesh out nearly five years ago. Each guitar riff is more captivating than the last, and walks the line between beauty and brutality with acrobatic ease. As always, the drum work is unparalleled not only in the hardcore community, but across an expanse of genres, while Archambault’s delivery is as raw and hard-hitting as ever. What’s more, the outfit has again taken someone else’s struggle, and made it everyone’s burden. As with previous releases, listeners endure the same hardships and internal conflicts as the cast of characters depicted in each track, and with them, we too are forced to keep pushing forward. With the release of Letters Home, Defeater has successfully made a topic that is foreign to many, relatable to all, and reaffirmed Boston as the undisputed hardcore capitol of the world.
Review written by: Kyle Florence