Defeater - Defeater (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Defeater (2019)

epitaPH records

It's no surprise how much I adore Defeater. Every single album's been not just a work of poetry for me personally, but a musical novella that brings out a mix of emo/melodic/hardcore/screamo which is tough to put into words. The energy, the honesty and more so, the needles every album sticks in resonates deep down on a level that really emphasises this is what concept albums should be about. As much as I could tell this self-titled was gonna hit home from the few tracks released, though, I really couldn't tell it'd be right up there with my favourites in Letters Home or Abandoned -- but once more, it's an abrasive dive down the rabbit hole with Derek Archambault's bruised voice scraping away at every fibre of our humanity.

Defeater mined stories about a man trying to find his way home through wars, navigating the pains of love and loss and family, while even churning out an old man's tale about a priest losing faith. And here, it feels like a marrying of both concepts, but stricken in grief like never before. In fact, it's a pretty defeated narrative as the album waxes on about trying to find light in the dark. Most of all, while you'd expect the poetic lyrics to remain unchanged, it's how Defeater manages to go back to basics with their sound which impresses me the most. "Atheist in Foxholes" is a rumbling, raspy track that's more or less vintage Defeater, and a song you can tell influenced bands like Pianos Become The Teeth. It's beautiful chaos engineered by Will Yip this time (not Jay Maas) and what stands out is how Yip does his typical schtick of drowning out the vocals with guitars. Coincidentally, at first I complained but taking in the entire album, this style works and helps build context and mood for what Derek's laying down.

The angst really comes out this way on the slow burns and bleaker songs too like "Desperate" and then amps back up on "Dealer/Debtor" with a duality and overall contrast to reiterate why they may well be the best in the post-hardcore/screamo genre... ever. Bands like State Faults, The Saddest Landscape, Departures and Touche Amore all have their own magic in this field, but there's something so unique, raw and passionate about a Defeater record, and here it's encapsulated in full. There's way more melody and a lot more breaks amid the frenetic storytelling that really let the horror of life sink in.

And by the time "No Man Born Evil" drops the curtains, it'll be painfully obvious just how much blood, sweat and tears went into this record. It's loud, in-your-face and downright scary at times, but as the kit work gallops home and the guitars thunder around with slashes of reverb and feedback cutting through your skin, it's good to remember that in Derek's vocals, while we mostly associate a sense of doom, gloom and hurt, there's also a profound sense of hope locked in.