Defeater - Abandoned
Boston hardcore outfit Defeater continues the ongoing story of a working-class family in post-war America with their fourth full-length record, Abandoned. This record focuses on the linked story of a Catholic priest whom current fans might recognise from an early Defeater song called Cowardice, from their first album Travels. But enough with the cloak-and-dagger stuff. It’s probably easier to explain if you just listen to them.
The opening track Contrition really sets the mood, intoning religious chanting and Hail Mary’s before exploding into the refrain 'Forgive me, my Father, for I am a sinner’, which recurs throughout this album. An interesting side-note is that there’s been some criticism of the band (mostly from fanboys on the Internet) for being repetitive on this album, but repetition is what Defeater does: it’s the backbone of their style and helps to feed into the overall story across all of their albums, from repeated lyrics (‘What brings you here, my son?’) to complex relationships between characters that expand and change the way the listener sees the story.
The singles from this album, Spared In Hell and Unanswered, delve into the priest’s personal back story which looks at his time serving in World War II and his ongoing battle with alcoholism, drug addiction and loss of religious faith (another set of recurring themes that spans Defeater’s back catalogue), but it’s really the second half of the record that changes everything we thought we already knew about this story. Borrowed and Blue charts a relationship between the priest and another character which, at this point in the story, we already know does not end well, while Atonement brings the priest’s story full circle as it takes the listener back to the events of that earlier song Cowardice and looks at them through the priest’s eyes, once again changing our perception of that song.
This is the thing that Defeater does so well, and is showcased once more in ‘Abandoned’. Vocalist/storyteller Derek Archambault has weaved a tapestry of relationships, subtle links and intriguing, deep characters, and with album after album, the story slowly unravels like a spool of thread to reveal new shocks and fresh perspectives on an over-arcing story to which we already know the ending. These albums collectively tell a story as complex, rewarding and ultimately devastating as the greatest works of written fiction and to take a concept as intricate as this and place it in a setting as brutal and unforgiving as modern hardcore shows an emotional intelligence and depth of talent that is unrivalled by almost any band on the scene today. Remember the emotional rollercoaster you went on after the first time you heard ‘King Park’ and ‘Edward Benz, 27 Times’ by La Dispute? Defeater is like that, but for five whole albums. This story, these characters, will haunt you long after the final notes have faded out and Abandoned serves as yet another stunning piece of this emotionally charged jigsaw.
Don’t wait to check this band out if you haven’t already, they are producing some peerless work and they’re still coming up. They’re on tour in Manchester on November 9th and you’d better believe I’m gonna be there.
Words: David Bamford