Friday, November 20, 2009

Defeater - Lost ground (EP)

If you're into hardcore, Defeater must have smashed your little world last year. Their debut album 'Travels' was one of the most ambitious, poignant and mastered records Bridge Nine had released in a while. In eleven songs, the Boston formation, created around hardcore master producer Jay Maas (Have Heart, Verse, Carpathian), established themselves as the genre's most promising band of the year. They're already back with a new EP, 'Lost ground', a first answer to those who wonder if 'Travels' was only the state of grace of a band just like the others.

'Lost ground' is the continuation of 'Travels' or, more precisely, is kind of a spin-off from 'Travels'. The EP is still conceptual and based on a narration. So, the style is the same, a character-driven, first-person chronological story all along the record but the character changes. The protagonist, this time, is the one we were introduced to on the song 'Prophet in plain clothes' from 'Travels', that man who was playing guitar in the street. Those six new songs focus on him and a specific part of his life. Indeed, the songwriting is a story-telling about his journey from enlisting in the army during the Second World War to his comeback home. Through those years of life, we witness the man's struggles with family values, proper and mental war, alcohol addiction, faith, racism, recognition, loneliness, poverty and homelessness. We guess the character, who could be represented by the man on the cover, is black and songwriter Derek Archambault tried to depict the inequality in treatment and rights according to races, despite the common will of fighting and dying for the same country. On 'Home ain't never home' (which basically develops the unforgettable line "Home is never home, it's just the place where you came from" from the first album), he is shouting: "Ain't no man in this city / Will take a chance on me / The color of my skin / Is all they see / I was a hero when I came home / Now no one seems to know / And this medal that I received / It means nothin' to me". The lyrical content focuses on the desillusion of the soldiers when they come home and how they end up regretting having spent a part of their life killing men. The singer doesn't have an exceptional or groundbreaking writing talent, just a wonderful story-telling ability which enables him to spit realities that explode at your face, just like his band's music. Both are dense and inspired.
Defeater's compositions feature many nuances in dynamics and song structures (the powerful back-and-forth on 'The red, white and blues'). Their dissonant guitar harmonies and high-pitched riffs ('The bite and sting') rise behind Archambault's snarling vocals. The production is excellent and completely sublimates the rhythm section. The sharp bass has its glorious moments (the beginning of the same song) and the drums aren't put aside either ('Beggin' in the slums'). On the latter song, there's also a tiny bit of blues and a tiny bit of acoustic, just as on 'Travels'. On another note, the EP is less reckless than the album. The pace is less fast, more mid-tempo ('A wound and scar'), to focus on the emotion in the frontman's delivery. Numerous lines, without being catch phrases, will stay stuck in your mind after hearing them, something Have Heart used to be the best at. But the most memorable moment is the post-break part of 'Singin' New York town', when after a few calm guitar notes, the full band comes back in and Derek Archambault shouts with the whole world's despair: "I beg and I plead / For her [his mother] god to hear me". Definitely an emotional peak, so moving it gives me shudders.

Defeater give me so much to say with this EP but the best I have to do is to recommend you to check this band if you haven't already. And if you have and liked what you heard, go buy this gem of East-Coast hardcore. And read their lyrics, you will feel like you're reading a book. Without reinventing it, Defeater proves hardcore can still be innovating. 'Travels' was an incredible record, and so is 'Lost ground'. At the moment, I'm even thinking it's actually better. With Have Heart and Verse's recent breakups, there's no wonder: ladies and gentlemen, here is the new spearhead of modern hardcore.


Recommanded if you like:
Modern Life Is War, Have Heart, Verse
Check also:
In Remembrance, All Teeth, At Half-Mast
(Bridge Nine, 2009)


  1. Very nice review. Great band and great EP. I really love it. IT IS BETTER than Travels ;)