Review Summary: Defeater release a haunting, perfectly-executed concept album, reaffirming that this band is the real deal.
In 2008, Defeater released Travels
, a concept album about a boy from a broken home who kills his alcoholic father and runs away, only to return to find his addicted mother dead and to kill his brother in a confrontation. Only a year later, the Boston hardcore band released the Lost Ground
EP. The latter album chronicles the life of a World War II veteran, who after returning from the war in which he lost his entire battalion in a fire fight, is neglected and deprived by society, spiraling uncontrollably into alcoholism and hopelessness. That makes two extremely ambitious concept albums in less than two years, and my god – this band knows how to pull it off flawlessly.
Lyrically, Lost Ground
is absolute genius. The outline of the album is six tracks, each with a written descriptive that narrates the circumstances preceding the respective songs. This technique creates an unmistakable effect of making the album flow seamlessly, and almost like a movie with narration preceding each scene (this effect is especially achievable if you follow along with the lyrics and the narrations while listening to the album from start to finish, which I HIGHLY recommend doing). The lyrics are written in unrefined broken diction reminiscent of the war era, and they are delivered raw, giving the album a timeless, emotional atmosphere.
That whiskey burns goin’ down. Old man pour me another round, because it’s my last night in town, and I ain’t thinkin’ of slowin’ down. No I am fixin’ to drow ‘til I see the sun, or I can’t see.
These lyrics begin the story, pre-deployment, with the track “The Red, White and Blues,” painting the picture of anxiety in an innocent youth about to go oversees. This is contrasted by the track “A Wound and a Scar” where he attends the funeral of his friends from his battalion:
Mothers mourn, holdin’ folded flags. Just caskets, and folded flags, no hope. Just folded flags. No Hope.
The juxtaposition of emotion is especially tangible in this album due to the lyrical desperation that clearly develops throughout the album. The term “empty grave” is recurring throughout the album, as is the term “war hero.” This repetition of common themes among the tracks strengthens the album lyrically, giving it a defined personality that is relatable.
What really separates Defeater from the rest of the hardcore crop is their ability to complement emotional lyrics with appropriate melody in a way that is natural and not contrived. The faster opener portrays the youth and innocence with a constant tempo and almost jubilant melody through the guitars. This is contrasted by the closing track, where the character finally finds hope in the “broken down” eyes of the bystanders who are listening to his story on the streets. This track is accompanied by a slow-tempo, and bleaker toned, sometimes bluesy guitar lines.
The instrumentation is very articulate throughout the album, and the rhythm section perfectly accompanies the harsh yells of the vocalist. As for the vocalist, his pain-stricken vocals are almost haunting in that they portray the voice of the character almost too well. The emotion and anger in his voice deliver the lyrics like a punch in the chest, and it works wonders for the story.
All in all, this is a concept album executed perfectly. It is about the second world war, but the story is timeless and vivid, imitating the present. There are obvious strong anti-war sentiments, especially in the heart-breaking lyrics from the “A Wound and a Scar”:
Did you ever hear that coffin sound" It means another poor boy is in the ground. Have you ever heard them church bells toll" It means another poor boy is dead and gone.
Defeater are 2 for 2 so far, which is commendable especially for a band that seemed to have come out of nowhere to release two concept albums that are captivating, and neither overbearing or outrageous. The story in Lost Ground
is both haunting and emotional. Never before had I wanted to weep like a baby while listening to a hardcore album. This album is a must-listen.