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Lacklustre - 60%

Felix 1666, December 30th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1989, 12" vinyl, Roadrunner Records

Defiance hailed from Oakland, but first and foremost, they hailed from the second or even third tier of thrash metal. Their comparatively short career reflects the lack of compositional skills. So here come good news for those who were born too late to become a witness of the thrash explosion: even in the golden era of this genre, the companies released some rather uninspired full-lengths. The debut of Defiance is one of these works that do not deserve a bad assessment, but it is light years away from legendary albums such as "Forbidden Evil" or "The Legacy". I mention these works, because in terms of style, "Product of Society" lies in close proximity to these better known debuts. Seen from this perspective, this album is really a product of its society.

The main problem of the album is its lack of spellbinding riffs, hooks or choruses. "Chalice of Blood" blew the audience away, "Over the Wall" sank its teeth deeply into the listener, "The Fault" does not trigger anything. With regard to the following material on this debut, that is unfortunately rather the norm than the exception. Defiance deliver more or less solid, rasping guitars and the drummer manages the mostly fast rhythms, but this alone does not create exciting tunes. After ten lonely days on a desert island, one is happy to listen to tracks like "The Fault". But as long as one has a great variety to choose from, Defiance will fall by the wayside. "Death Machine" starts and ends with a more insistent guitar line, but there is not much to discover between the beginning and the end. It is generic thrash metal and this means that the band is basically on the right track. However, the guys are not able to utilize this favourable situation. "Lock Jaw", probably the best track of the album, is kicked off by a mean riff and the chorus is simple yet effective. A good piece, but miles away from the American classics of the genre.

Many tracks remain unspectacular and faceless, the soft instrumental "Aftermath" makes no sense at all and the second instrumental is equipped with an almost progressive yet aimless pattern. Leaving these details aside, another really big problem is that "Product of Society" lacks of ferocity and aggression. One can describe the songs as pretty decent, but what does this mean in the context of Bay Area thrash metal? Not much, I think. Furthermore, neither the lacklustre vocal performance nor the powerless production are able to correct the defects of this debut. The artwork marks its strongest element and this statement always describes a very difficult situation. Or does anybody buy an album only because of its artwork? Thankfully, some solos deliver a combative and lively feeling. But at the final count, it is only logical that Defiance always stood in the shadow of the more famous thrashing hordes.

A product of 3 years prior. - 83%

hells_unicorn, May 28th, 2013

Originality isn't everything, but it definitely helps to stand out from the pack, especially when dealing in a saturated style that had all but fully crossed over into the mainstream. There is also something to be said about making an impact by supplying a superior version of existing practices, and it is in this department that Bay Area thrashers Defiance managed to get a slight leg-up in 1989 by putting out "Product Of Society", an album that would have been quite original had it come out about 3 or 4 years ago. This is the sort of album that an average metal fan who is only somewhat familiar with 80s thrash would hear and immediately respond "Is this Testament?", and some of the younger crowd might even assume this a recent revivalist release with an antiquated production to go with it and wouldn't be far off from this album's nature, given its fairly cliche stylistic trappings.

In essence, this is the album that Testament should have put out immediately following "The Legacy" if they wanted to maintain stylistic consistency and avoid being labeled the ballad kings of the style. From the crunchy yet fairly plain sounding guitar tone surrounded by a reverb steeped rhythm section that makes "Ride The Lightning" sound modern by comparison, to vocalist Ken Elkington sounding like an almost perfect carbon copy of Chuck Billy's raspy gruff voice, it conforms itself all but totally to the paradigm of a group of fans emulating their forefathers. Perhaps the one area where they do tend to differentiate themselves slightly from the Testament model is that instead of relying on extremely formulaic songwriting for sake of catchiness, the overall approach here is a bit more prone towards extended development and mixing things up to be respectably technical in a manner that is not quite in the same league as Forbidden, but is definitely attempting to be.

