Release Date: Jul 16, 2013
Record label: Bridge Nine Records
Keeping up a narrative is difficult; keeping it up through an EP and three full-lengths, even more so. But perhaps the most difficult thing of all when it comes to centrally conceptual or thematic music is moving it along and keeping it interesting, without alienating listeners. The obvious example is Coheed and Cambria, who while having a much larger fanbase than Defeater (and sounding absolutely nothing like them), probably peaked in terms of critical and fan appeal in 2005 or so.
In cinema, when a story reaches its conclusion, it often leaves room for a prequel to be told. And so it is on Defeater's newest album, Letters Home. After reaching a tipping point in the World War II tales of their earlier works, they returned to a previous time, telling the narrative through the eyes of the main character's father. The music is also a nod to the past, or at least the past for Defeater, with the sound being more akin to previous releases Travels and Lost Ground than 2011's Empty Days & Sleepless Nights.
Review Summary: Let me be damned. With the release of Letters Home, we once again find ourselves at a time where opinions on Defeater are being spewed from a lot of people with a lot to say. Not that I blame them-- it’s been interesting to watch the hardcore group’s immediate popularity, then the more critical reception of their most recent efforts, and to be a part of that dialogue.
Like the hardcore band's 2008 release, Travels, Defeater's 2013 outing is an ambitious concept album, which may sound sketchy on paper, but -- considering the success of punk concept records by Green Day and Fucked Up -- may not be such a stretch. Letters Home traces the story of a Jersey native facing the trials and tribulations of World War II, and follows suit as the fourth chapter in their series of albums with the same theme. Like the other three parts, this is a monstrously powerful record filled with anthems and punishing vocals.
Post-hardcore fans who fear that their scene has been plunged into an interminable Dark Age of crunk rock and crab-core need only look to “The Wave” for signs of salvation. Don’t think of it as a scene, but as a secret club (or, more accurately, an inside joke-turned-pseudo-fraternity), consisting of five burgeoning post-hardcore bands from all over these United States: Michigan’s La Dispute, Baltimore’s Pianos Become The Teeth, Connecticut’s Make Do And Mend, Los Angeles’ Touché Amoré, and Boston’s Defeater. Collectively, “The Wave” is all about retrospection and revival: a return to the acerbic stylings of screamo pioneers like Orchid and Pg.