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ACT OF DEFIANCE – Wounding With Intent
Anthony Morgan
October 2017

Act Of Defiance (l-r): Matt Bachand, Shawn Drover, Chris Broderick and Henry Derek

September 2017 outing Old Scars, New Wounds – the second full-length studio album from Los Angeles, California-based metal group Act Of Defiance – included the songwriting contributions of vocalist Henry Derek and bassist Matt Bachand, which had not been the case with August 2015 debut Birth And The Burial. Birth And The Burial’s material had been authored prior to their entry into the ranks.

“We started off individually, coming up with songs that we had written, and then as we had submitted those songs, we then began to go back collectively as a group,” continues Chris Broderick, guitarist of Act Of Defiance. “Then we tried to form things such as the song format, and the way that a song would move from one section to the other, or things such as the melody and the vocals – stuff like that. We very much played a collective role, like I said. Once the demos were written, we played a collective role in shaping the songs from then on, and that was the main songwriting process in a nutshell.”

The authorship prowess of Henry Derek and Matt Bachand is audible on select numbers. “For example, for this round, Henry wrote the song ‘Overexposure’, and Matt wrote songs such as ‘The Talisman’ and ‘Another Killing Spree’,” the axeman cites. “Then I should say that we all collectively had input lyrically, though. That was just on the musical side of things, and lyrically we kind of came back together collectively and wrote lyrics for the songs.”

Old Scars, New Wounds encompasses a wide variety of lyrical topics. “For me personally, I wrote songs such as ‘Misinformation Age’ (‘M.I.A.’) and ‘Broken Dialect’,” Chris lists. “‘Misinformation Age’ is definitely about the current state of getting your information online, and you have to know your source. You can’t just trust whatever is posted, and believe it’s true, even if you want to believe it’s true. If it sides with what you want to be the truth, then you have to make sure that it’s coming from somebody that’s an unbiased, impartial source and that their motive isn’t to just sway you to their view. That’s ‘Misinformation Age’ in a nutshell, and ‘Broken Dialect’ kind of takes that a step further where it talks about how society today seems to have trouble being able to talk about its differences in views. People kind of shelve themselves off from other people, and just stick with people who side with their views. They don’t have any discussion from varying sides of the fence. ‘Broken Dialect’ deals with that aspect of things.

“I also wrote lyrics for ‘Lullaby Of Vengeance’ and ‘Rise Of Rebeliion’. ‘Rise Of Rebellion’ is basically a song about being oppressed and being subjugated for long enough that you’ve finally had it, and you want to rise up and rebel. The name of the song speaks for the meaning itself, in that case (laughs). It’s an anthemic song; it’s just meant to be a fists in the air kind of song. That’s the main premise of that song. ‘Lullaby Of Vengeance’ is basically kind of like a song parody, where I take the idea of songs or singing and pair that with the idea of being angry. It’s a song about anger, and getting out your anger. This is probably in the context of more of a personal view, maybe a personal relationship. Friends that have maybe stabbed you in the back, or something like that. This song is about being angry about those things and singing about them.”

Chris Broderick

Old Scars, New Wounds’ title can perhaps be deemed self-referential. “Old Scars, New Wounds to me is kind of the idea that we’ve gotten scars from the battles that we’ve fought in the past, and getting wounds from battles that we’re fighting today,” the axe-slinger shares. “It kind of reminds me of a zen saying where you fall down seven times, but you get up eight.”

Falling down is a pitfall to be avoided in crafting what is sometimes referred to as ‘the difficult second album’. “I think we were really happy with how this one came out, because it wasn’t such a shotgun wedding type of affair,” Chris reasons. “When Birth And The Burial came out, Shawn and I were not only trying to write the music, but we were also trying to form the band, come up with the band name, search for a label, get support in those areas, trademark things, come up with graphics and merch, and all of that stuff at the same time. We just felt such a huge pressure. We just wanted to try to get it out as soon as possible. This time around, not only did we do it collectively but we had the other voices of Henry and Matt. Also, we kind of took a bit more time to make sure that we crafted the songs structurally, made them more sound, and just really listened to the end product before we recorded it.”

