Defeater - Letters Home (Cover Artwork)


Defeater: Letters HomeLetters Home (2013)
Bridge Nine Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: BryneBryne
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Keeping up a narrative is difficult; keeping it up through an EP and three full-lengths, even more so. But perhaps the most difficult thing of all when it comes to centrally conceptual or thematic music is moving it along and keeping it interesting, without alienating listeners. The obvious example .
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Keeping up a narrative is difficult; keeping it up through an EP and three full-lengths, even more so. But perhaps the most difficult thing of all when it comes to centrally conceptual or thematic music is moving it along and keeping it interesting, without alienating listeners. The obvious example is Coheed and Cambria, who while having a much larger fanbase than Defeater (and sounding absolutely nothing like them), probably peaked in terms of critical and fan appeal in 2005 or so. The inherent density of their concept, not to mention the fantasy-drenched imagery, turns off a lot of listeners.

On the other hand, Defeater manage to keep their storyline of an American family slowly being torn apart by World War II – and the horrors that come with it – largely intact, moving it along while using it as an allegory for more universal themes like death, loss, love and family tensions. Letters Home, the latest chapter and fourth overall, is another strong entry; it's not as large a stylistic jump as the band made between Lost Ground and Empty Days & Sleepless Nights, but it is the most direct, cohesive collection of their career.

Indeed, all the hallmarks of Defeater's sound are here: Opener "Bastards" is an intense, mid-tempo hardcore song anchored by Derek Archambault's throaty yell, impressive guitar interplay and a surefire mosh part around the chorus; songs like "No Shame" and "Dead Set" showcase the band's slower, heavier and more cathartic side; "Hopeless Again" and "No Faith" are rapid-fire anthems in which new drummer Joe Longobardi particularly shines, with impressive – but not overly showy – fills throughout.

An aside also worth mentioning: Blacklisted vocalist George Hirsch shows up for a guest spot on "No Relief," his unique vocal style – sometimes vaguely sardonic, always punishing – adding a nice flash to the song. Even with the So You Are A Magician? 7-inch relatively new and a new full-length from Hirsch's solo moniker Harm Wülf on the way, the world really needs a new Blacklisted LP soon.

Perhaps the most interesting track on Letters Home is closer "Bled Out," a six-and-a-half minute, perpetually distant song that maintains its pace and sound musically, and allows Archambault to escalate his voice around that; when he screams I am no one! I am nothing! during one of the breaks, it's perfectly raw, maybe the rawest he's ever sounded. As the song progresses, his vocals become lower in the mix, melodic guitars and monstrous drums crashing around him as he repeats the chorus from opener "Bastards" ad nauseum. And all I see is that bastard in me! It really drives the point home and closes Letters Home on a memorable note consistent with Defeater's ongoing narrative.


People who liked this also liked:
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundMake Do and Mend - End Measured MileThe Gaslight Anthem - Sink or SwimThe Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsDefeater - Empty Days & Sleepless NightsThe Menzingers - On the Impossible PastTouché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and MeJoyce Manor - Of All Things I Will Soon Grow TiredThe Gaslight Anthem - HandwrittenAlkaline Trio - Maybe I'll Catch Fire

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
ak3punk (July 12, 2014)

It took me a year to come around but I really love this album. It's different than EDSN, but it's still amazing.

Grue (August 1, 2013)

I always avoided this band for some reason, but this... sounds surprisingly good.

quickattack (July 18, 2013)

Best song on the album is the one with George from Blacklisted on it.. because... ya know, duh.

mattthevegan (July 18, 2013)

A few more listens today at work and yeah, I agree with 2 posts below, solid album but it doesn't have the kind of variation that made Empty Days/Sleepless Nights stand out. That record also did a great job balancing clean vs distorted guitar lines (Waves Crash, Clouds roll being a perfect example) and then songs like Empty Glass.

Or, like on Lost Ground, songs like The Bite and the Sting do a great job of not having everyone play as loud as they can all at once, where sometimes it's just vocals/drums or a really gritty bass line carrying the song.

This record feels more similar to Travels (which isn't a bad thing), right down to the last track feeling a little like Cowardice, and coincidentally being a similar length - about 6 minutes.

davebrave4 (July 18, 2013)

Score is for Blacklisted.

danperrone (July 18, 2013)

listened a few times and nothing immediately grabbed me like "at peace" or "cemetery walls" from the last record, but it was still pretty good.

robalobadob (July 18, 2013)

I think Lost Ground let him explore lyrically a little bit more than the main records because the story is only connected peripherally to the family.

But to speak to this album, I think it's fantastic. Each record has taken me some time to fully get into, but this one feels more immediately accessible, and I think it's their strongest release to date.

mattthevegan (July 18, 2013)

I'm fine with them doing concept records, in fact I think it makes their lyrical content far more interesting than 99% of other hardcore bands, but it would be cool if they branched out in their stories. 3 full-lengths all telling essentially the same story from a different person's perspective is a little tiring, even if the records themselves are all great (they are).

The one exception is Lost Ground. Maybe since it's so short, and the imagery in those songs is really intense, but goddamn that EP is easily the best thing they've done. I need to listen to Letters Home a few more times to really have an opinion on it but I like everything I've heard.

renaldo69 (July 18, 2013)

Sure to be on a lot of year-end lists.

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