Album: Empty Days and Sleepless Nights
Label: Bridge Nine
Best songs: White Oak Doors, Headstone, Quiet The Longing
For fans of: Have Heart, Verse, new Carpathian
Massachusetts melodic hardcore band Defeater are back with their second album, and it’s a big step up from their first. It reminds me of the change Have Heart made from their first full length to their second – more mature, more melodic, slower tempos but no less ferocious in intent. It is a change that was preempted by the lone acoustic track on their debut, and the slower droning tracks on their recent EP, Lost Ground. There are even riffs and leads on this Empty Days that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-hardcore record, although the relentless bleakness and Derek Archambault’s gravel throated vocals remind you that this is definitely hardcore.
Defeater have given us a double album, split into Empty Days, the heavier, more traditional songs, and Sleepless Nights, the acoustic numbers. The album is also written to a concept, namely a post-WWII tale, tracking the woes of a pair of brothers raised in hard times. The storyline runs on from their debut album, Travels, which followed the youngest brother, with Empty Days following the elder brother in his parallel journey.
Frontman David Archambault live
The acoustic tracks are amazing. The best way to describe them is a cross between the morose simplicity of Brand New and the brutal honest of early Against Me!. The subject matter includes broken homes, break-ups and the death of a loved one. The lyrics may be woven into a storyline, but Archambault doesn’t sound like he’s acting, and the songs are confrontingly personal to listen to. Releasing acoustic songs on a hardcore album is pretty left of field, and easily could have come off as overly sappy or out-of-place, yet they fit right it, with the storyline and overwhelming bleakness tying them in with the heavier songs. Archambault is quite a talent, holding a convincing ballad as well as belting out more traditional hardcore vocals, and the acoustic songs really bring his amazing storytelling and lyrics to the fore.
The musicianship is flawless, with tight, energetic drumming and searing, melancholy guitars running throughout the release. The riffs are in-your-face at times, yet it’s clear the star of this album is melody, with the album slowing down to minimalist dirges frequently, overlaid with dark melodies, before coming back with another huge riff. The album is backed by guitarist Jay Maas’ production, which is raw yet relatively clear. I’ve heard better produced albums before, at times the guitar layers could have been given more definition. That said, the production is completely appropriate for the content, it’s not like melodic hardcore needs to be pro-tooled to death.
If there’s any downside to the album, it’s that there are few standout moments. It’s more something to put on in the background, and let the darkness wash over you, almost like a Isis record in this respect, you won’t find yourself repeating a certain song over and over because most of the songs contain the same elements. A possible exception is the acoustic side, because each song is written to a clear personal tale, one or more of which you may connect with, but still, the acoustic songs, lyrics aside, are quite similiar to one another also.
Defeater have created a rock solid hardcore album with this release, and made big steps from their already impressive earlier releases. This is a band to watch, on their second album they have created an enduring piece of work, with amazing melodies, personal, affecting lyrics and a strong sense of passion and desperation running throughout. The acoustic side creates a point of difference and mixes surprisingly well with the heavier songs. If you like thinking man’s melodic hardcore with a cohesive sound and concept, check out Defeater’s latest work, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Warm Blood Rush
2. Dear Father
3. Waves Crash, Clouds Roll
4. Empty Glass
5. No Kind Of Home
6. White Knuckles
7. Cemetery Walls
8. Quiet the Longing
9. At Peace
10. White Oak Doors
11. But Breathing
13. I Don’t Mind