Some reviews are harder to write than others. Often it’s because a band really does suck and one has to get this over without being particularly spiteful or overly negative. Other times, there is a situation that is not common in the process, and this review of Portugal’s Defying Control’s second full-length falls into that latter circumstance. More of that later, as here is my take on this album.
The promo for Stories of Hope and Mayhem identifies it as being for those who like melodic punk rock in the vein of Rise Against, Bad Religion and A Wilhelm Scream. First and foremost, I would have to say that to my ears this is quite clearly a band who have designs on getting the sound of A Wilhelm Scream, as it has the full-on raging and intricate guitar work that the aforementioned Americans have delivered consistently, with a vocal feel that is not too dissimilar to that provided by Nuno Pereira of AWS. What Defying Control manages to do is replicate that overall thick, melodic sound, but without coming across as being almost a rip-off as they are able to inject enough of themselves to allow the music to stand on its own two feet.
So, the music is pretty good and I enjoyed their invigorating approach as it is certainly well-executed. The other side of what I enjoy about punk rock is the lyrical content of bands. Yes, some plumb the depths of banality, but hell, it is punk rock so what should we expect?! However, others have something to say, be it something I agree with or on the other hand something I fervently disagree with. Of course, there is the middle ground too where I’m not too bothered about what I hear.
This now brings me to what could be quite a contentious area, given a previous review of this album. I must state that I’m trying to review this without making reference to what I've read before about Stories of Hope and Mayhem, so to give the world a fair and representative view of Defying Control’s work. I’m not trying to curry favour with anyone, be they in the band or another reviewer, nor am I trying to piss off the band.
There are a number of parts of this record when I get the impression that the band or certain members of the band might hold some religious beliefs. Why do I think this? Firstly the cover art, with its background of crosses and a bearded man walking with a child in his arms immediately bringing to mind Jesus Christ. Okay, this could be wrong, but again this is just my own impression from what I see. Secondly, there are a number of tracks in which I felt that either the message was one of positivity towards religion, or that certain religious beliefs might be held. The tracks “Leap of Faith”, “New Beginning” and “Blessed” all seem to point to these beliefs in one way or another, and “Saviour” includes the phrase “you are my saviour,” where although the object of this description is a girl, it’s still quite a religious word to be used in any context. I am fully aware that often lyrics can be misunderstood and bands or its members misrepresented by what a listener thinks the lyrics mean. However, it is difficult for me to get past that feeling even having read what the vocalist Killer, a.k.a. Kid Trouble has said in response to the aforementioned previous review.
All I can say is that I do not believe in the existence of a higher being, power or whatever, so such sentiments mean nothing to me. If the lyrics have been misunderstood, then the fault lies mainly with the person who wrote them for not being clear, and slightly with me for not being able to understand what is being said, including any nuances that might be included.
Leaving that aside, there are some pretty good lyrics for the remainder of the tracks on the album, although equally, some of the content is fairly uninteresting to me. Overall, this seems to hit many of the different types of lyrical content that is found across the genre of punk, or at least it ranges from the uninspiring to the interesting to the plain beyond my sphere of comprehension.
This is not a bad record (I actually like quite a lot of it) and its strength lies more in the music than the lyrical content, which has the ability to confuse and cause both a degree of interest or disinterest at varying stages of the 13 tracks. To pick a favourite track is relatively easy as (punk) “To the Bone” really does provide a decent kick up the backside and is an enjoyable listen. As a body of work, this is a big step up from their previous album, Reflection, which although containing a couple of quite good songs suffers from an identity crisis, not seeming to know which genre or sound it was trying to achieve. Therefore, it does show that Defying Control might still be some way from reaching their peak, and hopefully they can nail down any inconsistencies and confusion to offer up more improvement next time around.
END NOTE: I would like to conclude by saying I don’t think my views were tainted by having read the previous review. I usually pore over lyrics as I enjoy “words” and am firmly of the opinion that I was not influenced in any way as to how I addressed this album and would have reached the same conclusion even if I’d been totally ignorant of what anyone else had written.