Ask any musician or band what's the best thing they could have, besides a loyal and passionate fanbase, and they will tell you creative freedom is the best thing to have. Guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover's creative freedom in Megadeth seemed to have been kept to a minimum, and that's what ultimately led to their departures from the band back in November. I was very surprised just like everyone else was because these were departures that nobody saw coming, but I completely respect and understand their decision both as a fan and a musician. The last Megadeth lineup was my favourite, but I will always be a Megadeth fan, regardless of who is in the band. Following their departures, they announced the formation of a new band, which was later named Act Of Defiance, which is rounded out by former Scar The Martyr and current Thrown Into Exile vocalist Henry Derek Bonner, and Shadows Fall rhythm guitarist Matt Bachand on bass.
The band's debut record Birth & The Burial encompasses several elements that any fan of bands like Slayer, Testament, Exodus, Pantera, Arch Enemy, Nevermore and Amon Amarth would enjoy. Right from the tapping intro lead and warp-speed riffage of "Throwback", you know that Act Of Defiance mean business. There's no fooling around on this album. "Throwback" and "Thy Lord Belial" are both in the vein of classic thrash with machine gun, Slayer-esque riffs and monstrous vocals. The thunder brought by the rhythm section of Drover and Bachand adds more punch to Broderick's already crushing tone. For those who enjoy more mid-paced headbangers, "Disastrophe" and "Refrain & Re-Fracture" contain thunderous grooves that command heads to bang.
Even though Derek's vocals seem to be receiving a mixed reception from people, I believe they're very well executed. His melodic vocals add dashes of darkness in certain areas like in the choruses of "Throwback", "Legion Of Lies" and "Refrain & Re-Fracture", and I'm big fan of dark melodies. There's a little experimentation found on this album as well. For example, piano and cello can be heard in the intro and outro to "Poison Dream". Chris' solos are just searing, but with all respect, they aren't too different from the solos he played on the Megadeth records, but any solo Chris plays is amazing. While "Obey The Fallen" still contains aggressive vocals, it feels like this might be the album's more accessible track with the melodic groove and vocals, and the overall catchiness.
If you're looking for anything new or ground-breaking on this album, unfortunately there isn't anything of that nature to be found, but then again, there's nothing to not like about this album. Combining the eras of classic and modern metal is also nothing new today, but it's a formula that continues to work to this day. If you like your metal fast, aggressive, groovy and melodic all in one delightful package like I do, pick up Act Of Defiance's debut record Birth & The Burial when you can. 10 songs of non-stop, fist-to-the-face metal!
Highs: Throwback, Legion Of Lies, Thy Lord Belial, Refrain & Re-Fracture, Disastrophe, Obey The Fallen
Lows: Nothing ground-breaking to be found, but very little to complain about.
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