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Boastful skull explosions, yet satisfying. - 80%

hells_unicorn, November 19th, 2013

This album is an interesting beast, not so much because it breaks any new ground, but rather based on some peripheral accomplishments that were not seen immediately following it. Arguably chief among these is the fact that Steev Esquivel was ever involved in anything worthy of consideration ( "Void Terra Firma" wasn't terrible, but his sloppy vocal performance was its biggest liability), with the fact that Road Runner was still putting out decent records come 1992 a close second and Defiance sticking to their guns while most of the bands they were imitating decided to either slow down or break up. Due to the band pretty much falling apart soon after this was recorded, "Beyond Recognition" made a minimal impact on a scene that was being choked out by the Grunge trend, whereas the seminal efforts of Exhorder and Demolition Hammer are usually counted as the swan song of 80s thrash metal, each one showing heavy deviations from said era stylistically, while Defiance was still caught somewhere between Testament's "The Legacy" and Forbidden's "Twisted Into Form".

There are two things that keep this album firmly nestled in good territory, and those are the production quality and the still largely inventive songwriting. This is an album that exudes strength not by upping the aggression ante to the point of flirting death metal, but by filling up all the gaps with flashy lead work and frequent time changes. Much like the heavy yet more ephemeral character of Evildead's "The Underworld", there's a fair amount of slower groove elements mixed in with the high speed thrashing, but things get switched around so frequently it bears no resemblance to the over-simplified Pantera model that was beginning to take over by 1992. The guitar solos definitely showcase a lot of homework being done at the Alex Skolnick school of cutting heads, and the overall chunky, Hetfield-like character of the rhythm guitar sounds meshed with a gloriously large drum sound make for a thrash album that would have been perfectly at home in 1988. Particularly during the bone-crushing jerks and jostles of "Dead Silence" there is a clear presentation of heaviness that hasn't divorced itself from the speed and intrigue of the original Bay Area spirit.

What gives this album its strongest sense of traditionalism is Esquivel's competent vocal delivery, which stands in stark contrast to the lackluster, borderline amateur job he put forth on "Void Terra Firma". He has essentially taken on a straight Chuck Billy gruff sound in line with his predecessor Ken Elkington, and mercifully laying off the higher shrieks that he often butchered while trying to match Billy's earlier work. He gets a little support from veteran Heathen vocalist Dave White on "Inside Looking Out", who tends to be a little better at handling the squeaky clean croons, but surprisingly Esquivel actually manages to show some versatility and manages to clean up his act as well when called for. But the biggest surprise come on "The Chosen", which is probably the closest thing to an overt groove number on here, though it listens more like an even more punishingly slow answer to Metallica's "Harvester Of Sorrow", and the vocal job on here is particularly convincing as it articulates the same dichotomy of depression and rage in a traditional, raspy mid-80s Hetfield fashion.

It's a cop-out to be sure, but part of what makes an album solid is timing, and this album stands as an unsung yet clear middle-finger to the changing trends in metal music circa 1992. Sadly Esquivel decided to join the dark side of the force along with former guitar technician turned flunk Robb Flynn (even going so far as to adopt said vocal style) and unleashed the horrid Skinlab on this hapless world. But regardless to whether it was intended as such or was just a matter of this fold not paying attention to what was going on around them, they offered the last truly traditional sounding Bay Area thrash album, which is strangely fitting for a band that was pretty late to the scene to begin with. This is one that might go over well with some in the revivalist camp, though it's recommended that "Product Of Society" be sought out first as this is a bit more of a post "And Justice For All" experience where the songs are so technical that they sound about twice as long as they actually are. But still, for its day this was a clear outlier that shouldn't be passed up.

For 1992, this aint too shabby. - 84%

Sigillum_Dei_Ameth, October 7th, 2009

Defiance's 3rd and final album before they broke-up was a sign of the band finally starting to come into it's own, but by the time they did this they were starting to become and sound outdated. 1992 was a year for thrash when it started to signs of wear and tear. Exhorder, and Demolition Hammer had just put out their two classic "The Law" and "Epidemic of Violence", but for bands like Exodus, Vio-lence, and Nuclear Assault, they had ran out of speed. Defiance made one last attempt at trying to show they still had what it took to survive the changing times, but for whatever reason they would soon bite the dust along with the majority of the old Thrash scene.

There's not much difference between this and "Void Terra Firma." May be except the fact that the songs have gotten tighter and show a slight more direction towards progression and technical and everything that happens to a band trying to go forward. Outside of the music progression, lead singer Steeve Esquivel doesn't progress with trying to find his own vocal style, and sound even more like Chuck Billy than on the previous album. Drummer Matt Vander Ende is way more ready and it shows with his performance which is great because the last two albums his drumming didn't exactly shine through. The only downside to "Beyond Recognition" is the album artwork which isn't as cool looking as "Void Terra Firma."