The overall pacing and flow of things is probably the biggest indicator that this band is reaching back to an earlier era, leaning a bit towards a moderately fast character that is more in line with Exodus and the small contingent of British followers of the older model such as Xentrix and D.A.M. The clearest examples of how this format is effectively employed are "Death Machine" and "Lock Jaw", both of which take occasions to pick things up to a respectable roar, but are a bit more inclined to ruin the audience's neck with a mid-paced groove and allow for a fair amount of melodic detailing, particularly during the intros. Even when things go into full assault mode on "Deadly Intentions", it doesn't quite get to the frenetic character acheived on "Eternal Nightmare" or the proto-death metal character of "Reign In Blood", two albums that have been at the forefront of influencing the present crop of all fast, all the time revivalism of late. There's also a gloomy rendition of Carcassi's famed Etude 7 in "Aftermath", also sounding distant and reverb-heavy and played at a fairly slow tempo to fit the mood.

As far as Bay Area classics go, this is one of the less celebrated debuts to come out of the late days of the scene's heyday, but is definitely a worthy pickup for anyone who has an affinity for Testament and Exodus. It's also the only LP out of this band's catalog that can be qualified as both essential and indicative of the traditional sound that goes with the location, and would be replaced by a more mechanical and modern/progressive character with the departure of Ken Elkington. In much the same way as the bulk of 2nd tier bands that managed to sneak in 2 or 3 albums before the style's demise in the 90s, they made an impact that was strong but fleeting, and largely disappeared in the flood of imitators. But in this time of rabid revivalism, it would profit the younger generation greatly to look into albums like this to understand where their Hexens and Ultra-Violences got their inspiration from.

Hypothermia - 91%

grain_silo, July 6th, 2011

Defiance is a forgotten thrash metal band that doesn’t deserve enough attention. With their debut being released in 1989, it's no surprise they didn't go huge considering thrash was really starting to go downhill.

The production has a lot to be desired. The guitars sound pretty thin and the bass is non-existent. I don’t “hate” the guitar sound, but it’s just too thin. There’s almost no power behind it. This is odd because one would think JEFF WATERS would know what the hell he is doing. The drums sound pretty good. The bass drum is loud and nicely triggered. The vocals are loud but not overpowering.

Ken Elkington…man if this guy would have stayed around, I would love Defiance so much more. This guy is pretty unique in my opinion. Very punk-like and doesn’t really “sing”, just kind of talks and have some interesting screams every now and then. Later being replaced by Steev Esquivel (No wonder they got called a Testament rip-off with this guy). The vocals are what really drew me to this album.

Every song on this album is good. Usually pretty catchy and they have good riffs. The thrash is definitely there, no shortage of that on this album. And of course the intro riff to “Hypothermia” is amazing, and has some of the best vocals ever; it fits with the guitar riffs so well and it’s actually the song that got me into Defiance. “Insomnia” has an awesome acoustic intro and is one of the better songs on here. “Product of Society” starts with a pretty cool riff and has one of the best screams ever. Hard not to imitate it whenever I hear the song.

If you’re looking for some pretty unique thrash during a time when all the thrash sounded the same, I would highly recommend this album. The reason I can’t give this a 95 or higher is the production. This album is one of my favorites of all time. And you should really get this, you won’t be sorry.

Best tracks - “Insomnia”, “Hypothermia”, “Product of Society”

Good enough but not great. - 80%

Seducerofsouls85, February 12th, 2011

Defiance released this album when the Bay Area neiche of thrash metal was over saturated and on the verge of extinction...they just didn't know it quite yet. Though many bands imitated each other's sound, Defiance, though not completely original were on of the more tolerable bands.

The few people who have heard of this band describe their sound similar to Testament, which I think is a fair comment. The album offers your average serving of thrash metal: nonchulant palm muted riffing, fantastic lead guitar work and generally strong songs. The best songs on offer here are: Deadly intentions, The fault, Forgotten and probably Hypothermia. Upon first listen the albums weaknesses are already all to evident. Tribulation is probably way too drawn out does it need to clock in at over five minutes? And as for Insomnia just as you think the track is going somewhere it fades out!

