Band: Defying Death
EP: Blinded By Sorrow EP
Record label: Independent
Release Date: February 12, 2021
EP Length: 20 Minutes
Empty // Alone
Blinded By Sorrow
I’m always a little apprehensive when I’m asked to review a new metalcore release. As much as I love the genre, it has over the last number of years become very played out. Am I going to get something spectacular and groundbreaking or am I going to be listening to yet another band playing the tropes? To be clear, even some of those bands are superbly talented, but too much of the same is problematic either way. Enter the scene Defying Death (opens new window) with their recently released EP Blinded by Sorrow. The band in their bio claim they are “a fusion of various kinds of metal sub-genres that create a sound different from your normal metalcore band.” So let us have ourselves a listen and see.
We start the album off with a fairly chill atmospheric intro that slowly builds in heaviness as it prepares for a seamless transition in the next song. My first couple thoughts here are how pleasant the intro is, an interesting counterpoint to what is coming, though it foreshadows how the album is going to wrap up. The other thing that jumps out is the question of why break up track one and two. The seamless transition leads me to believe that it was intended to be a separate song, but for some reason was separated after the fact. Forsaken is probably the heaviest and most aggressive song both tonally and musically so I can see why they might have made the change, but the juxtaposition made for a more interesting song.
My main critique of the album aside, Defying Death is a group of musicians who have clearly practiced a great deal and have learned to play incredibly well together. This stands out on Withered Roots, where the rhythm section holds down the pace of the song, maintaining a deep-sounding low end that doesn’t let up. In contrast, their guitarists are both doing their own thing while remaining rooted (forgive the pun) with the rest of the song. I greatly appreciate the subtlety of the lead guitar here; instead of being blaring and in your face, it flows nicely just above the rest and ends up being more of an atmospheric addition. Until the solo, which is tastefully handled and can be appreciated by a noted hater of solos.
The tightness of the band and the two guitarists playing very defined roles gives the band the ability to play with different tones to set the mood they are going for in each song complimenting the lyrical content. Withered Roots can transition from a sense of desperation to a passionate plea for help. On the other hand, when they went almost exclusively heavy on a song, Lethal Dose, for example, they cut back on the atmosphere and the whole band synchs up and they set an aggressive driving pace. This tightness also helps when they end on the prerequisite slow song on the album, it’s clearly different from the rest but isn’t jarring, it fits nicely with the rest of the album.
Vocally the band reminds me of late 90s early 2000s metalcore vocalists. This doesn’t have the more polished cleaned-up sound that’s prevalent nowadays but uses a rawer stripped-down vocal. It is not quite the more buzz saw sound of a Dan Weyandt or Jimmy Ryan, though there are some similarities. I do hear a lot of Few Left Standing. It serves the songs very well as the lyrics are on the darker side and this really helps to set that mood. We even get some higher pitch deathcorish screams, I wish were used a little more liberally. Defying Death doesn’t make a full return to the old metalcore vocal days as they do still employ cleans. In a band like this, it’s not unusual for me to be annoyed at the cleans and wish for them to just get back to the screams/growls. This is not the case here. Every time I hear the chorus on Withered Roots I am drawn right in and I am fully on board for the ride. It’s also not unusual for this chorus to be in my head for hours after listening. It’s so catchy. The singing eschews the usual whinny emo sound or even the higher-pitched singing. Instead, this leans more into what I would equate to a popular Christian hard rock sound, though I’m hard-pressed to think of an apt comparison. Again typically not something I would enjoy, but I absolutely love how they integrate it. The masterful way they sometimes layer the two vocals is the cherry on top of the cake.
As I mentioned earlier, the lyrical content of the album is a bit on the dark side. I’m unsure if it’s autobiographical in nature, that is, if one or more of the members have struggled with mental illness, suicidal ideation, or the difficulty of dealing with a judgmental peer/mentor who doesn’t understand. There is a clear sense of frustration and desperation at the seemingly never-ending insurmountable struggles. This darkness is punctuated throughout with some hopeful sentiments.
Withered Roots has a plea for help from God “Take my life back to where you started. Let it all wash back to where your heart is.” While Isolated Wounds mixes an angry declaration with a statement of freedom “So sick of following you. I promise you this time I’ll be the man I want to be.” Ultimately we end in a place of surrender “If this is the plan you have for me, then God clean my eyes so my heart can finally see what it wants to be.” While I’m not a hundred percent certain what it means for the heart to see what it wants to be, I get a sense from this album and this song in particular, the idea that the narrator realizes despite the struggles, God is there, and there is a reason for all of what is happening. I like that this doesn’t have the typical happy ending, as that isn’t reflective of life. While we don’t always see or understand, our suffering and struggle can be and often is used by God and he’s there to help us through it all.
Coming back to the original question of how different Defying Death is from other metalcore and how many influences they have, I’d have to say that I don’t necessarily hear that many different metal sounds. That being said, they stand out from the pack. A clear commitment to being highly proficient in their craft and a practiced tightness allow them to subtly experiment and stretch the mold. The mix of old-school vocals with contemporary hard rock cleans is an inspired choice. They explore dark lyrical concepts with a clear eye to the saving grace of our Lord. I would like to see those concepts explored over a few more songs and touch more hopefulness, but overall what we get is a great start and I will be adding these guys to my follow list.