Defeater’s Self Titled Return is Brutal Yet Heartbreaking

Defeater is a riveting story of struggle which packs a punch of brutal instrumentation and heartfelt lyricism.

Defeater is a melodic hardcore band from Boston. They debuted in 2008 with Travels which tells the story of a young man born in New Jersey near the end of the second world war. This family and the circumstances surrounding them would go on to be the focus of the entirety of Defeater’s discography with each album expanding the world and introducing a litany of new characters, some acting as sequels and others as prequels. In addition to the sprawling narrative, the band’s unique ability to mix hardcore instrumentation with a keen sense of melody makes them one of the most interesting bands in the modern metal scene. They officially parted ways after the 2015 release of Abandoned, but announced in early March that they would return with a self-titled fifth LP.

From the opening track, “The Worst of Fates,” the most prevalent highlight of the band’s sound is clear, that being Derek Archambault’s vocal performance. Throughout the album, especially on cuts like the aforementioned opener or the more subtle “Desperate,” Archambault brings an intensity that can’t be ignored. Under that roughness, however, there’s a genuine vulnerability through which he imbues every story and character with a gruff sort of humanity. It’s a brutal scream, but heartfelt all the same.

Beyond this, Archambault’s lyrics are once again enthralling. Of course, the story telling and conceptualism of the album is every bit as excellent as expected. On tracks like “List & Heel,” or “All Roads,” though, he goes above and beyond in painting vivid imagery and writing with a truly cinematic eye. Along with its many other functions, this album is the fifth installment to a long series which deals with the same family and, in that department, it succeeds wildly.

Instrumentally, the record is a masterwork. Perhaps the most noticeable piece of the puzzle is Joe Longobardi’s drum work. On cuts like “Mother’s Sons,” or “No Guilt,” Joe transitions between complex rhythms and lightning quick fills and does each incredibly well. He has an excellent ear for timing and despite rather predictable time signatures and somewhat weak production, his work shines through as a definitive key to the band’s impressive sound.

Another great element is Jake Woodruff’s grinding lead guitar. While a few of choices are a bit questionable, his contributions to tracks like “Stale Smoke,” and my favorite song on the album, “Debt/Debtor,” can’t be ignored. His drowning style provides a more solid counterpoint against some of the album’s most driving, fast paced beats and he has a talent for writing hooks. On a few cuts, his leads provide the catchiest moments on the album in addition to laying a more layered atmosphere.

My favorite aspect of the band’s sound, though it may not be as immediately noticeable, is founding member Mike Poulin on bass guitar. He grants a heaviness to songs like “Atheists in Foxholes,” and “Hourglass,” and he’s to thank for much of Defeater’s fantastic sound. The chugging, rhythmic bass stands as the foundation of nearly every melody and it is, in many ways, the glue that holds the album together.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Defeater combines all of this for an epic, creative finish in “No Man Born Evil.” This track embodies much of what makes this album so good with a ringing lead guitar, thundering bass, and explosive drums underscoring an unbelievable performance from Derek Archambault which brings to life a harrowing storyline. It’s the perfect ending to a nearly perfect album.

Defeater’s self-titled come back is almost everything fans could’ve hoped for. We get to return to the dark, gritty world which they’ve created over the past decade, guiding by great writing and wonderful performances from the entire band.

Defeater is a riveting story of struggle which packs a punch of brutal instrumentation and heartfelt lyricism.

8/10

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Architects and Company Bring Rocking Tour to East Saint Louis

Friday night, Architects brought the massive Holy Hell tour to Pop’s in East Saint Louis for a blaring loud night or rock music.

Architects is a metalcore five piece from Brighten, England. They debuted all the way back in 2006 but with their most recent run of albums beginning with 2014’s Lost Forever/Lost Together, they’ve found increasing international success. Their latest LP, Holy Hell released last year at broke the top 100 on the US Billboard chart and spawned a large scale international tour. Their sound mixes the heavier elements of metalcore with fairly melodic choruses, seamlessly transitioning from thundering breakdowns to singable hooks and back again. Friday night, Architects brought the massive Holy Hell tour to Pop’s in East Saint Louis for a blaring loud night or rock music.

While She Sleeps kicked off the show with quite an impressive half-hour set. The relatively accomplished British metalcore group brought an almost unrelenting heaviness to their entire performance and frontman Lawrence Taylor was able to bring the energy within the venue to a fever pitch. All of this was accomplished, notwithstanding quite a few setbacks. Of course, it’s never easy to be the opening act and the crowd was still filtering in at the beginning of the set and beyond this, they were also confined to only about a third of stage thanks to the gear of the following acts. Regardless, While She Sleeps gave quite a performance and set a very high bar.

