In their 30-plus years together, metal group Megadeth have seen 11 different musicians occupy the lead guitar spot. Chris Broderick — Megadeth's lead guitarist for more than six years — announced his departure just before Thanksgiving 2014, citing "artistic and musical differences." That same day, Megadeth drummer Shawn Drover announced he too would be leaving "to pursue [his] own musical interests," ending a decade-long membership in the group.
But Broderick insists the two announcements weren't part of an orchestrated plan. Though he and Drover soon decided to start Act of Defiance, a new group of their own, that idea "came out of the talking Shawn and I were doing right after leaving."
The longtime friends and musical comrades set their sights on creating something different from Megadeth, but as they began looking for players to round out the group, they intentionally didn't define their goals beyond that. "Our only criteria at the time was [to find] a singer who had character in his voice," Broderick says. "Other than that, there was no exact direction. We were just looking for people with individuality."
They found the person they needed in Henry Derek, former vocalist for Scar the Martyr. They also recruited Matt Bachand, former bassist in Shadows Fall. With their lineup complete, Act of Defiance signed with Metal Blade Records and cut their debut album, Birth and the Burial. Released in Aug. 2015, its 10 tracks written by band members working alone or in collaboration. Birth and the Burial earned positive reviews and reached the No. 18 position on Billboard's Top Hard Rock Albums chart.
The band mixes familiar elements of extreme metal — precise, breakneck drumming; technically exacting guitar work; and aggressive vocals — with the beauty and expressiveness of classical music (in the form of Broderick's acoustic guitar playing), often all within a single song.
But Broderick doesn't believe that Act of Defiance consciously aim to bridge those disparate styles. "It just ends up being the prevailing style that I write in," he says.
And while all four members of Act of Defiance have well-established pedigrees in former groups, they say their goal is to concentrate on the present and the future; you won't hear any old Megadeth or Shadows Fall tunes at their shows. They do, however, perform the occasional cover in tribute to some of their fallen metal heroes.
On their last tour, they played "Ace of Spades" in tribute to Motörhead's Lemmy. "This tour," Broderick says, "we're doing 'I'm Broken' by Pantera in tribute to Dimebag Darrell."
At this point, the group's primary focus is touring in support of Birth and the Burial. In some larger markets (aka not Colorado Springs), the band will be sharing bills with hardcore metal band Hatebreed and the more melodic Devildriver. Broderick thinks that having all three on a single bill is a good idea; it encourages all the players to bring their very best.
"We want to make sure that we bring out all of our heaviest stuff," Broderick says, "and show these hardcore metal fans that we can keep up."