"Killing Floor" starts off very Heathen-esque intro and is fucking good. "Step Back" is again where the Testament-clone sound comes in but still manages to keep your attention. "Perfect Nothing" sounds like it's going to be a snoozer but then all of a sudden we have some pretty epic double bass and guitar riffs weaving in and out of each other. "No Compromise" picks up right where the momentum of "Perfect nothing" stopped at and keeps going with the riffs and drumming. Compromise they do not do! "Dead Silence" is a straight-forward thrasher, nothing fancy much like "Step Back" but has some nice start/stop double-bass riffing going around towards the middle. "inside Looking Out" starts off really damn promising and sounds like Megadeth in a good way. "The Chosen" is a mid-paced doomy Sabbath cruncher that morphs back into standard Testament-worship. "Powertrip" is the only song that doesn't stand out much at all while the last song "Promised Afterlife" is probably the fastest song on the whole album with parts that sound like they are trying to attempt fucking Vio-lence, but that doesn't last long. Bummer. Hearing Vio-lence worship with Testament-esque vocals doesn't sound too bad to me.

The saddest part of Defiance's story/history is the lead singer Steeve Esquivel. In Defiance he showed he could fucking sing, but when he jumped-off the Thrash Metal bandwagon for the Groove Metal bandwagon and started ripping-off Machine Head only a few years later, man...he proved just how fucking fat and lazy a person who can sing and play guitar get after awhile. If I had a choice, I'd listen to him in Defiance rather than listen to that crap he played with Skinlab.

Bay Area Attack! - 90%

Stein23, May 17th, 2009

Here is another Metal Mind Records reworked and reissued classic album. The Polish label has released, not long ago, the last official work, to date, of the American Thrash Metal act, Defiance.

Originating in 1985, in Oakland USA, Defiance presented some heavy, dense Thrash Metal music in the vein of early Testament and Metallica’s era of And Justice for All. After a demo in 1988, the band went big time and signed with Roadrunner Records and under then released three great albums: Product Of Society (1989), Void Terra Firma (1990) and on the 27th of March 1992, they released their final album, 2 years before their split up, Beyond Recognition. In 2005, the band reunited and is already working on a new album. Without further ado, here is the review of the re-released classic, Beyond Recognition.

Produced by Rob Beaton in Bay View Studios and Renown Sound, the band was able to successfully record a very strong and pounding production with high quality that didn’t fall far from the big boys back then like Metallica and Testament. The band’s sound is very much like Metallica’s during that time, Heathen, Testament and even Reverend. All around you can just hear the Marshall amps screaming with the sharpness and accuracy of the low gained guitars. The bass line plays a huge role on supporting the guitars with a massive halo. And, of course, like many bands in the 80’s and early 90’s, not just Thrash Metal bands, the reverbed vocals. Overall, Defiance has reached its peak with this album’s production.

Defiance, since their formation, went political and social. Both themes, as you probably know and may have read earlier, were everlasting in Thrash Metal as a means of protest and a huge array of songs written about it. Like many bands Defiance are preaching against war with the opening track , “The Killing Floor”. With “Perfect Nothing”, the issue that is discussed is split personality but not in the disorder vernacular. It is more than a fight between black and white, good and evil, darkness and light inside of a person. “Step Back” and “Inside Looking Out” has strong emotions against society and its lies to its citizens. “Power Trip” is where trouble starts, when society crumbles under its inability to deal with its failures like crime. These are just some examples of Defiance’s lyrical themes. In addition, you can notice that the band’s name fits very well with this category.

Musically speaking, Defiance made a colossal effort in making an album that will be as strong as it can be while referring to its sound and production. However, they perfected more than their sound in this album. Like various bands that worked to make their Thrash Metal more powerful to their liking, the technical issue raises its head. For example, bands like Sadus, Artillery, in some way Heathen are making Thrash Metal technical. Especially in times when Technical Death Metal also was on the rise, made Defiance’s music more diverse and interesting. Although there were times, where bands were consumed by all the technical stuff, has stopped delivering good and solid material. Beyond Recognition did not make it to that point.

The album’s music, on most tracks, is flowing and breaks some skulls with its upright heaviness. “The Chosen” and “The Killing Floor” are great examples of a crack head heavy tune. “The Chosen is a slow tempo heavy tanker. Along with heavy riffs come the astounding solo breaks. Great solos are, again, in... “The Killing Floor” , “Perfect Nothing” and “Inside Looking Out”.

