‘Letters Home’ begins where ‘Empty Days & Sleepless Nights’ left off and amplifies everything that made the last album exciting. Unfortunately for Defeater, the amplification they’re using explodes with an anticlimactic fizzle after reaching the halfway point; leaving the band to finish playing in a dark corner with leaky pipes dripping onto their 50’s dad haircuts.
Defeater have been a divisive band over the last few years; treading a fine like between pretentiousness and honest expression. The bisection continues on their new full length. In places they crackle with an intensity that not even narcissistic lyrics from a fictional protagonist can dampen; in others the downbeat music and melancholic lyrics combine to lugubrious effect.
‘Bastards’ was an easy choice for the opener; and ranks up there with ‘The Red, White & Blues’, ‘No Kind Of Home’ and ‘Dear Father’ as some of their most memorable material to date. A burden that the subsequent depth of ‘No Shame’ carries with ease. Both Derek Archambault’s vocals and the bands guitar tones have taken on a slightly heavier edge, trading the sorrowful acoustic numbers on the latter half of ‘Empty Days & Sleepless Nights’, for a sound closer to their debut ‘Travels’ on the early numbers found here.
Musically the band are always tight. ‘Blood In My Eyes’ showcases their intricate meshing of staccato guitar and drum accents to build sections to a climactic intensity. During the first half ‘Letters Home’ the songs are focused, balancing the aggression of the first full length with the more melodic approach of the last. ‘No Relief’ and ‘No Faith’ are faultless examples of a band honing their sound. They also sound the death knell for the album’s momentum.
Lyrically, the narrative doesn’t stray from covering the trials and tribulations of a struggling family in America post WWII. The impersonal nature of the content heavily stagnating after being used as the basis for every release apart from 2009’s ‘Lost Ground’. A once interesting overarching story line, is quickly becoming overwrought and unimaginative. At times they cut huge swathes of sound and crash and build sections with artistry, but just when I thought I’d escaped the sound of grown men weeping onto slowly strummed strings; the second half of the album drifts into a mash of slow tempos and exercises in the expansion of singular riffs that not even the late arrival of ‘Rabbit Foot’ can save.
If you knew someone in a war zone; and ‘Letters Home’ was contained in one of their letters home; initially you’d think they we’re out there rolling over buildings in tanks and smoking hash through rocket launchers; but by the conclusion you’d be left worried they might try to swallow a grenade.