Abandoned is the latest offering from Boston based Defeater, reflecting their progression as a band and firmly cementing their well-deserved status as favourites within the melodic hardcore scene. 2015 has been a big year for Defeater, marked by their move from Bridge Nine records to Epitaph – mirroring their growth as a band. Similarly, Abandoned reflects this progression, taking the narratives of a New Jersey family struggling post war that have been crafted in previous albums and shifting focus to a central figure of a lapsed Catholic priest battling with his own faithlessness.
On paper, Defeater’s conceptual albums, with their strong narrative threads, have the potential to become pretentious, or worse alienating to the listener but the carefully crafted lyricism of Defeater’s Frontman Derek Archambault results in the stories told within Abandoned allowing themselves to be open to a plethora of interpretations. The transcendence of his language means that anyone who has struggled with anything in their lives can find some common ground and ultimately some solace within the records conflicted narrative voice.
The record opens with the slow burning ‘Contrition’, with its haunting single guitar and Archambault’s raw vocals truly demonstrating their vulnerability through his desperate pleas for forgiveness. ‘Contrition’ bursts into the punchy ‘Unanswered’, the repetition of the line “I was a good man once” is striking and I can already imagine this song being a favourite in Defeater’s live set with the crowd singing along to Derek’s powerful use of language.
‘Pillar of Salt’, the video for which has recently been released, is classic Defeater in the sense that it creates a sense of uneasiness and that is all part of its appeal. We feel voyeuristic, as if watching a story and emotions to which we should not be privy to, overflowing before our eyes. This frank portrayal, Derek’s vocal control and the simplistic melody are reminiscent of early La Dispute, but with a hint of the aggression and desperation unique to Defeater.
A personal favourite is the closing track, ‘Vice and Virtue’. The lyric “I am no one, I am nothing” which mirrors the lyrics of ‘Cowardice’ (from 2008’s Travels) feels like a hidden epithet for Defeater fans, reminding us that, although they are now on a new record label, the band that we know, and love, are here to stay. This intertextuality between albums creates seamlessness within Defeaters live set which is unparalleled.
One criticism would be that, within Abandoned, we do not see the prowess of Derek’s clean vocals, as displayed in his side project Alcoa and in other Defeater firm favourites such as ‘I Don’t Mind’. The seamless juxtaposition of impassioned acoustic tracks with explosive hardcore that we see in 2011’s Endless Days & Sleepless Nights is what Abandoned slightly lacks. Through remaining at the same tempo throughout, albeit a fervent, desperate one, the album falls slightly short of its predecessor in terms of the emotional rollercoaster it takes the listener on. Nonetheless, this emotive offering is an outstanding record and undoubtedly set to be one of the best of the year within the melodic hardcore genre.