Defocus – There is a Place for Me on Earth


‘These Teutons are on the verge of discovering their true sound, but for now they do a good job of laying down their marker in the global metalcore scene,’ remarked Scream Blast Repeat upon hearing the 2021 debut album by Defocus. Aside from the question of where these last three years went, we must also address metalcore in 2024. The cover story is that it’s a genre in decline and out of favour in the adult music press. Yet underneath this hyperbole, artists such as Northlane, Erra, Vexed and Spiritbox (they self-identify as metalcore) show that the genre still has a future. The boys in Defocus know that they must evolve to stay relevant to an audience of angst-ridden teenagers and social media-savvy twentysomethings, but they might want to rethink their strategy. There is a Place for me on Earth is a step backwards.

The album starts well enough. A terrific finger-squirming roar introduces the low-tuned guitars in ‘Let the Bond Be My Grave’ as if trying to imitate the aggro of The Prodigy in the mid-90s. The clarity in the vocals is quite impressive when you consider the rage behind them. Yet a predictable switch to a clean vocal melody in the chorus spoils the momentum. You’ve heard much of this before on the last three Architects album. Generic synth fills and electronic drumbeats plug the gaps before the inevitable thrill of the breakdown riff. Fortunately, breakdown number two is even more brutal, like Lorna Shore with itchy genitals.

‘Biased’ is Korn playing nu metal with the genesis of a bubbling synth loop. The growling bass and thumping drumbeat provide a good foundation for the alternating vocals between anxious whispering and guttural death metal posturing. But it raises the question: why is modern metalcore so enamoured with Korn and Slipknot? Listen how the double-timing beats make way for a nu metal bounce riff in ‘Watch Me Bleed’. We’re already collapsing under the weight of the syncopated breakdown riff at 01:35 before the guitarists ride their low strings in the mosh part like elite parachute soldiers.

“I’ll never be what you want me to be,” roars Simon Müller in ‘Consumed by You’. This is music for young adults that still live at home with their parents in their late 20s. Yet there’s no denying it’s passionate and capable of using brutal sonics, even if old school metal fans will ignore it as easily as they dismiss music with rap vocals. Thankfully, they avoid the metalcore chorus cliché here.

Defocus belong on stage. Like Underoath, their energy is infectious. The dub step inspired drop in ‘Crooked Mind’ could be on Korn’s The Path of Totality album. By contrast, ‘Don’t Let It Hurt Me’ is a near disaster of a pop song in the manner of a dark boy band effort with monstrous guitar grooves. At least they let the synths dictate the direction of this composition rather than insert them in the intro and middle-eight to fit around the riffs. But the metalcore problem of writing a chorus free from self-pity makes it as unlistenable as nu metal. Any credibility this band had in the bank could be diminished after the dystopian rap of ‘Hybrid Anthem’, but rap metal will make a comeback at some point, and Defocus could be there to benefit. The stupendous rhythmic boost of riffing in the outro keeps this song alive despite your natural aversion to it.

What is it about this music that demands to be the anthem of the Extinction Rebellion/Just Stop Oil generation? Yes, it’s fearless and capable of empathy and transparent in its emotional outlook, but it feels too lightweight for anyone over the age of twenty-five. ‘Flatlines’ aims to adapt drum ‘n’ bass to a metalcore template with a cameo of death metal grunts. It shouldn’t work, but it has its charms. The closing title-track is not predictable, either. This starts with the chorus in the hope that it will seep into your brain for later, when the dynamics shift from introspective pop to a louder domain of hanging guitar chords and double-tracked vocal harmonies. Clearly, Defocus harbour some good ideas, but many of them fall by the wayside on this record.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/03/2024

Record Label: Arising Empire

Standout tracks: Let the Bond Be My Grave, Watch Me Bleed, …To Not Feel Anything

Suggested Further Listening: Korn – The Path of Totality (2011), Heart of a Coward – This Place Only Brings Death (2023), Drip Fed Empire – Revolutionist (2024)