Up next came Thy Art is Murder, the Australian deathcore band who were quite a bit heavier than either of the other groups sharing the bill. With this reputation already well known, the group absolutely brought the power from their first track. Lead vocalist, Chris McMahon took the stage in a hooded cloak which, along with his long beard and hair and growling voice made for a horrifying, yet entertaining opening. The tracks, admittedly, bled together a bit, but the crowd was electric by this point and thanks to some incredible rhythms from new drummer Jesse Beahler and some fantastic guitar solos from Andy Marsh. Thy Art is Murder played for about an hour and by the time they closed, my ears were ringing and the crowd was more than ready for the headliner.

Architects took the stage at about half past nine to roaring applause and brought even more energy to the stage. Along with the band came an incredible lighting rig which was perfectly programmed. The strobing flood lights and multitude of colors were genuinely mesmerizing and, though I don’t often comment on lighting all that much as its outside my area of expertise, this rig was one of the best I’ve seen in such a small venue.

On top of the staging, the group was extremely impressive musically. Their choruses were melodic and encouraged quite a bit crowd singalongs, and their breakdowns were absolutely brutal. The mix was quite bass heavy throughout all three sets and along with the lighting, this made for a scene that neared sensory overload quite often. Drummer Dan Searle played explosively on a massive kit and frontman Sam Carter’s ability to switch between clean vocals and barbarous screams helps smooth the transitions between their two sounds.

Above all, the highlight of the night was certainly the crowd. For the final two acts, Pop’s was absolutely packed with raucous fans who formed a downright dangerous pit which never seemed to stop growing. Aside from a few stray fights which broke out in the back, the pit was fairly considerate but massive and quite physical.

As the show wrapped up, Sam Carter took a moment to speak candidly about the importance of mental health and reaching out to a professional when dealing with depression and other issues. It was an impressively genuine moment and when it was followed up by an excellent performance of their hit, “Doomsday,” it made for a perfect finish to a great show.

Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable concert with three impressive acts in a row. While She Sleeps was a pleasant surprise as I hand’t heard a single song before their performance, Thy Art is Murder came incredibly close to stealing the show with a brutal set, and Architects showed once again that they are one of the premier groups in the metalcore genre.

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB

Mystifier Is Back With a Brutal Fourth Album

Primal Black Magic Dynasty has plenty to complain about, but it’s a fun listen for fans of the more brutal side of the music world.

Mystifier is a black/heavy metal band from Salvador, Brazil. They debuted in 1992 with Wicca was a large part of the often overlooked Brazilian metal scene. With a handful of EPs and demos, they began to find some success worldwide and released their second LP, Goetia the following year. This was followed by a large scale tour and quite a bit of critical acclaim before the group split for a long hiatus. They returned in 2008 with their career defining third album The World is So Good That Who Made It Doesn’t Live Here which kicked off yet another large tour followed by yet another long silence as they’ve only sparsely appeared since the release. Sonically, Mystifier is, in many ways, a poster child for the kind of stereotypical, satanic black metal that newer bands only see fit to elude to. Now, after more than a decade off, Mystifier finally returns with Primal Black Magic Dynasty.

One of the album’s most interesting touches are the haunting and well placed atmospheric sounds that begin a few of the tracks. Perhaps the best example of this comes in the horrifying opening to “Witching Lycanthropic Moon,” which melds a wide array of nocturnal animal noises with a gritty, growling vocal to set a listener immediately into the hellscape that Mystifier is trying to create.

Yet another strength unique to Primal Black Magic Dynasty is the very well mixed and played bass guitar. In a genre which consistently struggles with allowing the bass to cut through the fog, Mystifier makes it sound easy. There are fantastic solos on tracks like “Heart Weighing Ceremony,” and “Demolish the Towers of the Sky,” but throughout nearly every song, the bass is not only loud and clear, but active and creative, adding to the dark scenery of the project.

Those scenes are quickly ripped to shreds, however, by the gut-wrenching guitar riffs that populate the album. From the last single and highlight of the entire record, “Six Towers of Belial’s Path,” to the later cut, “Soultrap Sorcery of Vengeance,” the guitars are extremely thick and driving, owing in part to excellent performances and in part to strong production choices. Most importantly, the tone and melody isn’t lost in the growl, but instead a near perfect balance is struck.

Vocally, the leads are about as horrific as one would expect from the gothic horror on the album cover. There’s a pair of vocalists trading lines between each other, one much thinner and piercing, the other lower and cacophonous. Tracks like “Thanatopraxy,” and “Al Nakba,” stand as strong showings for the pair, and while they aren’t perfect at every turn, there’s a power and passion that comes through on each effort.

Instrumentally, though, the most technically demanding parts are left for the drumming. From the opening title track to the later and darker “Church of the Molested Children,” the drumming is lightning fast and explosive. This isn’t uncommon for music in this genre, but it’s especially noticeable on this record.