Finally, there is the technicality issue, which was mentioned earlier, can be found in tracks like “Power Trip”, “Dead Silence” and “Step Back”. While listening to the bass line, it has a certain large role, but its mainly keeping the guitars heavy and breaking. Unlike other Technical acts, here the bass is not contributing as much, except from its halo. The drums are equal to the guitars while giving it all with great tempo changes.

Largely, the entire band is performing with harmony and with great ability in their roles. However, only one of these dudes caught the ear of the reviewer and that is Steev Esquivel, the frontman. Steev came to Defiance after their debut release of 1989, Product Of Society, replacing Mitch Elkington. The guy's voice is very good and has the closest similarity to Testament’s Chuck Billy in his golden years of the 80’s and early 90’s. In addition, there is a similarity to Cyclone Temple’s Brian Troch. Although, the man’s voice line and singing style is not that original, he still provides and delivers.

Metal Mind gives you the listener more treats of Defiance’s early works with some bonus tracks. The first one is a very short acoustic break that was based on the album’s title. Maybe the band should have included it as a closer or an opener for this one. The next tracks: “Born To Kill” , “MIA” and “Hypothermia” are all included in the band’s demo release in 1988, Hypothermia, the quality of this one is decent. The last three tracks are three live songs from an unknown date. The tracks are “Inside Looking Out”, “Void” and “Tribulation”. “Void” is a great heavy tune from their first album.

Beyond Recognition provides some good tracks but not all of them made the cut to being more than great tracks. There are some songs which possess good tunes but they do not generate a lot of interest. But this phenomenon is not stereotypical of this release. The album opens with a cracker like, “The Killing Floor” which is another protest song with a fine melodic intro and ramming speed that preaches violence. The personality issued, “Perfect Nothing” is another unique classic with many breaks of acoustic melodies. “Dead Silence” is an old school Thrasher with heavy riffs along with thw brotherly tune, “Power Trip”, which has some good kick downs in it. The best track in this release is “Inside Looking Out” with great riffs and speed and an amazing chorus that was made with the help of Melodic Thrash singer, Dave White of Heathen.

Currently, Defiance is working on a new album after their comeback, almost 3.5 years ago. In their golden years of late 80s and early 90s, these people were able to impress many folks back home and all around the world. Hopefully their new release , under the label Candlelight, will be good , and may be more, than Beyond Recognition. Cheers Thrashers!!

When the thrash started to die... - 75%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, March 25th, 2009

We left this band while there were lots of signs of progression and with the new album, Beyond Recognition, we have the definitive confirm of the new way this band was taking. The impulsive thrash of the debut album was slowly fading away, to be replaced by a technical conception of the thrash metal. Well, at the end of the 80s and at the beginning of the 90s this was almost a trend. The thrash metal focused the attention on the most technical side and this was one of the last signs of life by this genre, before the recent rebirth.

This new album by Defiance came out in a non spectacular moment for this music because the death metal was taking dominion over the metal landscape but it’s always a honest effort that shows a sort of final confirm of the evolution. The sounds are sharper and far more powerful than the ones we could find on its precursor, Void Terra Firma. They are similar to those Heathen used in those years, from the crunchy guitars sound to the hammering drums with a plastic bass drums sound. “The Killing Floor” immediately displays more progressive lead lines to go on with excellent thrash metal restarts and more grooving moments that, anyway, are not boring because well-stuck in these tempo changes.

The vocals are definitely less angry than the ones on the previous releases and in few moments they are completely clean too. However, I’d prefer to focus my attention on the songwriting of this album and on the continuing tempo changes. “Step Back” is highly filled with groove and few moments are similar to what Exodus and Testament were putting out at the time. The riffage is frantic and quite complex but the tempo is never fast, while the melodies are catchier. “Perfect Nothing” is more introspective with lots of arpeggios and quite evocative vocals even if the fast bass drums are always present and the soloing part is excellent.

“No Compromise” has the solo section that points more on the quite progressive technique and the tempo is never excessively fast. It’s hard to listen to an up tempo and the groove progression is the most important element. Finally with “Dead Silence” the riffs are more canonical and the first up tempo comes but it lasts just for few moments before the band falls again into a mid-paced pattern to sustain the complexity of the riffs. “Inside Looking Out”, despite few very good bass drums parts, is again on mid tempo and at the end this can be a bit too monotonous. Few parts also show clean vocals and arpeggios breaks to follow a dark atmosphere.

“The Chosen” once again privileges the atmosphere of darkness and we go with a slow tempo before the funky touch of “Power Trip” (Mordred anyone??). The vocals are distorted few times and with the last “Promise Afterlife” we follow again the same style with arpeggios breaks, melodic solos and the groove that reigns supreme, closing an album that could have been far better if more various. Let me say that there is variety for the atmosphere but the groove tends to bind all the parts together till making them almost the same in riffs and ideas. I think that if you want the perfect blend of technique with impact, you must take Void Terra Firma and if you want just pure thrash take the debut.

