Just because you can thrash all the time doesn’t necessarily mean you should thrash all the time. I would call ACT OF DEFIANCE a thrash metal band, as they do thrash more often than not, but there’s a clear attempt to bring in external influences to break up what might otherwise have become a monotonous riff-fest. Thrash metal often lives and dies by dynamics; “all speed, all the time” may have worked in the 80’s but bands like DARK ANGEL eventually ruined that for everyone by being faster than anyone else wanted or cared to go. Much in the style of those earlier bands, songs on this group’s debut Birth and the Burial (out now, Metal Blade Records) are set apart by their intros especially. From the moody bass intro to “Obey the Fallen” to the excellent string-and-piano intro to “Poison Dream”, each song has its own unique fingerprint.
ACT OF DEFIANCE made the excellent decision to go with Henry Derek, most known for his work with SCAR THE MARTYR, on vocals, who handles a variety of styles on the album with fluent ease. Songs like “Refrain and Re-Fracture”, the intro of which shows off Broderick’s classical guitar background, have clean-sung parts which set a nice change of pace by allowing a more diverse set of riffs and speeds. Alternatively, songs like my personal favorite, “Thy Lord Belial”, are just straight-ahead mosh instigators. Thankfully, it never veers into sappy or poppy territory; no ballads on this one, folks! There’s a fair number of gang-vocal refrains, which I’m a total sucker for, as well. People coming in to see Chris Broderick shred solos like he did on MEGADETH’S Endgame, let me introduce you to “Dead Stare” and “Poison Dream”, which carry two of my favorite solos on the album. You won’t be disappointed.
This band is known popularly as the Broderick-and-Drover show, which I don’t think is necessarily true, as the songs do sound like the work of a fully-realized band. The bass player in a single-guitar thrash band can often be something of a surrogate rhythm player, and such is the case here with Matt Bachand. While I have a huge respect for Shawn Drover’s drumming, the best and worst thing about his performance is that there’s not much to say about it. He plays exactly what the song needs, capable of shifting gears at a moment’s notice and commanding attention with propulsive fills.
Being a player with a strong sense of restraint, when he does let loose, it’s hard not to notice, as opposed to other drummers who numb the ears with constant overplaying. The balance between riff-based hooks and vocal hooks is one of ACT OF DEFIANCE’s strongest selling points; although it does have the feel at times of an album comprised primarily of pre-existing riffs and ideas cobbled together, which would make sense given that 3/4ths of the band is comprised of people who left other bands to pursue their own ideas.
I love reviewing new bands instead of one-off collaborations or bands whose glory days are far beyond them, because I get to end my write-ups in my favorite way. Birth And the Burial is not a perfect album, but it is an extremely strong debut from a talented new group, and all but promises that there are great things to come from them in the future.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Legion of Lies”, “Thy Lord Belial”, “Dead Stare”, “Disastrophe”, “Poison Dream”, “The Birth and the Burial”