Focusing more on the issues with sound, the guitars are mixed in a little low. I always believed this may be because Ken Elkington's vocals style. I mean he is not a gutteral shouter, or a falsetto belter, so maybe thick layered riffing would have drowned his vocals out? Another problem with the mixing is that the songs don't get to breathe. Although the songs are similar to that of Testament, at least Testament's have air and atmosphere. With Product of society the tracks sound stuffy, almost tame, which some may find sterile. But the production aint all bad, it's just the mixing, whether intentional or not, it just really does not compliment this style of music.

To sum it up, Defiance had strong songs, bad mixing, and bad was 1989 when this record came out, I could go on about the rise of grunge and nu-metal all day, but Defiance would continue with this style without making much impact anyway, slipping into obscurity. Product of society is a good listen, and a good thrash album. Not metal's best kept secret by any means but I would recommend you buy this album, just for the love of thrash if nothing else. Some Bay Area thrash veterans who roamed the circuit in the 80's may tell you this is a masterpiece, but remember those guys did drink a lot of beer!

The sound of Bay Area Thrash dying - 67%

Sigillum_Dei_Ameth, October 6th, 2009

Defiance was one of those band's that gained notice in the late 80's Bay Area thrash metal scene right before thrash metal slowly started to become stale. After Vio-lence released "Eternal Nightmare" it just seemed there was no longer as many classics or gems in the scene as before where it was a tightly-knit group of all bands playing the same style but still maintaining their own identity. In fact Defiance were extremely late-comers to the whole scene and by the time "Product of Society" had come out, not only was the Bay Area Thrash scene on it's last legs(or beer), but already so many bands from the first wave were either progressing and gaining mainstream momentum in their careers or were starting to burn-out from the demand to do even better. They started out in 1988 with their "Hypothermia" demo and within a year they released their debut and by that time most of the scene had moved on or metalheads were already looking for new bands.

The first thing you notice is the tin-foil sound production. Even released by Roadrunner Records and produced by Annihilator's main man Jeff Waters, the sound is very low-fi to where you can barely hear the guitars. The drums are clicky. No bass. The vocals are too high to hear the music. It's pretty embarrassing to say the least. Not only a bad sound production but the music itself is very generic even for thrash metal. For someone who has no idea of thrash metal, of course this is going to say this is great, but for more experienced thrashers and I'm not talking about the ones who will praise just any thrash band, this is pretty stale, and boring. It's not the musicians themselves. The musicians are as tight and experienced as any decent thrash metal band around that time, again it's just too much of re-hashed sound and style that makes it sound like a poor man's version of Heathen or Testament.

The songs have great titles. If that's one thing I'll give Defiance is good song titles, but amongst these good song titles are some snoozers. "The Fault", "Lockjaw", “Deadly Intentions”, and "Hypothermia" are probably the best cuts on here. "Insomnia" starts off with a slightly out-of-tune melodic passage then goes into some boring double-bass riffs. This song could have been a hell of a lot better. Waste of a good song title, sad. "Aftermath" isn't even needed. The rest leaves little to the imagination.

If this had come out a year or 2 earlier, it would have done a lot better. I will give the band credit for carrying on with this style for another 3 more albums.

Thrash Product - 80%

CHRISTI_NS_ANITY8, February 24th, 2008

Defiance are one of those bands who had a good label but they didn’t succeed in standing out from the mass, being always seen as an almost underground one. Few people know this band, but I have to say that their music is pretty fucking good and it’s a pity for those who don’t know it. Now you've got the chance.

Their style is pure thrash metal like only in the 80s they were able to do, without influences except for those from hardcore to give an even higher impact. So here we mosh, headbang and jump. The rhythmic guitars are always quite technical in their fast riffs. The drums are on up tempo and the opener shows great tempo changes with fast, tapped solos.