Their best quality comes when they are all working together. Namely, the dynamic shift from brutal, high speed thrashing to melodic breakdowns and back again on cuts like “Akhenaton,” is exhilarating. Mixing in elements of more traditional heavy metal allows them to create moments that even a casual hard rock fan can enjoy before diving headlong again into the crushing blasts that characterize most black and death metal.

On the other hand, I do have my complaints, which mainly fall into three categories. The first of these is the lead guitar  which almost never seems to fit as none of the solos are particularly impressive and it constantly fails to make its way to the front of the mix. The second is is the instrumental pallet which, though somewhat wide, feels almost like a gimmick outside of the core instrumentation. All of this is made infinitely worse by my third and main complaint, which is extremely poor mixing, particularly in instrumental passages as the drums never quite fit and the rhythm guitar seems to drown out all else.

All this being said, I enjoyed this LP quite a bit. It’s good to hear such an early member of the black metal movement return to the scene with a strong effort.

Primal Black Magic Dynasty has plenty to complain about, but it’s a fun listen for fans of the more brutal side of the music world.

6/10

AMAZON LINK: https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB

Cult Leader’s Second LP Has a Little Something For Everyone

A Patient Man is a perfectly paced mix of brutal energy and gothic cacophony which stands as a testament to the excellent state of metal music today.

     Cult Leader is a tech/sludge metal band from Salt Lake City, Utah. They formed in 2013 after the break up of the band Gaza, where three of Cult Leader’s four members got their start. They made waves in 2014 with their debut EP, Nothing For Us Here, before following up in 2015 with the Useless Animal EP, was well as their first LP, Lightless Walk. The releases have been fairly successful, building on the success previously achieved by Gaza as well as forging their own identity as a group.

   Cult Leader’s sound is a unique blend of several styles of modern metal music. There’s a heavy dose of sludge metal, particularly in the rattling bass guitar, but there are also hints of thrash, grindcore, and even grunge. Through all of this, the technical skill of the group shines brightly over frequent tempo and time changes. They stand as an excellent example of the many intersecting worlds of metal, a trend that doesn’t stop with their newest release, A Patient Man.

   The record really falls into three parts: a brutally heavy opening section, a tame second act, and an epic, gothic closing chapter. Through this, the LP is absolutely perfectly paced. Longer songs like the title track or “To: Achlys,” spend every second of their time very wisely, developing multiple musical ideas and fleshing out each riff and hook in a really satisfying way. On the other hand, a short track like “Craft of Mourning,” feels fully realized and seems to have been given a fair hearing, despite a runtime under three minutes. It’s just a masterclass in getting the most from your songs without overstaying the welcome.

   The opening portion of the record, comprised of “I Am Healed,” “Curse of Satisfaction,” and “Isolation in the Land of Milk and Honey,” is absolutely blistering. The tempos are fast, the drums are explosive, and the vocals are positively demonic. The guitar, while easily the least impressive component of the group, is used interestingly, mostly serving to build an atmosphere, while the melody and rhythm is pushed along by the drums and vocals. The bass, which is often lacking in tracks like this, is impressively present here as well, though it wouldn’t come to fruition until much later in the runtime. It’s a brutal opening, which sets an excellent tone, only to be broken in the second act.

   Covering only two songs, “To: Achlys,” and “A World of Joy,” the second, slower section of the record lasts about 12 minutes and totally flips the script on what we’ve just heard. The tempos are lower, the vocals and guitars are clean, and tone is far less brutal. Instead, we listen as two gothic slogs slowly unravel into epic finishes. The bass guitar is fantastic hear, rattling out the lower end and left just clean enough to hear every imperfection and slide. These are also the best lyrical moments of the project, especially on the first of the two, which may be my favorite song on the album, which reads like a dark hymn. As exciting as this section itself, however, is the epic return of the distortion and thickness of the opening section.

   Opening with “Craft Our Morning,” and “Share My Pain,” neither of which clear three minutes, Cult Leader wastes no time in ratcheting up the intensity, continuing with the brutal “Aurum Reclusa.” The final two tracks, however, bring the project full circle. The title track, and longest song on the record, is absolutely fantastic. From the howling shouts of “such sweet hell,” to the commanding drum work, to the strangely hopeful finish, this track really sums up the record, especially in it’s wide array of influence and musical idea. The closer, “The Broken Right Hand of God,” nears seven minutes as well, is equally powerful, and is one of the only well produces tracks on the album The guitars create something of a cloud of distortion, from which the drums and particularly guttural vocals burst defiantly, only to be quickly swallowed again. In the end, as the feedback and repetitive riffs trail off, this song feels like a meaningful conclusion to an excellent project.

