Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – Outlive

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demon hunter outliveDEMON HUNTER
Outlive
Solid State Records
2017

After fifteen years since their self-titled debut album, it’s no denying that Demon Hunter has evolved and forged ahead with its signature sound, rather than continue on with the same-old and remain stagnant. To put it bluntly, they are a far cry from the Slipknot style of metal, complete with Good Cop/Bad Cop vocals. I joke that they have transformed into more of a HIM-style metal band, but that’s really what has happened, fifteen years later.

Outlive, the band’s newest release as of this writing, showcases the band as getting better with age. While the previous release was rather hit-or-miss for me, I found Outlive to be a more solid listening experience. While the majority of the cuts could be tagged as “radio friendly” and melodic, the songs are heavier and darker than your standard modern pop metal song. Ryan Clark does favor the melodic singing more over the angry growly shouts, and he sounds much more comfortable with that, giving the songs a texture and depth that manage to haunt you while the heaviness sticks in your head.

Make no mistake, though: Outlive is multi-layered and very textured \,,/METAL\,,/, comfortable with treading familiar ground while not being afraid to experiment with touches of death metal, groove metal, dark gothic and straight-ahead rock and a bit of industrial for some texturing. Even then, they still manage to throw in a classic deathcore aggression like “Jesus Wept” and “Cold Blood” to sandblast your face off.

Overall, while I wasn’t sure what I was going to be getting into before listening to Outlive (the pre-release video for the single “Died In My Sleep” didn’t exactly set my world afire), I still purchased the download on Amazon the day of its release. After playing it back-to-front a couple of times, I have to say that it is a very solid release, more so than the previous.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – Live In Nashville

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music-review_-demon-hunter-live-in-nashvilleDEMON HUNTER
Live In Nashville
Solid State Records
2009

After four studio albums, Demon Hunter went on a headlining tour with the likes of Living Sacrifice, and recorded the show stop in Nashville for both a live DVD and CD. Since, I’m told, the show on the DVD is identical to the CD, I of course decided to get the CD download from Amazon. I like to let my head imagine what the show was like, and all. And yes, I realize there’s a documentary DVD included in the 45 Days release, but maybe later. Right now, it’s about the METAL.

One question I’ve always had about Demon Hunter was, how well could they pull off their songs in a live setting? Particularly, the vocals, as you know are rather intricately layered between the harsh and the clean singing. After listening to this, the answer would be, pretty good. Ryan Clark seems to know his limitations in the live setting, but comes close to replicating things.

As a live album, Live In Nashville manages to captures the energy of the show, both from the band and the audience going ballistic. After an introductory bit featuring a clip from the movie 300, the band rips right into “Storm The Gates Of Hell”, kicking things off rather well. From there, they play some choice cuts from Demon Hunter (“Infected”), Summer Of Darkness (“My Heartstrings Come Undone”, “Not Ready To Die”), The Triptych (“Ribcage”, “The Soldier’s Song”, “Undying”, “The Flame That Guides Us Home/Not I”), and of course Storm The Gates Of Hell (“Lead Us Home”, “I Am You”, “Carry Me Down”, “Fading Away”, “Sixteen”). Of course, they would lean heavier on the cuts from Storm The Gates Of Hell, as they were touring in support of it at the time.

The sound quality is great, you really get a feel of what the band is like in a live setting, and the crowd participation with singing along at certain points along with the banter is what having a live album is all about. Overall, I’ve never had the chance to see Demon Hunter live (as of yet); listening to Live In Nashville is at least a great substitute for that bit of oversight. Recommended.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – Extremist

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music-review_-demon-hunter-extremistDEMON HUNTER
Extremist
Solid State Records
2014

Extremist is Demon Hunter’s most melodic and–dare I even say it–commercial sounding release since The World Is A Thorn. I don’t mean that as a slam, either. Because, even though it does lack a significant portion of that ferocious heavy METAL I prefer, I still find myself popping this one on more often than not. I don’t know why, really. Because, while I can take or leave The World Is A Thorn, Extremist is pretty much in the same vein, but I listen to it much more often than I should.

It could very well be that, when this came out, it was at a very dark and turbulent time of my life, and the video pre-release they put on YouTube for “I Will Fail You” struck such a nerve that I imprinted on it, maybe? I’m reaching, I know.

Getting on with the music, the album starts off very strong with the song “Death”, which is a plodding, heavy-as-stink death metal bit that lulls the listener into a false sense of security before the more commercial sounding “Artificial Light” follows. Really, the jarring shift can give you whiplash. The next four after that one follow along with in the hard modern rock vein with “What I’m Not”, “The Last One Alive”, the aforementioned “I Will Fail You” and “One Last Song”, before getting a bit more of their old selves on “Cross To Bear”. “Hell Don’t Need Me” goes back to the heavy, melodic style, while “In Time” gets heavier, with a good opening riff and guitar solo. “Gasoline” is a curious one, as it’s technically a ballad, all melancholy and such, but then the chorus itself kicks into a mosh riff. It makes me want to not like it, but then hits with an awesome bit that…I’m torn. Really. Good job, guys. The album closer, “The Heart Of A Graveyard”, is probably their most commercial radio-friendly on the collection, with a straight-forward guitar riff and melodic structure. Decent song, yes, but doesn’t seem to fit in the band’s playlist.

