Review Summary: Letters Home has all the elements needed to be a classic hardcore album - most of the time found in the wrong places.
Part of "the Wave," third generation melodic hardcore outfit Defeater has once again released a full-length album, this time promising to deliver what is their heaviest material to date. Following suit with their previous two full-length albums, Letters Home
is a concept album which follows the story of the father of the brothers from Travels
and Empty Days & Sleepless Nights
, set before the former. As the latter was very melodious in nature, Letters Home
has scrapped away any acoustic tracks in favor of a more upfront hardcore sound. How successful their venture actually was, well, was nothing short of average.
Opener "Bastards" paves the mood of the album, displaying a dark setting accompanied by a dark man. Angrily, vocalist Derek Archambault belts lyrics giving way to the context of the album, albeit in a scratchier lackluster fashion. Guitarist Jay Maas provides vocal support against heavy guitar and fast-paced drums. Up next is "No Shame," an introspective expression of a man with no regret. Bass tones previously heard on Lost Ground
can be clearly heard on the track. "Hopeless Again" does much of the same as the previous tracks. What could be considered the downfall of the album are the middle tracks, "Blood In My Eyes" and "No Relief." Neither song supplies in sort of change in tone, melody, structure, and both are weighed down by almost unintelligible vocals, primarily on the latter. Make Do and Mend
's James Carroll makes an appearance on "No Relief," but fails to make the song standout. Lyrically, the album maintains its monotonous exposition of the struggles of war, more often than not from a cathartic viewpoint. The only really significant track on the concise release is the closer, "Bled Out." As Defeater quite often does, "Bled Out" is riddled with references to their previous works. Opening with a quiet guitar riff, the song explodes into a rant about the events of the album before submerging itself into a few minutes of instrumentals, growing more and more desperate with every passing second. Much like Travels
, the album closes with the same sentence last heard in the opener, sans the anger.
Defeater's Letters Home
has all the elements needed to be a classic hardcore album - most of the time found in the wrong places. While many criticized Empty Days & Sleepless Nights
for its departure from Travels
, Letters Home
will inevitably come under such scrutiny.