Being at the end of the 80s, we can find true technical parts in this kind of thrash metal, especially in the guitar galloping riffage and the solos. “Death Machine” reminded me Heathen band for guitars virtuosos. The vocals beside are not excessive but thrash anyway. The fast bass drums moments are great; the guitar sound is minimal and extremely crunchy.

The good, more melodic intro to “Forgotten” is immediately blown away by a bunch of thrash riffage. Total impact. When you think that a song could be a bit more melodic or slower (“Insomnia”) here the thrash riffs suddenly return and the melody is erased. After a more impact track like “Deadly Intentions” it’s time for an instrumental one, made by an acoustic guitar part that ends in the great guitars work of “Tribulation”.

Only at the end we really find the true thrash song masterpiece: “Hypothermia” with a solo intro and crunchy, fast, technical rhythmic guitar parts. Total thrash to headbang. All in all, this is a quite good effort, worth getting for the sound quality and the riffs. The “bad” point is that only few songs can stand out here but if you enjoy this genre, get it!

Better than Testament - 90%

Thrashohol, March 23rd, 2006

Let me preface this review by saying that I'm not calling 'Product of Society' a great album, I'm just trying to do my part to lift this album from the range of mediocore to decent. Personally, this is really the only Defiance album I enjoy, and while Defiance might have been a product of the Bay Area in their sound, they do thrash a hell of a lot better than middle of the road death metal, as seen on their later albums. First off, you have to put this album in context. 88-90 were terrible years for thrash, as the massive influx of generic bands and arrival of grunge caused the genre to collapse. This is a time when the output of all the original thrash bands was either changing, or just plain terrible. Trust me, you can do a lot worse for 1989 than 'Product...'

I actually like the production on this album. In the late 80's too many thrash bands had ultra crisp and clean production, and were playing so tight and constricted that a lot of the raw energy and attitude was completely lost. The guitar tone is very sharp, lots of trebel; It definitely doesnt sound like Testament, the vocals are a lot more rough, the riffs are speedier, and the drums are more present. Like the earlier reviews say, Steve Esquivel's vocals arent amazing, but I think everyone is in agreement that they're far superior than the vocals he currently does for Skinlab. I do wish the bass was a bit more prevalent, or at least did something different than follow the guitar.

The opening to 'The Fault' pretty much lets you know what you're in for, which is an album full of no frills thrash. No ballads, no mystical arpeggio-laden instrumental tracks, just very workmanlike thrash. Some people will really like that, other people will hate the lack of variety. Me, I'm just happy they werent wearing hawaiian print jam shorts, smiling crazily and singing funny songs about zits and liking girls...AHEM-MUCKY PUP-AHEM.

I dont dissect albums, I dont have the attention span. The short but sweet run down on this album is that it's a Bay-Area thrash album from 1989. If you put it on, expecting a masterpiece of metal, you're going to be disappointed. If you just want to thrash though, this album is worth picking up.

A product of what was hot at the time - 73%

Gutterscream, June 24th, 2005
Written based on this version: 1989, 12" vinyl, Roadrunner Records

"...he awakens every single night with a burning urge he needs to fill..."

While the Bay Area has harvested many a good thrash band, there are probably three times as many unnoticed from the area of that hallowed time that released one, two, maybe even three lps where the bells and whistles are only heard by canines, no one broke their back to get to shows, and congratulation banners took off with the wind and wound up wrapped around someone’s TV antennae. Multiply that number by ten to get the number of never-signed bands that roamed the territory. This is the story of unfortunate and inevitable second stringers like Defiance.

With one demo they snagged the attention of Roadrunner (who were undoubtedly trying to cash in on the overrun Bay Area sound) and the initial result of their coalition is the average Product of Society – a sound that is still Testament to me, and since I have no love for anything except The Legacy (which I still hardly ever listen to), the chances of me enjoying this are slim, but a chance I give it nonetheless.

