*This review was composed by Zac Lomas and edited by Erik van Rheenen
Alongside Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., Boston has always been one of the main bastions of hardcore, steeped in tradition and a continued legacy of influential bands. To say that Boston natives Defeater’s latest effort, Letters Home, resides inside that tradition is an understatement. While Empty Day & Sleepless Nights showcased the band’s lighter side, this release returns to a more bombastic and ire-ridden hardcore formula, resulting in a musical Molotov cocktail – DIY and explosive in nature.
While their compatriots, Boston hardcore legends Have Heart, called it quits in 2009, the earthy and grating sound they pioneered lives on in Defeater’s Letters Home, with vocalist Derek Archambault even sounding akin to Patrick Flynn on many of the album’s tracks.
The album opens with “Bastards,” which wastes no time in setting the breakneck tone of the album; this record is fast and irate, so take it or leave it, because Defeater makes no apologies for Letters Home. The song ends in a duet of Archambault’s brash screams and Joe Longobardi’s thunderous drums, as Archambault reminds his audience that, “still all I see is that bastard in me.”
One of the most endearing qualities of this record is Archambault’s vocal performance; the vocalist sings with the pain and desperation of a man who has lived, loved, and lost far too much, which imparts a genuine and honest stamp across every track on Letters Home. Archambault’s voice shines most notably on “No Shame” and “Dead Set,” which find him once again adopting the voice of one of the characters in the band’s intricate thematic narrative.