Defeater - Travels
Record Label: Bridge Nine/Topshelf
Release Date: February 24th, 2009 (Bridge Nine re-release)
Defeater is a hardcore band formed in Massachusetts in 2004. They released their debut CD Travels on Topshelf Records and were recently picked up by Bridge Nine, who re-released the CD on February 24th.
How is it?
In a word, brilliant. Defeater distances themselves from the crowded and often unoriginal hardcore scene by straying from the typical lyrical cliches and song structures that most bands are content with. Rather than yell about governmental or societal woes, Defeater instead have opted to take a storytelling approach on their first album. Travels tells the story of a boy born into a troubled family consisting of an alcoholic and abusive father, a drug addicted mother, and a good-for-nothing brother. The album's 11 tracks chronicle the boy's story from birth, winding through a life of murder, exile, and regret.
Album opener "Blessed Burden" kick-starts the album and the story with a bang, featuring vocals reminiscent of early Rise Against. The lyrical content begins heavier than the musicianship, with the first line setting the tone for the album: "Unwanted from his first breath, a mother's blessing born, a father's burden worn."
The next two tracks "Everything Went Quiet" and "Nameless Streets" keep the energy high, and chronicle the boy's childhood of trying to live up to his brother and enduring abuse from his father. While the first three tracks are good, they pale in comparison to the fourth track "Forgiver Forgetter" which tells of the boy's murder of his father after a heated argument and subsequent exile from his house. The band's unbridled anger conveys the emotions of the story perfectly, and consequently the track becomes a standout.
"Prophet in Plain Clothes" is another standout track, with the first half an angry and resentful track where the boy tells of his life living in the streets. Halfway through however, the band switches things up by breaking out the acoustic guitar and ending the song with a folk vibe. It may seem like a risk for a band of this ilk, but they pull it off astoundingly well and prove that they're not a one-trick band afraid to take chances.
The next few tracks tell of the boy's struggle to find his place and of his mixed feelings of regret, distrust of the world, and desire for redemption. The penultimate song "Debts" is a brutal track which tells of the inevitable confrontation between brothers. The band is on top lyrically and musically here, with the music once again perfectly mirroring the emotions of the tension-filled back-and-forth battle of words between the two. Six minute plus closer "Cowardice" brings the album and the story to conclusion. Sparse guitars back the repeated screams of "What's left for me?" and the tormented wail of "I killed my father. I killed my brother. I left my mother in your God's hands!" The track breaks down and ends with an extended jam that perfectly puts the story to bed.
It's hard to believe that this is the first release from Defeater. They have made an album that is more masterful than many veterans from the genre could ever hope to make. I found myself captivated by the combination of emotion, musicianship, and lyrical content that the band weaves on Travels. With the gaping holes left by the breakups of Have Heart and Verse, I would not be surprised to see Defeater rise swiftly through the hardcore ranks and into the minds of many in the next few years.
This came out in 2008. Bridge 9 just reissued it. It certainly had a shot at being 2009's hardcore album of the year, but last year? No way. Paint It Black, Verse, Have Heart, Blacklisted...
well, it's "album that i bought in 2009 of the year" then. haha. i haven't heard last year's PIB, but i do have all the others. i recommend those as well to anyone looking into listening to good music. :]