Defeater - Abandoned (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Abandoned (2015)


Defeater's execution of concept albums raises the industry bar. Abandoned, according to the record label, chronicles the story of a lapsed Catholic priest, whose battles in Europe during the war (circa 1943) drag him first toward faith and then his own poisonous faithlessness. Derek Archambault's writing here remains as strong as ever and picks up stylistically right where Letters Home left off. However, in this instance, what makes it resonate deeper is that while past records dealt with family tensions and looked at the world outwards, Abandoned, amid its mid-tempo hardcore aggression, is more introspective and focuses on personal torment and demons. It sinks its teeth into you, very deeply.

It's interesting hearing Archambault's throaty, caustic yells in the wake of his health issues, which I personally covered extensively in the music he makes solo as Alcoa, which is his calmer downtime from Defeater. Hearing him amp things back up again and return to that hopeless, broken state of mind is quite something. Case in point, as he yells "I was a good man, once" on ""Unanswered" which no doubt, finds him seeking answers in dark, desolate places. His view on religion leaves no stone unturned and he pulls no punches as expected. "December 1943" is an early indication of how loud, venting and frustrated the band are with their sound driven not by guitars but more due to Joe Longobardi's kit work. He really forms the engine of the record, thumping, double-kicking and filling in so fucking well.

The only other band that comes to mind who really flesh out concept albums so wholly are Coheed and Cambria but in Defeater's case, it's more mature and hits home through emotive connections. Not to mention, with a sense of relatability and realism. They throw a few curveballs on the record too, with "Borrowed & Blue" diving into post-rock, experimental territory with James Carroll (from Make Do And Mend) also backing up on the mic. This spacey flow continues on "Atonement," which sounds similar to labelmates Pianos Become The Teeth's musical style on 2014's Keep You. Defeater mix things up well and still manage to add some dimension of unpredictability to their game through these tracks, sacrificing any hearty acoustics for these ambient jams. By the time "Penance" helps bring the curtain down, Archambault's repetition of "No hands to hold / No hands to pray for me" emphasizes that even though this is a concept album, there's a lot of himself injected from what he's been through health-wise.

It's easy to pick this up if you've traced his Alcoa work. That said, he continues scribbling life and love as part of a war. Abandoned is a plea to God and it's something we can all relate to at some point in life. It's arguable if this tops their musical catalog so far but in terms of storytelling, this is my favorite Defeater novel to date.