Album review: THE DEFIANTS – Zokusho

Frontiers Records [Release Date 13.09.19]

Boasting three quarters of the Paul Laine-fronted Danger Danger line up that plugged on through melodic rock’s wilderness years, the Defiants debut was one of the best albums of 2016, but I can’t remember making quite the impact that this follow up is having on me.

Beginning with an intro reflecting the Japanese-themed album title and artwork, ‘Love is the Killer’ starts as the album means to go on with big hooks and chants. It is a little long for an opener at nearly six minutes, but never outstays its welcome while the massive chorus on ‘Standing on the Edge’ is a lot more direct.

With DD’s Steve West guesting on drums, there are many of the hallmarks of the genre’s glory days, notably the very melodic guitar arpeggios from Rob Marcello, the album also boasts a more contemporary production and on more than one occasion draws comparisons with the current darlings of the scene such as Eclipse and H.E.A.T.

Ultimately though the album’s biggest appeal is its memorable songs, none more so than the classic nostalgia tale ‘Hollywood in Headlights’ and ‘Fallin’ for You’, which are a glorious sequence of one hook after another.

Paul’s voice is, as usual  on the more muscular side but he can sure hold a tune and moves into more melodic territory on the mid-tempo AOR of ‘Hold on Tonight’.  Indeed the way his voice soars into a higher pitch over some massed backing vocals, like the twin Tonys Harnell and Mills (RIP) is possibly the best moment of the album.

In contrast the rollicking ‘All Nighter’ has a bouncing Nickelback vibe and those who have witnessed bassist Bruno Ravel convivial hosting of a Danger Danger show, or indeed Paul’s whisky-fuelled performance at Rockingham in 2016, will not be surprised at the lyrical content.

Even if ‘U x’d My Heart’ (sic) and ‘It Goes Fast’ with its positive lyrics do not quite live up to the opening sextet, in other circumstances they would be stand out tracks  while ‘Stay’ boasts another blissfully melodic hook and probably Rob’s best solo on the album.

There is a slight dip in quality on the final two numbers, as the contemporary production takes ‘Alive’ rather too far into dance territory, and ‘Drink Up!’ is  an inferior variation on ‘All Nighter’s theme. Nevertheless the Defiants have really pulled out the stops with a memorable set of songs, delivered with freshness and swagger, which it will be hard to top in the end of year melodic rock best ofs.  **** 1/2

Review by Andy Nathan

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