Review Summary: Be the hero that Defeater was, be the band they wanted you to be.
In an art form with such a boundless, celebrated history and longstanding axioms of greatness, to the point at which new material oftentimes seems vacuous, like trite rehashings or mediocre imitations of musical behemoths from decades before, it’s refreshing to find contemporary albums that will certainly define the era of a genre years from now, Illmatic
s and Paranoid
s that are crafted and released during our time, during our prime listening years – albums released now, which we stumble upon as we scour the internet for new music for our eager ears to consume. In 2008, the world welcomed its eager ears to Travels
, a no-nonsense and perfectly conceived concept album by Boston-born Defeater, whose tough sound and bleeding emotion transcended the genre of hardcore and allowed the band to carve their names and secure their place in hardcore history forever. Twenty years from now, their influence will be undeniable, but even in the present, bands are clamoring to imitate Defeater and their sound, hoping to utilize the band’s mold as a rough stencil to integrate the group’s music into their own and ultimately improve on it for their own benefit. It is obviously a subjective matter as to whether or not such improvement is possible, but efforts are certainly being made by many bands, including German four-piece Lasting Traces, a band content to shamelessly and seemingly ubiquitously nod to Defeater on their debut LP Old Hearts Break In Isolation
Fans of Defeater should pick up on the similarities between the two bands almost instantly, with Defeater-esque melodies inundating the album, including the “Red, White and Blues”-like intro to “Pipe Dream” and the subsequent melodies that run rampant in the song. The album even sports an impromptu acoustic section to “Resurrection”, which, while essentially the hook of the song repeated over an acoustic version of the song as opposed to a completely different tune a la “Prophet in Plain Clothes”, is a page straight out of Defeater’s book. The abundant Defeater comparisons don’t detract from the album though; Lasting Traces employs enough artistic license to really make Old Hearts
their own album, one rife with memorable melodies, regaling refrains, and decisive daggers of songs. The crunching chords in “Sailor’s Grave” accentuate the vocal delivery and add a blustery force and emotion to the final moments of a sailor’s life, while “Old Hearts” flaunts the best moment on the album – twice. What the band lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in absolute talent and amaranthine energy; the drumming is spastic, calculated, and driving, and flashy and prominent basslines underpin dirty chord progressions while raw screams resonate at every turn from the album’s open to close.
Lasting Traces’ approach to hardcore is pretty standard: a direct and all-encompassing melodic hardcore sound with soaring guitar lines, roaring bass, and powerful drumming. They do it often, and they do it just as well as any hardcore stalwart, if not better than most. The only real qualm listeners may have about Old Hearts
is with the vocalist and his duties. The vocals on the album are by no means bad, but they are a bit uninspired. Listeners won’t find the impassioned emotional vocal approach that they might expect from a Defeater or More Than Life album in the vocalist’s conveyance. The lyrics here aren’t exactly worth mentioning either; this is no concept album, and the lyrics, which concern themselves with “[the band’s] own struggles and convulsions of daily life,” are mostly platitudes like “what a bitter irony, we couldn’t once make it through the day without each other.” Platitudes which, as is the case with most lyrically challenged albums, could be remedied with a more ardent vocal performance – more throat-maiming screams and acutely biting bellows. With only a modicum of emotional intensity exhibited on the album, the vocals, while still cutting and strong, with appropriately interspersed gang vocal assaults are the only fault – though very minor – of the album. Lasting Traces stay true to the fundamental formula of modern hardcore, drawing character and influence from Defeater’s developed dominion and defining their sound with derivative aggression, skill, and grandeur. Old Hearts Beat In Isolation
is a leviathan of a hardcore release, and coming out of a land with an unrenowned hardcore scene, is a surprising and overly welcome advancement to the modern hardcore sound, and modern music in general.