Having not listened to this in ages, the only song I can scrape off the top of my head is the title cut, a portrayal of low-end thrash laced with a few hooks and a whip crack length of speed thrown in for good measure. It sticks in my mind ‘cos it’s probably the best of the bunch. “The Fault” isn’t that blaring, blow-you-off-the-sofa initial track that should ignite your lp, debut or not, and “Death Machine” isn’t much better. The vocals of Ken Elkinton are most of the time as animated as a park statue, wild emotional output forfeit due to a too-controlled vigor, and some of the dapper rhythms dancing around the heavier ones could’ve flown the coop. Some frantic, impressive soloing kicks “Forgotten” into gear and guitarists Doug Harrington and Jim Adams continue to reveal their hands during the song. The rest of it is pretty passé. The garden variety “Lockjaw” is saved only by its commanding chorus.

Side two’s “Insomnia” is worth a listen with its elegant acoustical start and dramatic bridge into a main riff that only half holds my interest, much like the rest of the track. Again, the soloing is the high point. Another song with a saving grace for a chorus is “Deadly Intentions”. More acoustics, this time headier and more pronounced than those at the side’s start, is “Aftermath” in its entirety, which strums calmly into the wordless “Tribulation”, an instrumental that finally shows some true thrash grit with hunks of fast-picking action and some effective rhythmic shifts, but the rest of it is in the ordinary vein. “Hypothermia” is a fine finale to the record, absent of many of the choppy rhythms that ornament 96% of Defiance’s house, therefore more inflictive, surging elements shine a light on the path to the end.

The Jeff Waters production, while glaring with high hopes, is rather weak-kneed and thin and not the kind of job that was expected from such a reputable guy at that time.

Needless to say, when their follow-up Void Terra Firma arrived it didn’t exactly teleport onto my turntable. I’ll dig that one out when I get around to it. As for Product of Society, it’s more a product of what was hot at the moment.

If it wasn't for the production... - 76%

cyclone, April 23rd, 2005

The first thing you notice when you listen to this album is the production. It's so bad that it takes off about 15 percents of the record rating. The guitar sound is paper thin. Game Over (Nuclear Assault) this is not. Seriously, Nuclear Assault riffs on their first were somehow great with not much crunch, but with Defiance, meatier sound would be far more appropriate, because palm muted riffs on this one sound like shit. The other thing about the production is that the vocals are to high in the mix. The vocalist is decent, but jeez, he's no Halford so I don't really see the point in the high volume of the vocals. Otherwise the production is nice and clean, too bad for this two major faults. I had to mention this first, because the production is the only really bad part of the album.

Defiance are otherwise a really good band. Some riffs sound really simmilar to Vio-lence, but their overall sound and feeling on this record is total Testament worship. I don't know if Testament were actually their influence, but this sure sounds like they were. The riffs are more technical then the ones by Testament, but the leads sound like a bit sloppier and simpler Skolnick (guys, remember, you can't top Alex.). The solos are really nice, they're well played and melodic. There are also some really cool mid-tempo thrash breaks to be found on this one. The bass isn't that audible in the mix, but the drums are great. The drummer plays some nice rhtyhms and his playing is quite diverse for a thrash band. As said before, the vocals are decent, nothing more, nothing less.

The songs maybe sound a bit too simmilar one to another, but only at first couple of listenings. There aren't any extremely great or extremely bad songs here, Product Of Society is a well balanced record. The only song that stands out is the acoustic interlude, Aftermath, which is simmilar to, let's say Crystal Ann by Annihilator. It's a good song.

Damn, if it wasn't for the production, this would get a near 90. I'm usually not a bitch about the poor sound, but this would have sooooo much more to offer if the guitar sound would be better. Too bad. Ah, well, it's still a good record and if you dig second wave of Bay Area thrash you won't regret getting this.