With the seemingly endless subgenres of metal out there these days, it’s totally understandable for bands to pinpoint themselves to one of them. But when a band goes all out and embraces as many of them as humanly possible and absolutely nails it, you have to give them the credit they deserve.
That’s exactly what Hertfordshire-based Defences have accomplished with debut album With Might And Main. The quartet of vocalist Cherry Duesbury, guitarists Calum Wilmot and Ian Harrington and drummer Kyle Parke define their music as ‘modern metal’ spanning a range of metal styles, from metalcore through to post-hardcore and even throwing in the odd bit of orchestral influence for good measure. And making it work, impressively.
Defences, like so many bands we feature, was born out of the ashes of several former bands. But Calum tells us he first picked up the guitar as a 10-year-old having been inspired by seeing Jack Black killing it in the School Of Rock movie (yes, that movie is 14 years old) and formed a band with a guy that ended up becoming a founding member of Defences.
14 years later, the band’s sound has been honed by the influences of bands like Of Mice & Men, Memphis May Fire and particularly Story of the Year, who the band tell us have had a profound impact on their approach to music. But looking further afield, and perhaps a little surprisingly, the band tell us they also take in the ambiental production styles of pop / electropop singers Melanie Martinez and Sofia Karlberg.
We spoke to the band to find out more, and first up asked how it felt to have their debut album out there. Kyle told us: “It’s pretty surreal to be honest, we’ve been through so much as people and as a band since we started work on With Might and Main that there were plenty of times that we didn’t think it would get released at all,” he told us. “The fact that it’s now out there for everyone to hear and we can tour it feels incredible, it’s been such a long time coming for us and now that the weight is off, we have a new freedom that can only be exciting!”
With Might And Main, mixed by Jeff Juliano (Twenty One Pilots, PVRIS) and mastered by Tim Debney (Razorlight, Iron Maiden), is a full-on smash of metal, chocked full of big riffs and delicious vocals from Cherry contrasted by huge screamed vocals from Calum and Ian.
This much is portrayed in second track The Takeoff (effectively the opener after an intro track), which kicks off with a fast-paced riff and pounding drums, drops down into a verse supported by a fast-moving bassline, then explodes into screamed vocals answered by clean vocals before diving into a huge singalong chorus with the big opening riff in the background.
Fourth track Grow is again equally catchy while being ridiculously heavy. It kicks off with huge chugging chords that then support Cherry’s vocals, followed by feint screams that feed into a melodic chorus with vocals supported by some awesome high-pitched guitar. Huge screamed vocals follow in the second verse as the heaviness ramps up, with an enjoyable mix of clean and big screamed vocals. Check out the video below:
Let You In further displays the heavier, more metalcore side of Defences, opening with big chugging riffs and cymbal heavy driving drums, then an opening verse of screamed vocals contrasted by a clean vocal response, before diving into a deliciously melodic chorus. The second chorus is followed by croaking vocals, a big cry of “I swear I’ll let you in” that explodes into a huge metal smash-up. Check it out in the video below:
There’s a more melodic feel to Gravity, which starts with big high-pitched guitars supported by a lingering piano, then drops into an atmospheric opening verse then bursts into a big singalong verse. Guitars and drums drop out leaving Cherry’s vocals supported by just the piano, then gradually builds up to finish with a big blast of the chorus then a blitz of screams.
There’s plenty to keep you on your toes on this album, including the excellent Alleviate. It opens up with a big guitar riff with synthy bursts before a clean vocals are followed by big screams, then flowing into a melodic chorus. Layered vocals add depth t the second verse, while the second chorus is followed by a burst of violins in support of Cherry’s vocals, then a huge hit of high-pitched vocals followed by a big guitar solo.
Final track Might and Main summarises the contrasts within Defences music, fusing big screams with darting bursts of strings and Cherry’s melodic vocals. This is an excellent debut album bringing together a range of metal influences and styles, all underpinned by their trademark combination of guitar shredding and big riffs, with some huge drumming to drive things along.
Reflecting on the album, Kyle said: “It has had a good critical reception and fans seem to have enjoyed it as well. We’ve been pleasantly surprised to see new faces at our last few shows singing our songs back at us, which is something that wasn’t happening before the album was released.
“We feel that part of the broadly speaking favourable reception of With Might and Main could be attributed to the variety of songs on there. If we had to pick one way to describe it, we’d say ‘modern metal,’ but the tracks range from old-school metalcore to modern orchestral, with a little electronic-based post-hardcore in there. Our goal when writing was to have something on there for everyone, which is what new listeners will hopefully find!
The overarching Defences message is absolutely one of positivity, as Kyle explains: “As musicians, I think we’re lucky because we get to sing songs about things people will often not even talk about. However, while idea of being able to be so honest to a group of like minded people is undoubtedly therapeutic and motivational, on a larger scale Defences exist because we feel as a collective we have a message, or feeling, to get across: ‘Though difficulty and adversity permeates all our lives to some degree, you can overcome them. Life passes by those who don’t grasp it, don’t let it be you.'”
The band has a few show announcements up their sleeve that they’re not quite ready to reveal, and are already working on their next release, which is still some way off but stay tuned.
In Kyle’s words: “We’d say that if you’re looking for something driving and decently heavy yet accessible, it’d be worth checking out With Might and Main! We love meeting new people so if you ever see us about or at a show come and say hi. Some of the most inspirational people we’ve met have just been chance meetings at shows and it’s one of our main motivations in music.”