Obviously, the thrash was dying and Defiance didn’t contribute to maintain it in life.

Highly Competent Thrash Metal! - 95%

overkill67, July 31st, 2007

In the early to mid eighties, the Bay Area served as a breeding ground for Thrash bands who were all trying to jump on the thrash metal bandwagon. Some of these bands were average at best, while others were quite exceptional. Defiance were one of those bands who were most certainly above average, and yet never seemed to receive the proper recognition that they righfully deserved.

Defiance's 1992 release of Beyond Recognition is a testament to Bay Area Metal. This album is without doubt, their absolute highest peek in terms of the melody, and sheer complexity that these songs have to offer to the listener. Every song on this album is worthy to be heard, and sadly not many people have had the priviledge of experiencing this bands existence.

The irony behind this fact for me, is that this band was far superior to a lot of the more popular bands such as Anthrax, Slayer, or even Metallica at this point in time. Defiance had some of the best musical collaboraters to come together as band. Specifically the guitar duo of Jim Adams and Doug Harrington (RIP). Say what you want about the guitar duo of the H-Team, Hammet and Hetfield, or even Altus and Piercy. In my opinion Jim and Doug could hold their own next to any of these guys. This album clearly supports my claim to this, since each and every guitar solo on this album is totally shred-worthy, and even the rythm guitar patters are quite unique in their own right. Stellar guitar work!

The rythm section of this band is another high point. Specifically the monstrous drumming ability of the incredibly talented Matt Vander Ende. This guy is definitely one of the best drummers in Metal period! The bass guitar is not all that prominent in the mix, but once in a while the listener is able to pick up on the odd fill, or bass run and the ability that Kauffman possessed is certainly undeniable.

The one minor setback about this band is unfortunately Steev Esquivel's vocals. Granted, the performance that he delivers on Beyond Recognition is hands down his best performance ever. He manages to sing in key througout the entire album, and he doesn't sound as if he is struggling to hit notes and force out words like he did on the bands previous effort ala Void Terra Firma.

This album is apparently being remastered and re-released as a box set with all of the bands previous albums by Metal Mind Productions. I will definitely be acquiring the remastered version of this album. Who knows, maybe the bass will be much more prominent in the mix this time around. One can only hope.

Every track on this album is worthy to be heard. There is no rehashing, or recycled riffs on this entire album. I strongly urge anyone who has never heard this album to hunt it down. It is absolutely one of the most stellar thrash albums to ever come out of the bay area, easily in the top 10!

Nifty complex thrash from the bay area - 80%

Demon_of_the_Fall, February 3rd, 2005

Defiance not often comes to mind when thrash is brought to the table, yet they were unquestionably one of the best Bay Area bands around. Beyond Recognition is unrelenting, memorable with all members putting their 100% effort into their respective performances. The production done by Rob Beaton is clear with all instruments sounding like they should in a thrash mix (drums are all panned left-right try listening to this in your disc-man). The vocals department held by Steve Esquivel, are as previously mentioned very much like Chuck Billy's vocals from the early Testament era, except abit more memorable and varying. Matt Vander Ende is simply put a thrash metal titan as far as I’m concerned, one of the most competent fucking skin beaters ever. The guitar shredding by Doug Harrington, and Jim Adams is fucking lethal. The solos are Skolnick like, whereas the riffs are almost like Slayer era Reign in Blood or Exodus - Fabulous Disaster era added with that extra touch of evil and speed. Any thrasher can appreciate this, I cannot compare this album to any of their previous works because the albums are quite hard to find, but I must say that i'm certainly impressed with this one. The Killing Floor starts out with some excellent guitar tapping, and then about 45 seconds in, turning into a total thrash festival. Released in 1992 this was almost completly forgetten because of the blasphemous Grunge crack bullshit that was being excreated by bands like Nirvana, and Pearl Jam. Defiance's name is obviously a great statement along with their lyrical views subjected towards their ill opinion of society. Everyone thrash friend I have has enjoyed this so why shouldn’t you?

This album will tear you a new anus, and inspire you to think more critically about the way music is played (or wanked around) in today's era. There's no compromise here, and I suggest if any can find Beyond Recognition pick it up, for I believe it is out of print. The easiest comparison of these guys would be to label them as a Testament copycat, but in actuality they are much more than just that. Defiance have a more competent rhythm section, more riff to riff changes, just as good if not better vocals, and an album that shows that these guys meant fucking business.

Best Tracks: The Killing Floor, Step Back, No Compromise, Inside Looking Out, The Chosen, Power Trip