Wednesday, April 13, 2011


On the album, Travels, we follow a character from birth in 1945 until his death, the opening lyrics set the dark tone to follow: “Unwanted from his first breath, a mother’s blessing born, a father’s burden worn.” From here the lyrics continue in a third-person narrative as we witness the child growing up in a string of unpleasant situations over the span of three songs. The fourth track, “Forgiver Forgetter” features the protagonist at 17 experiencing the turning point that shapes the rest of the story and sets him out on the album’s namesake, Travels. Tracks 5-9 follow him through his road life before the album’s finale takes him back home to confront what he left behind. Individually, the lyrics work and avoid storytelling cliché. Writing songs that coherently and chronologically tell a story cannot be an easy feat and when taken as a whole, the tale on Travels is raw and moving.

The follow up EP, Lost Ground, is the continuation of Travels or, more precisely, is kind of a spin-off from Travels. The EP is still conceptual and based on a narration. So, the style is the same, a character-driven, first-person chronological story all along the record but the character changes. The protagonist, this time, is the one we were introduced to on the song Prophet In Plain Clothes from Travels, that man who was playing guitar in the street. Those six new songs focus on him and a specific part of his life. Indeed, the songwriting is a story-telling about his journey from enlisting in the army during the Second World War to his comeback home. Through those years of life, we witness the man's struggles with family values, proper and mental war, alcohol addiction, faith, racism, recognition, loneliness, poverty and homelessness. We guess the character, who could be represented by the man on the cover, is black and songwriter, Derek Archambault, tried to depict the inequality in treatment and rights according to races, despite the common will of fighting and dying for the same country. On Home Ain't Never Home (which basically develops the unforgettable line "Home is never home, it's just the place where you came from" from the first album), he is shouting: "Ain't no man in this city / Will take a chance on me / The color of my skin / Is all they see / I was a hero when I came home / Now no one seems to know / And this medal that I received / It means nothin' to me". The lyrical content focuses on the desillusion of the soldiers when they come home and how they end up regretting having spent a part of their life killing men. The singer doesn't have an exceptional or groundbreaking writing talent, just a wonderful story-telling ability which enables him to spit realities that explode at your face, just like his band's music. Both are dense and inspired.
Defeater's compositions feature many nuances in dynamics and song structures (the powerful back-and-forth on The Red, White and Blues). Their dissonant guitar harmonies and high-pitched riffs (The Bite and Sting) rise behind Archambault's snarling vocals. The production is excellent and completely sublimates the rhythm section. The sharp bass has its glorious moments (the beginning of the same song) and the drums aren't put aside either ('Beggin' in the slums'). On the latter song, there's also a tiny bit of blues and a tiny bit of acoustic, just as on 'Travels'. On another note, the EP is less reckless than the album. The pace is less fast, more mid-tempo (A Wound and Scar), to focus on the emotion in the frontman's delivery. Numerous lines, without being catch phrases, will stay stuck in your mind after hearing them, something Have Heart used to be the best at. But the most memorable moment is the post-break part of Singin' New York Town, when after a few calm guitar notes, the full band comes back in and Derek Archambault shouts with the whole world's despair: "I beg and I plead / For her [his mother] god to hear me". Definitely an emotional peak, so moving it gives me shudders.

With Defeater's most recent release, Empty Days and Sleepless Nights, they continue on with the story. Basically, it's the protagonist has a brother who kills his father because he didn't love him; He was a mistake and a burden. The brother runs away while the protagonist swears revenge on him. Now it's just him and his religious mother, he really looked up to his father. He was a military hero and a hard worker, he provided for his family and taught his children to be hard workers as well. The protagonist waits at the old fishing dock he works at for the coward (his brother), but he never shows up. His mother eventually became addicted to heroin to deal with the father's drinking. She was so addicted that the protagonist was left to take care of her. He works his ass off for her, the way his father did for his family. He goes to the bar with his friends to drink a lot and he becomes love sick when they go home to their women. He feels as if he has no one, until one night, he meets the love of his life at the bar. That night, he instantly falls in love with her and they stay together for years. Since his father is gone, he began drinking a lot more due to the harassment he was getting from the bookie looking for him to pay off all his father's old gambling debts, while his wife is friendly to the man who won't leave him alone and this upsets him a lot. He gets drunk and comes home and starts fighting with his wife, accusing her of flirting with the bookie. In return, she calls him out on his alcoholism and unquenched vengeance for his brother. She makes some remarks about him and how his mother being an addict, so he leaves home in a rage and heads to the race tracks his father used to bet at. There, he encounters the bookie, attacks him and then gets jumped by the lackeys. He wakes up the next morning remorseful of how he acted and the fight with his wife, so he goes home only to find her dead. The bookie had killed her. He feels guilty for not being there to protect her, but he continues on with his life.. working, taking care of his mother, and getting even more drunk than before, basically relying on alcohol. He goes to the cemetery to talk to her headstone, and he wishes he was the one that was dead. He sees his mother getting worse and worse, and he blames it all on his brother. This goes on and the characters condition continue to get worse. One morning he finds his mother dead in the church from a heroine overdose. He then becomes a recluse, waiting to kill himself, and at the last moment, his brother, the coward, arrives back at home. The hero is finally ready to exact his revenge. He walks his little brother past all these places mentioned previously in the record, back to the train tracks where they used to play, and got into a little scuffle. The protagonist is drunk, going into a pre-murder monologue, when the coward grabs the gun and turns it on the hero. There is a train not too far away and its getting closer; The hero accepts the death he's been waiting for, and the album ends. We never find out whether it was the bullet or the train that did him in.

All in all, Defeater is currently my favorite band in modern hardcore. Their lyrics are so well written, and the concept of their albums are so deep, and I honestly can't get enough. I hope for nothing but the best for these guys and I can't wait until the release of another album.

Get into this discography of all their material so far and truly enjoy it.
Travels LP

Get it here now.
Lost Ground EP
Download it now.
Empty Days & Sleepless Nights LP
Download it now.