Abandoned is the latest full-length album from Massachusetts Melodic Hardcore band Defeater. It comes after a two year break from 2013’s fantastic Letter’s Home. In between the release of these two albums, the band’s vocalist Derek Archambault had been out of action for a long time following an injured hip that saw the the band raise funds for Derek’s surgery through a kick-starter campaign, which was met with huge support and saw the funds raised tremendously quickly and now Defeater, as promised, have come back with a new full length project for us all.
Defeater are a band I have always admired. In the group of bands surrounding the American Hardcore scene, Defeater have always stuck out as a very unique group. They have always come across to me as a tight-knit group of musicians who very clearly fit extremely well with other. The combination of power and ferocity, as well as technicality and fantastic song-writing is what made me love the bands previous output up until this point. However, I felt disappointed with Abandoned. While the band certainly still have the bite, the song-writing this time around simply was not there. The opener Contrition feels like complete filler, as though it was just thrown in to add a bit of length to the project. The song contains a religious themed sample, the first of a few on the album, to go alongside with the heavily religious themes in the lyrics. These samples, while attempting to add something haunting or suspense building to the record, only serves to make the suspense feel forced and cheap.
Unfortunately the opener only served to start my disappointment with the entire record. Track after track, I found myself feeling like I was listening to throwaway cuts from the bands 2011 album Empty Days & Sleepless Nights. The guitar tone is so similar that at points I honestly felt like the guitar parts on certain tracks were just re-hashes of parts from that album.
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One of the reasons I always enjoyed Defeater was the fact that they had always managed to pull together a release that sounded refreshing and different, which can be very difficult especially when it comes to playing hardcore, a style often criticised for its limitations. But with Abandoned it felt like a really thrown together project. Even the lead single, Spared In Hell just felt like a really formulaic Defeater track.
Another interesting thing about Defeater is that members have stated in interviews that they considered Defeater to be a concept band and that all the songs follow the same story. One of the larger influences on this story has been the military, with huge amounts of Defeaters lyrical content containing military references. While never having been a huge concept artist fan, with many concept albums I have listened to sounding really over-dramatic and naff, I have always enjoyed the way Defeater have pulled it off, I have always felt that the have never let the story over power the music, which is a common problem for concept albums. However on this album, while overpowering was not a problem. I think the whole concept story that Defeater have carried since their debut has started to stretch a bit thin. Listening to Abandoned I couldn’t help but feel that the lyrics were more melodramatic than anything else. Three albums may have been enough to keep a concept story going, but four may just be the limit for Defeater.
Overall, I left this project feeling very disappointed. I can’t complain about the power and heaviness of this record, because it certainly is there. However, what once made me really enjoy Defeaters music this time left me feeling underwhelmed. I think for album five Defeater will have to pull something genuinely different in order to keep me interested.