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On October 9th Defiler releases its darkly expansive sophomore album, Nematocera. This latest onslaught retains the band’s signature feral roar, but adds in chilling textures and mournful melodies for a powerful dynamic contrast. Singer Jake Pelzl has crafted some of modern metal’s strongest lyrics. His words are bluntly confessional and innovatively metaphorical. This time around he mines a deeper well of rage, introspection, and inspiration after a transformative jail stint.
The Castro Valley, CA-based life-core band has been best known for the video for its pummeling track, “Cyromancer.” To date the video has accumulated over 2.2 million views. The metal community marveled at the monstrous rumble of 16-year-old singer Jake Pelzl, and how on the band’s debut, Pangaea, Defiler deftly combined the sonic assault of Slipknot with the mosh-metal style of Slipknot. With Nematocera, Defiler have concocted a vicious strain of metal all its own, a style that’s both unrelenting and cathartic.
“With this record we wanted to get the point across that there is more to us then ‘Cyromancer,’” drummer Ian Poole says. “There is a great deal of mature lyrical content on Nematocera, stuff that will make you think, but the album still delivers with anger and heaviness.”
“During this album cycle, I dealt with a lot of depression—no end in sight to being locked up—but then I had my eyes torn open, and was swept off my feet by a beautiful woman,” Pelzl explains. “There are so many different moods and feelings on this CD. I definitely go through a lot of solitude and darkness on some of them, and then other ones are inspired by beauty and love.”
“I can’t change what has happened to me, but I can change what happens to you” is the opening line on the revelatory “Walk In The Glow.” Pelzl at first sings the line with monotone detachment, before unleashing that goose-pump inducing growl. Defiler’s leveling precision falls in behind him, like an infantry blitzkrieg. The chorus conjures up longing and alienation, it’s hooky but not poppy. “This song really showcases the overall nature of the new album. We wrote this monster riff that just pounds and destroys you, and then threw a very melancholy lead riff over it. The chorus has these very weird, almost spoken clean vocals on it. They're very droning and evil sounding.”
The album’s eerie undertow captures the inner torment and ultimate redemption in Pelzl’s journey. “The biggest lyrical inspiration was the internal affliction of being locked away,” he reveals. Prior to penning the new album, Jake was charged with assault and battery and served time behind bars. “It was a horrifying experience being locked away; it showed me that that wasn’t a lifestyle I wanted anymore. I was a pretty bad kid, and I was caught doing something stupid. I was punished and I'm past it. I like to think I'm a much better person because of the whole ordeal.” Jake’s brave introspection empowered him to confidently diversify his writing. “Lyrically this album is miles above anything I've done,” he affirms. “Some of the songs are inspired by actually being in jail, and some of them are inspired by my personal belief that no matter how bad shit gets sometimes, it will always get better.”
On “Twinrova,” Pelzl branches out as a singer with clean and impassioned vocal melodies. “That came about simply because I wasn't able to do that stuff on Pangaea. Those were the first metal songs I'd written,” Pelzl says. “We don't just want to be a ‘heavy’ band; we want to be a band that will have ‘how the fuck did they do that?’ moments with each release.”
“Octobortion” features Emmure frontman Frankie Palmeri on vocals. “I got an Emmure tattoo when I was 15. I always looked up to them, and then next thing you know, I meet him on tour and he actually likes my band,” says Pelzl.
Defiler started in spring 2010 with Jake singing and playing drums, and a friend filling in on guitar and bass. The duo recorded and self-released its debut, Pangaea, and, eventually, a stable lineup coalesced as the band hit the road with Demolisher. In 2011, Jamey Jasta re-issued Pangaea on his Stillborn Records imprint. Defiler recently toured supporting Wayne Static and Polkadot Cadaver. The band will head out this fall to support the new album.
In addition to Jake, Defiler is now rounded out by Ethan Lewis, guitar, Jesse Dhaliwal, bass, and Ian Poole, drums. The band spent over a year crafting tunes for the new album (their last album was written in 2 months). They finely honed the songs so much that, like Pangaea, they decided to self-produce the album at Mayhemeness Studios in Sacramento, CA. The album was mixed by Chris “Zeuss” Harris, best known for his work with Suicide Silence, Chelsea Grin, and The Acacia Strain.
Nematocera concludes with the stunning title track, an unabashed, anthemic ballad. Its grandeur and reflective emotionality conjures up Pelzl’s courageous transformation, and shatters any stylistic preconceptions of Defiler. It’s, in short, a breakthrough. “At first I thought: ‘Who knows what people will think about an acoustic instrumental Defiler song?!’ But as the song came together, I knew it would show people there is no point in pigeonholing us. There is nothing we cannot, and will not, do. This song is a promise of that.”