English quintet, Defects, are the hyped band of the moment. They played Download and Bloodstock this year, and they have the biggest name in the UK metal PR sector promoting them. The members earned their stripes in various bands over the last decade and toured with the likes of SiKth, Trivium and Bullet for My Valentine, most notably drummer, Harry Jennings, who some of you will know from his former group, Shvpes. As with any band thrust into the spotlight with the right backers, we must ask what is so special about their art. Indeed, can a band that incorporate nu metal, rock and metalcore be the future of anything?
Aside from the regrettable growth in the nu metal revival scene and the chronic saturation of mainstream metalcore, the third element of Defects’ arsenal – rock – might be their most fertile opening. It may also explain why they start their debut EP with the restraint of a moody dystopian approach rather than the ferocity of a Slipknot-inspired audio bludgeoning. This is a risk on a three-track EP if you want to win over a metal crowd, but it works here thanks to the stunning vocal register of Tony Maue, who delivers a chorus with the same efficacy as Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo when moving through the octaves. The bass and drum section are the strongest aspect of the opening title track, but it’s a relief when the guitars get into the gear for the mandatory breakdown moment. You’re never sure how the dynamics will evolve or how much of them will remain in the bird-of-prayer-position, waiting to swoop down when the target appears. The apprehensive angle to the music leaves you on edge and uncomfortable with the possibility that humanity could be heading for the confines of a digital reality of which we cannot escape.
‘End of Days’ is more like what you’d expect from a modern metalcore band. Dexterous low-tuned riffs, double-kick grooves and face-stretching vocals dominate the mix, but the switch to a clean chorus refrain avoids the weak dilution of their peers and retains your attention. There’s nothing surprising about the verse-bridge-chorus song structure, but the guitars are chunkier than the steak and ale pie at your nearest rustic pub. Why people in the industry see this as the future of mainstream alternative music is not clear. Will those of you with heavier metal tastes care for a band that draw upon While She Sleeps and Slipknot as their main inspiration?
Every track on this EP starts with the same guitar riff imitating the arpeggiator button of a synthesiser. ‘Scapegoat’ is the most intense and aggressive cut on Dream Awake, but the polished production and crystal-clear mix strip it of its humanity, which might be the point on a record that explores the dangers of living in a digital bubble. The ferocity is potent enough to conjure the scene in a film where the captive buries through the dirt and debris of his primitive cell with his bare hands until his nails bleed. This is what AFI would sound like if they returned as a crunchy metalcore band with the latest version of ProTools.
Contemporary metal once had metalcore spearheading its evolution, but that was twenty years ago. It’s hard to see what justifies the hype with Defects, but one should not disregard their song writing ability, even if the ingredients of their art could do with a retooling on their next effort.
Release Date: 30/09/2022
Record Label: Self Released
Standout track: Scapegoat
Suggested Further Listening: Blood Youth – Visions of Another Hell (2021), InVisions – Deadlock (2022), From Sorrow to Serenity – Trifecta EP (2021)