REVIEW: ACT OF DEFIANCE – “Old Scars, New Wounds”
Featuring former Megadeth members Chris Broderick (guitar) & Shawn Drover (drums) alongside vocalist Henry Derek Bonner (ex-Scar the Martyr) and bass guitarist Matt Bachand (shadow’s fall); Act of Defiance got the internet buzzing days after a couple of tweets announcing their second studio album. A follow up to their 2015’s critically acclaimed ‘Birth and Burial’ which received widespread praise from critics & fans for being a no-nonsense true-to-the-bone metal assault. Having heard it myself I knew that the bar was already set high. None the less, I maintained a clear mind set as I dove headfirst into the realm of ‘Old Scars, New Wounds’.
The album cover has been done artistically, depicting mutilated, scarred & wounded bodies. While it does nothing to decipher what you’re going to hear, it has some relevance to the title in an obscure way.
The musical depository starts off with “M.I.A”, a guitar-dominated track brimming with shredding solos and was recently released on YouTube. “Molten Core” is a hard-hitting thrashy number with potent drumming and satisfying guitar shredding. Bonner displays his talent and abilities of growls and clean vocals however his standout moment comes with “Overexposure” singing in a rather raspy tone through sections which work well along with the backing vocals. It goes without saying that the tune is overflowing with soulful solos, but we also get to hear Broderick’s rhythm writing abilities too. “The Talisman” opens and closes with a tuneful clean instrumental loaded with thumping drums and a modern metal carnage in the middle.
It is evident that this album is guitar dominated without shortage of guitar solos in each and every song showing off various styles and techniques with equally intense drumming with Drover’s unique cymbal patterns to add more peripheral edge; “Broken Dialect” serving as a good example. The song structures and styles are also quite daring, “Lullaby of Vengeance” takes to a more progressive sound with its tricky time signatures while “Reborn” takes an old school Painkiller approach in its verses, structure and patterns filled in between with some neoclassical work in the second solo section. Then there are songs like “Conspiracy of the Gods” & “Circle of Ashes” which have a more modern groove essence to its tune, and dominant drum sections backed up by tumbling solos.
Bachand’s bass guitar is well mixed into the tracks adding depth and follows the rhythm section tightly throughout the tracks. The vocals offer a wide range of variety from growls to clean which along with the backing vocals and make for gracious sounding layers like those among bands comprising more than one singer. “Another killing spree” starts off sounding a lot like something Chris & Shawn might have written with their previous project, but quickly redevelops its own characteristics. “Rise to Rebellion” brings the album to closure with clean passages followed up with heavy bridge sections making for the highlight song of the album.
‘Old Scars, new Wounds’ manages to surpass its predecessor. The band has stated in an interview that unlike the last album, everyone has been on board since day one for song writing duties which is evident. The guitars and drums are both massive yet give enough breathing space so as to not overpower one another and the vocal passages are planned out. Broderick establishes himself not only for his lead guitar but for being a mind blowing riff-wielder too. Henry Bonner has stepped up his game since the first album and displays immense power and range in his singing abilities be it growling, harsh screams or his technique of cleans with a raspy undertone. Shawn Drover’s drumming is exceptional with a crisp edge on the cymbals, and the kick-drum’s dry tone works well considering the amount of double-bass used. I would have liked more punch in the rhythm tone and while it is common for the bass to tightly track the rhythm sections in a single-guitarist band, and though his influence is clearly audible, I would have liked to hear more of Matt Bachand strutting his stuff.
Having said that, the record already has a lot going on so maybe holding off on some aspects make sense. Observe the writing structure and it’s clear that this album is made to be played live with vicious intensity and probably will. The band has been bold in fully utilizing their talent pool, and experimenting with various styles giving the album its personality, intensity and variety.
In a group oozing with talent and each member a titan of their own field, ‘Old Scars, New Wounds’ establishes their style, personalities and sound distinctly into one, emphasizing Act of Defiance not just as a super-group with big names, but a great band comprising exceptional members making magnificent music.