In 2017, Deathbreaker was introduced to the world after signing with Facedown Records as a new force in post-hardcore, releasing Disconnect to acclaim. Now, nearly three years later to the date, the four-piece unleashes a sophomore album that turns up their volume and adds a notch to their legacy.
Isolate, Deathbreaker’s latest LP, leans heavily into the band’s hardcore edges, which seems like both an intentional move and a natural transition. Their debut album was bursting at the seams of post-hardcore, and now those ideas and aggressive elements can fully take on the arrangements they were made for. Dissonant riffs and minor seconds – the band’s bread and butter – paint every breakdown in Isolate with signature marks of atonal color. From beginning to end, those small details still somehow manage to stand out against a backdrop of distortion, setting each track apart from the last. The band’s raw guitar tones and slow breakdowns also let the audience hear the organic timbre of the instruments between each hit, removing the digitized “film” that often sits over the mix in many modern metal records. This analog taste of the tracking room is a refreshing reinforcement of that live pit feeling we all so desperately need right now.
Though the album does lack the melodic elements that were so well executed in the band’s first record, frontman Scott McNeil’s vocal diversity provides enough space and structure to offset the album’s consistent heavy energy. He forces his massive, throaty vocals in “Vagabond” through gritted teeth every so often, which takes a traditional yell scream and turns it into emotional texture and depth. These subtle vocal inflections, along with the occasional break in guitars and cymbals, give the album room to breathe in a nuanced style.
What really made this record stand out, however, is Deathbreaker’s use of rhythm: the heavy snare at the end of “Spite,” the fast punk groove in songs like “Alone” and “Fear,” the dizzying triplets in “The Compass” that make you lose your grip on the tempo and your sense of direction (a fitting use of prosody). It seems the moments written to stand out are all driven by a playful drum fill or a rhythmic texture that steers the song as a rudder at the stern.
Isolate is a solid sophomore album for a band who took a risk and doubled-down on their convictions.
While Isolate has no shortage of moments that would make any metal enthusiast bang their head, these tasteful flavors show a notable lack of potency in the second half of the album, reflected in the final track’s fade-out resolution. With so much creative energy invested in the album’s first two-thirds, the last few tracks leave something to be desired. Fortunately, the elements Deathbreaker has honed still create a sonic playground for anyone who appreciates a well-placed line or a subtle change in tempo.
Isolate is a solid sophomore album for a band who took a risk and doubled-down on their convictions. The rise in energy and push into the next chapter of Deathbreaker can be felt in the instrumentation, songwriting, and vocal inflection throughout. With fortitude as Isolate‘s spine, Deathbreaker reminds us that we’re never too far from the next step – they just leave their message echoing overhead.