The musician as well as drummer Shawn Drover bonded within Megadeth’s line-up, the pair having exited that respective unit in late November 2014. Act Of Defiance would be forgiven should it have consequently harboured a Megadeth vibe, even if extremely minute. “I had a couple of ideas that I had submitted prior to Birth And The Burial, but none of it was necessarily planned on being used in Megadeth, or anything like that,” he highlights. “They were submissions, but very little ultimately ended up making it. I would say my part probably maybe 10% of the riffs made onto Birth And The Burial, and then with Old Scars, New Wounds, all of the material is brand new. When Birth And The Burial came out, we were just pushing hard to try to get material out that we had. I think Old Scars, New Wounds is really the embodiment of what Act Of Defiance is, which is the freedom to write what you want.”

Such comments might cause readers to wonder how much freedom exists to write what one wants within the Megadeth framework. “When you’re in a band like Megadeth, you have to realise that Megadeth has been around,” Chris cautions. “It’s been a band that’s been around longer than you’ve been in it, therefore you end up having to conform to that band. As opposed to you joining that band and becoming a part of what that band is about, it’s more like you’re coming in to play a role of what Megadeth actually is. Therefore, I think your freedom is really confined to that space, and that’s ultimately what led me to leave Megadeth.”

‘Confined to that space’, perhaps a given member’s contribution is restricted to the odd individual number. “It can happen in different ways,” the composer details. “You’re talking about in Megadeth, correct? Dave definitely wanted us to submit a lot of music, but ultimately what made the record was entirely up to him. For my part, I knew when I first joined Megadeth that that’s the way it was going to be. It’s a band that’s been around for a long time and it’s iconic, so Megadeth and its fans have certain expectations of how they want to sound.”

Of the three Megadeth full-lengths to feature Chris’ services, September 2009 effort Endgame – the opening gambit of the three – happens to be his favourite. “It was the heaviest,” he muses. “I really got to voice some of my style in my soloing at that time, so that’s the main reason why.”

No longer a member of an iconic act of the ilk of Megadeth, Act Of Defiance can perhaps be seen as the guitarist and fellow ex-Megadeth member Shawn Drover’s attempt to develop their own catalogue, and pen their own iconic tracks. “No, we don’t have any grand scheme like that,” he chuckles. “We’re really just writing to get our songs out. We’re writing the way we want to write, and that’s the main thing; to be able to carry ourselves, and to write metal. There’s no more stipulation on it other than that. The band is us four individuals – myself, Shawn, Matt, and Henry – and the one thing that we definitely do is we give each other the freedom to be able to express ourselves the way we want.”

The way Chris wishes to express himself is through the medium of heavy metal. “To me, basically it means that you’re not writing with any other stipulations or conceptions,” he judges. “I think some people get the idea that if they write a song this way or that way, then it will sell more, or that they’ll be in this particular genre or something like that. I’ve always loved metal, because it’s been kind of anti-populist in a way. It exists because it isn’t so fabricated and contrived, and stuff like that. In my mind, metal gives me the kind of freedom to write something extremely heavy in one moment, and then go into a cello concerto the next if you wanted to. That to me is what metal is; it allows all forms of music to exist inside of it, but at the same time, it doesn’t expect any sort of conformity.”

Act Of Defiance dwells under the general metal umbrella, as opposed to a subgenre. “For example, if you listen to Old Scars, New Wounds, Shawn wrote the song ‘Molten Core’, which is extremely just thrash,” the performer offers. “Straight through the whole song, it’s straight up a thrash tune. If you look at a song of mine like ‘Rise Of Rebellion’ though, it’s got a much more progressive edge to it. It’s all inside the metal genre; thrash metal, progressive metal – it’s all metal.”

Old Scars, New Wounds furthers that notion arguably, following on from its predecessor. “I would say that Birth And The Burial was a great jumping off point to get to where we’re at,” Chris reckons. “That’s exactly the way I feel. I feel like we set things in motion with Birth And The Burial, and we developed into what Old Scars, New Wounds is.”

Developing into Old Scars, New Wounds as it were suggests an improvement of sorts. “The idea of an improvement in music and artistry is subjective, but I would say personally it’s definitely an improvement in the fact that we got more time to really look at the songs, and consider their format and the melodies, and just how they were gonna be sung – all of that stuff,” the axeman submits. “We took that more consciously this time around and brought it to reality, whereas Birth And The Burial was ‘We’ve got to get this material out’ kind of a thing, so I do feel it’s an improvement. I also feel like the sound has improved on this one as well. I think the mix is better; I think it sounds bigger and fuller.”

