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It goes without saying that Deströyer 666's long-waited "Defiance" was one of the most anticipated metal releases of 2009. Having cultivated a staggeringly large fanbase for such an underground band, Deströyer 666 languished for six years before finally releasing this, their fourth full-length, to an eagerly awaiting audience. The result might surprise many; Deströyer 666 has, in addition to their once resolutely oldschool sound, injected a heaping dose of sleek, modern extreme metal both to the benefit and detriment of the album overall, and I can say that this album has just as many pros as cons, coming out somewhat average on the other side.
Despite the length of time it took for "Defiance" to arrive, it seems to be a remarkably confused album, with numerous contradictory elements fighting each other for dominance of the release's sound. Deströyer 666 has always been known as a band primarily devoted to authentic, old-school styles of black, thrash, and death metal, but the sudden inclusion of a much more modern songwriting and production style really throws the listener for a loop at first spin. A whole myriad of disparate influences are recognizable here, from the more typical warlike Australian black/thrash style the band originates from to more midpaced, groove driven death metal like Bolt Thrower and even highly melodic modern death metal like Amon Amarth. The amount of influence taken from this last band seems pretty staggering; tracks like "Blood for Blood" or "A Thousand Plagues" wouldn't seem to far removed from the Swedish collective's later catalog at all.
Unfortunately, while the influences taken from more modern metal styles allow Deströyer 666 to flex their melodic wings a bit more, it's at the cost of some of the raw aggression and intense, oldschool songwriting the band has always been known for. The clean, streamlined production strips away much of the power of the individual instruments, with a too-smooth guitar tone and lackadaisical drum presence that are relatively heavy and perfectly audible but don't do much to move the music along. The instrumental performances suffer similarly, with the drumming being oddly enough the biggest culprit. Drummer Mersus sounds timid and hesitant behind the kit, playing it safe at even the most intense moments on "Defiance", almost as though he's afraid of intruding on the rest of the band with too much energy on his part. This seemingly minor element saps a great deal of the aggression from a record that already struggled in that department.
Really, the central problem with "Defiance" is that, while it's perfectly listenable, that's all it is: listenable, without any distinguishing qualities beyond that. Regardless of one's opinion of Deströyer 666 before this album, you could at least say that they had a very established, unique style of metal that was hard to mistake for any other band out there. On "Defiance," though, this is lost, and Deströyer 666 comes off sounding like a collage of just about every other major extreme metal band in the scene today, professional enough but sterile and lacking personality. Older Deströyer 666 is a recognizable and lucid blend of black, death, and thrash metal, but "Defiance" simply throws these genres together into a sort of melodic sludge that gets old quickly and leaves nothing to be discovered after the first listen.
While "Defiance" is by no means a particularly bad album, its waffling sound and lack of identity doom it to be forgotten quickly after its initial glamor has worn off. Whether it's a matter of rust after six years of inactivity or a true loss of inspiration, one thing remains clear: Deströyer 666 will have to step up their game tremendously on their next release to remain relevant in today's metal world.