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“Unwanted...” The first and last word of Boston hardcore mob, Defeater’s debut album comes close to summing up the story between them, but at the same time is so far away. An ambitious album, a concept
album, so to speak, Defeater’s ‘Travels’ vividly tells the story of a man “unwanted from his first breath” who kills his alcoholic father; runs away from home; returns only to find his beloved, drug-addicted mother has passed away; kills his brother in a confrontation at “those long steel tracks” before confessing his sins and taking his own life. It is a grim tale that is presented appropriately throughout with thoughtful lyricism, raging vocals, crushing guitars and a pounding rhythm section.
Defeater play both the slow-burning hardcore of a band like Modern Life Is War (R.I.P) and the faster-paced fury of Ceremony, and play both excellently. This means that there is a marked contrast between fast (‘The City By Dawn’
) and slower, more considered (‘Cowardice’
) tracks that works really well throughout the album. The latter in particular, is excellent, being one of the best closers to a hardcore album in recent memory with its ominous, bluesy riffs, superb textural changes and overall epic nature. The best part of the song however, and this is the same for the rest of the album as well, are the lyrics. Throughout ‘Travels’ the lyrics are delivered, as well as written, with a very deliberate, emphasised rhyme scheme that at no point seems forced. They work brilliantly as short stories as well as one liners - “he carves his name on that old church bell/ so when it rings he can hear it in hell” – from the aforementioned ‘Cowardice’.
Not to be outdone, the instrumentalists in Defeater are also at the top of their game – not in terms of technicality, but in terms of creating exciting and captivating music. The high-octane drumming in album opener ‘Blessed Burden’
, the rumbling bass line in the thinner textured parts of ‘The City By Dawn’ and the soaring guitar picking accompanying the depressing line “home’s never home, just a place where you came from” in ‘Prophet In Plain Clothes’
are all highlights of each respective band member’s contribution to the album. Interestingly enough at the end of that song there is an acoustic song that showcases vocalist Derek’s surprisingly good singing voice and once again, his excellent song writing abilities – although it is actually guitarist, Jay, who is the band’s primary songwriter.
As great as the individual tracks on Defeater’s debut album are, ‘Travels’ works so much better when listened to in full, as a storytelling album – as it was intended to be. The tale it tells is one of murder, revenge and suicide and it is delivered passionately and this is partly what makes the album so great. The calm, measured but still furious vocal delivery and direct, poetic lyrics may be the highlight of the album, but that’s not to say the instrumentation is weak. Simply put, everything comes together on ‘Travels’ to make it one of the best debut hardcore albums in recent memory. Defeater are destined for bright things.