Recording sessions for Old Scars, New Wounds took place across a number of studios. “I recorded all of the guitars and the acoustics at my house, Shawn recorded his drums at Glow In The Dark in Atlanta, Matt recorded his bass at his house, and then Henry recorded his vocals at his friends’ house – at Red Light Studios,” Chris divulges.

Mixing was handled by Dave Otero. “He has this awesome ability to mix,” Chris enthuses. “We recorded everything, and sent him the recorded tracks. He mixed and mastered for us. For me, the album sounds bigger and fuller. It’s got more bottom end to it, and the guitars sound a little bit meaner. That’s what I would attribute the mix sounding better to. I think the drums sound more natural on this record. He did a great job; I’m super-happy with it.”

Mix-wise, musicians aren’t always happy with full-lengths listed among their curriculum vitae. “I haven’t had that be the case so much with the end product, but I have had it where the initial mix has come back and I’ve been disappointed in it,” he recalls. “Never in the final mix, though. I think it has always sounded better and more cohesive. I’m trying to remember which record I felt that way with… It was recorded a long time ago, but I remember having that feeling. I can’t recall off the top of my head.”

Chris’ guitar work on Old Scars, New Wounds happens to be a further demonstration of creative freedom, as broached elsewhere in this feature. “This time around, again I just think that we were free to create the songs that we were wanting to try and get out,” he discloses. “As far as my guitar work goes, I originally had the idea to lay off of some of the fast playing a little bit, just to be able to go up and enjoy myself when I go up onstage in terms of not having to worry about this terrifying passage, or that particular sequence of notes or whatever. I initially had that idea, but then I had all of these new techniques that I wanted to incorporate into the album, and that ended up negating that idea. Now, I have all of these techniques and ideas that I incorporated on this album that have definitely made it at least as difficult as the last album (laughs). So, that’s my guitar work in a nutshell.”

Act Of Defiance (l-r): Shawn Drover, Henry Derek, Chris Broderick and Matt

For guitar aficionados reading this article, the axe-slinger provides some examples of the ‘new’ techniques he wished to incorporate on Old Scars, New Wounds. “It would be like using right hand classical guitar fingering in your soloing while you’re sliding in and out of notes,” he tells. “More use of the tremolo bar in terms of flutters and warbles is what I guess you might call them. Finally, there is more two-handed tapping on this compared to the last. I actually use the Fractal Axe FX for everything that I recorded, except for the acoustics of course.”

Of the 12 tracks laid down during recording sessions, 11 figure among Old Scars, New Wounds’ final track listing. “There was one that we held back,” Chris explains. “We’re either looking to do the bonus track for the Japanese release or something of that nature, to hold it back for a special release. It’s really fast, super-heavy and a really good mix of different styles, with clean singing to super-heavy. I’m gonna hold the name of that one back, because I want it to be a surprise when people hear it.”

Cover artwork duties fell to Travis Smith, once again. “We love Travis’ work,” the songwriter exclaims. “We worked with him on Birth And The Burial. This time around, what I wanted was more of a figure as opposed to different artwork and scenes, and stuff like that. I think he really came through on that with the cover of the CD. He took ideas from song titles and song lyrics, and kind of brought some of those to life in the images that he created. In my mind, Birth And The Burial is more subdued. You have to think about what the image is trying to tell you, whereas with Old Scars, New Wounds, I think the image is a little bit more in-your-face – it’s amped up a little bit. The cover image is a little darker, where you’ve got the idea of this menacing figure.”

Music videos were filmed for the tracks ‘M.I.A.’ and ‘Overexposure’. “‘M.I.A.’ was the initial release; it was our single that we first released,” Chris specifies. “We talked about the lyrics earlier, which is about the current age of misinformation on the internet and how it can’t be trusted. The video kind of followed suit with that idea where it opens up with a news reel and how it’s very potentially deceptive, but then it’s mainly a performance video.

“Then the second clip, ‘Overexposure’, was actually filmed by Vince Edwards of Metal Blade. We went in there, and just knocked out a really killer performance video. I thought he treated it really well with some of the effects and the transitions that he put on the edit, and also the filters that he put over the camera.”

Further promotional videos are in the pipeline. “We might do a lyric video for ‘The Talisman’, but that’s undecided at the moment,” the guitarist notes. “Then we’re definitely going to be releasing some performance videos and some playthroughs.”

Old Scars, New Wounds was released on September 29th, 2017 via Metal Blade Records.

Interview published in October 2017. All promotional photographs by Stephanie Cabral.