To paraphrase the immortal Hansi Kursch: “time, what is time? — it does not heal, but it lets us forget.” Ukrainian power-metallers Defiant seemingly agree, with the concept rampant on their sophomore release Time Isn’t Healing. It would appear, around the AMG water cooler, at any rate, that power metal continues to be one of the most divisive components of heavy metal. Its sparkling bombast is at direct odds with its extreme and typically heavier siblings, and, obvious stylistic differences aside, the burgeoning middle-ground, suffered by the wheat and chaff of every sub-genre, appears particularly unforgiving to those goblin-bothering sword aficionados. Defiant purport to forge melodicism and brawn into an emotional and progressive compound — showcasing the category’s inherent melodrama whilst retaining the muscularity of their speed-metal forefathers. The question is: have they succeeded in quantifying their influences, or is this an example of another vaguely acceptable, highly-forgettable nonentity?
Sadly, it’s the latter. Time Isn’t Healing starts as best it can — as soon as the obligatory symphonic intro track fades out, the album begins in earnest with “Milestones of Time.” Its one of the record’s faster moments, heralded by a Rob Halford/Warrel Dane-esque scream, courtesy of vocalist Stanislav Proshkin. It’s solid work, catchy and to the point with lashings of Rage in the riff work and a brief but memorable solo at mid-way. Next comes “Jericho” and thus begins the love affair with the insistent mid-paced tempo that dominates much of the album. Drummer, Evgeniy Smolin attempts to liven up the rhythm section in the bridge with a brief foray into blast beat territory, but by this point, Defiant seem to have resolutely settled into the album’s swing, apparently unwilling to budge. One particularly prevalent trait is the record’s propensity to adopt melodies and chord sequences somewhat Eastern in nature. Although not to the extent of acts like Myrath who bond their Tunisian heritage into their music, Defiant certainly model many of their guitar lines on their own Eastern European roots — the effect, as always, is rich, although relied on a little too heavily and would be perhaps better used sparingly to add a little exoticism to proceedings.
The vast majority of the material on Time Isn’t Healing is composed of musically articulate but ultimately bland and homogeneous power metal. By the second half, the inspiration for whatever creativity presides over the first four tracks has long since dissipated, and at 50 minutes, makes for an increasingly arduous listening experience. The one thing that manages to jump off the fence and, by the end of the album, truly divide my opinion, is Proshkin’s uncanny mimicry of the tone, cadence, and phrasing of none other than Dave Mustaine. Now, I’m a big Megadeth fan, but hearing those hitherto inimitable pipes set to the sound of keyboard laden power metal was bizarrely disconcerting. The infamous attitude and snarl intrinsic to the legendary frontman doesn’t suit the tone of the record at all. Time Isn’t Healing isn’t entirely without promise; the title track delivers one of the most memorable performances of an adept chorus and resonant leads. Unfortunately, on repeat listens this only serves to exacerbate the issue I take with the album; when Defiant are clearly composed of talented musicians, it’s increasingly frustrating to sit through a platter of painstaking mediocrity. The fact that it’s well executed almost makes it worse.
Andrey Turkovsky, guitarist and band mastermind, takes the, in this instance rather dubious, award for standout performance — his riffs are tight and the solos are clearly adept; had his songwriting been a little braver and allowed for more of the progression on display in moments like “Funeral Feast,” with its time-changes and bass exhibitions, then perhaps there would have been some grace to save. The mix on Time doesn’t help matters much — after eight out of the twelve available tracks, I started to develop serious fatigue trying to permeate the barren guitar tone and insistent keys, which had all been crushed together by the album’s megaton master.
I take no pleasure in decrying the efforts of a band who have clearly tried to create something dynamic and powerful. The unfortunate fact is, Defiant deliver another unsolicited ode to the mundane and take up residence in the heaving purgatory of bands you probably won’t revisit. Approximations of our artistic influences are part and parcel of what keep our favorite genre constantly evolving — as such, Time Isn’t Healing is a swing and a miss. You don’t need to cross oceans of time to hear this.