   A Patient Man certainly isn’t perfect. The production is my biggest complaint, as nearly all of these mixes severely lack texture with every instrument seeming to come from everywhere at the same level. Additionally, a few of the builds on the latter half don’t seem to pay off as they should. These of course, are small issues in an otherwise excellent second outing for Cult Leader.

   A Patient Man is a perfectly paced mix of brutal energy and gothic cacophony which stands as a testament to the excellent state of metal music today.

7/10

HEAR A PATIENT MAN: https://open.spotify.com/album/1OPpVnWDfL3YKmIqxuVRdZ

Daughters is Back After Eight Years With the Best Metal Album of the Year

 You Won’t Get What You Want is an advanced piece of noise metal that is quite nearly perfect, and easily the best metal album of the year, if you’re up for the challenge.

     Daughters is an experimental, industrial metal act from Rhode Island. They’re well known for an absolutely hellish style, disjointed rhythms, wide array of influences, and, until recently, jarringly short tracks. Their 2003 debut LP, Canada Songs, had a runtime of just 11 minutes, with very few songs clearing a minute, which was complimented by the thrashing instrumentals of their early work. This continued on the slightly longer, Hell Songs, in 2007 which also hits hard and fast with a bit more character.

   This all changed, however, with what was meant to be their farewell project, which was self-titled and released in 2010. The record mixed elements of thrash, noise, and experimental metal with a heavy dose of post-punk to create a gothic cacophony of a farewell with a runtime that neared 30 minutes. Having bid the band farewell, their cult following was quite excited to hear news of an upcoming fourth album, and though listeners were quite surprised, they certainly weren’t let down.

   From the opening track, “City Song,” it’s very clear that we are in for something very different. The track feels like being lost in a dark ocean, with a driving bass, jarring snare-shots, and a panicked but hopeless vocal performance by Alexis Marshall. It’s sets a bleak tone, which the rest of the near 50 minute is all too happy to follow relentlessly.

   Energy is high on tracks like “The Reason They Hate Me,” or my personal favorite, “Long Road, No Turns.” Here, the drum work is explosive and the grating electronic leads make a listeners heart race. Daughters is able to use this manic noise rock to build tension in a unique way, not unlike a horror movie. It’s a style that, I would imagine, the vast majority of music listeners simply haven’t heard anywhere else.

   Tracks like “The Flammable Man,” and “The Lords Song,” call back to the earlier days of the group as the only songs to come in under three minutes. Here, we’re treated to a much heavier bleed in from the group’s more traditional punk influences along with the thrash style of released like Canada Songs. The bass guitar is especially brutal here, well mixed, and following a blistering tempo.

   On the other hand, “Satan in the Wait,” and “Ocean Song,” each top seven minutes, and make the most of every second. The former carries a horrific narrative over rhythmic drum and a howling guitar which almost mimics a siren, ending with a hellish chaos of shouting, squealing, and crashing cymbals. The latter is a true post-punk tune, telling what is essentially a horror story  over of the best instrumentals I’ve ever heard. These tracks are so fantastic and the slow burning style of Marshall’s story telling is so listenable that even longtime fans will find themselves wishing that Daughters had always been in the business of long-form, post-punk epics.

   The real shining point of the album, however, is the extremely unique instrumentation. The closer, “Guest House,” features a screeching synth that over scores the howling vocals well. “Less Sex,” is highlighted by a melodic choir part in the chorus, giving the track a distinct blues sound, and “Daughter,” opens with a gloomy piano riff which, though a bit gimmicky, is an interesting hook around which the rest of the tune is built.

   My complaints are slight, leading me to seriously contemplate my second ever perfect score, but, unfortunately, my complaints are present nonetheless. “Daughter,” is easily the weakest piece of the tracklist, held down by an odd organ section in the bridge. In addition, a few of the rhythm changes can be a bit underdeveloped, and the electric guitar, while used well for effect, could do with even a short turn in the spotlight. Aside from this, I must admit that the album lacks severely in replay value, with a tone so bleak and overbearing that, if you don’t find yourself in the mood, the project can simply come off as irritating, although, in fairness, it doesn’t seem that replay value and accessibility were ever goals held by Daughters.

   You Won’t Get What You Want is exactly the kind of album that music critics love. It tests the bounds of what music is and, in doing so, challenges even the most experienced music listener to make heads or tails of such a difficult piece of art. This album uses it’s smothering, gothic tone to tell interesting stories and create something that just doesn’t exist elsewhere in the music world, carrying all the lushness of a big budget rock album, but trading in the sweetness for horrific electronic tones and constant dissonance.

   You Won’t Get What You Want is an advanced piece of noise metal that is quite nearly perfect, and easily the best metal album of the year, if you’re up for the challenge.

9/10

HEAR YOU WON’T GET WHAT YOU WANThttps://open.spotify.com/album/7w7ZTlk8YLc0OxviTp97qA