Overall, while the music on Extremist once again leans more towards the melodic commercial side of the metals, I have to admit that this is the kind of modern melodic metal that I rather dig. Again, I don’t know why, as I’m a dyed-in-the-steel fan of the blast your face off style of death metal that Demon Hunter does so very well. If, however, there must be melodic commercial sounding metal to be had, at least this is done right. Not exactly heavy entirely, but pretty good. Recommended.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – True Defiance

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music-review_-demon-hunter-true-defianceDEMON HUNTER
True Defiance
Solid State Records
2012

As it turns out, I actually heard True Defiance before having listened to the previous release, The World Is A Thorn. Which, as it turns out, was fortuitous, as I have a feeling if I did, I wouldn’t have been so quick to listen to anything they put out afterwards. As it stands, since True Defiance was the follow-up to The World Is A Thorn, it proves that Demon Hunter still has the heavy inside them. Or, maybe it’s a case of finding that balance between the heavy and the melodic, without sounding like they’re pandering.

The album opens up with the face-smasher “Crucifix”, then segues into the mid-paced yet heavy “God Forsaken”, which has a rather good metal riff at the end. For the most part, Demon Hunter really hits them out of the park, with cuts “My Destiny”, “Wake”, “Someone To Hate” and “This I Know”, mixing the abrasive heavy with the darker melodic tones. “Means To An End” is an acoustic instrumental that keeps the whole melancholy vibe; “We Don’t Care” leans more towards nu metal and metalcore, but has a fantastic guitar solo in there. The album closer, “Dead Flowers”, is a ballad. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Overall, as a follow-up to The World Is A Thorn, True Defiance seems to be a step in the right direction with the further evolution of Demon Hunter’s sound. It’s a fairly solid and heavy release, with a couple of ballads spaced in pretty evenly, but mostly keeping to the heavier side of things. Really, they seem to be going more for a HIM kind of vibe the further they progress. Good album, when all is said and done.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – The World Is A Thorn

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music-review_-demon-hunter-the-world-is-a-thornDEMON HUNTER
The World Is A Thorn
Solid State Records
2010

Back in 2010, when buzz was building about the new Demon Hunter album that was to be released, the words “Heaviest one yet!” and “Most melodic to date!” were pretty much interchangeable, depending on which periodical or blog site you were seeing this at. Also bandied about was that The World Is A Thorn was set to be the bestest release for the band evah! Like, for realsies, and stuff.

Please don’t mistake my sarcasm for hatred or bile. It’s due to mild disappointment, really. Because, while Demon Hunter have traversed down that road before, here the melodic elements seem to be more of the focus. Because, while the songs on The World Is A Thorn do get heavy, it’s more of the kind that you would find on most modern metal radio formats. That’s neither good nor bad, just…different than what was expected with Demon Hunter.

The opening cut, “Descending Upon Us”, has a majestic sounding opening, then settles into a heavy and solid cut with a melodic chorus. Then next cut, “LifeWar” is a simple, straight-ahead plod-along that does get a bit monotonous. Not bad, but a bit more Nu Metal than expected. “Collapsing” start off with an electronic keyboard riff, then veers once again into Modern Heavy Rock/Nu Metal territory. It’s catchy and melodic, yes; like I said earlier, it sounds like something that can be heard on the radio, easily. This same kind of pattern can be heard on cuts like “This Is The Line”, “Shallow Water” and “Feel As Though You Could”, while there are a couple of ballads with “Diving Nails” and the album closer “Blood In The Tears”.

Before you think that there’s really nothing remarkable about The World Is A Thorn, there are three standout gems in this: the title track, which is thrash metal in execution, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just stay with that. It’s awesome. “Tie This Around Your Neck” is nice and heavy, and “Just Breathe” is another example of the band utilizing electronics, but here it’s lending a darker hue to something already heavy and anthemic.

Overall, with only three cuts that I found to be worth repeating, buried in a bunch of more formulaic fare (I shuddered writing that), I’m going to have to say that The World Is A Thorn was more than a bit disappointing. It’s far from terrible; it’s just something of a departure of what I dig about Demon Hunter.

Music Review: NYVES – Anxiety

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nyves - anxiety

NYVES
Anxiety
Spartan Records
2015

For fans of either Demon Hunter or Project 86 (or both), NYVES is a project between Demon Hunter vocalist Ryan Clark and ex-Project 86 guitarist Randy Torres that is decidedly nothing whatsoever like the two’s respective bands. Instead of the pummelling modern metal assault of Demon Hunter, or the alternative metal approach of Project 86, we have here a collection of dark electronic music that’s drenched in melancholy and emotion, more for sitting in the darkness and contemplating…whatever it is you would contemplate in the dark. I could tell you what I would contemplate in the dark with this album playing in the background, but that would leave you screaming for a few hours, trust me.

I first came about discovering the existence of this release by way of the Neverwas Podcast, which featured a two-part interview with Ryan Clark, and played a few cuts from the Anxiety release. I liked what I heard, and thus hit Amazon Digital Music for a purchase and download of the album. Sure, there were some great-looking vinyl formats of the album available, but unfortunately I’d have no place to store them without beginning to look like the subject episode of the show Horders.

I once described the music on Anxiety to be like the more downbeat, melodic songs of Demon Hunter as interpreted through Depeche Mode, and you have a decent beginning idea of what the music is like. This is dark electronic music that’s best listened to in the dark, through a higher quality set of headphones, rather than cranked on your car stereo. Though, there have been more than once where I had this cranked through my stereo, driving home in the dead of night, my window open and the lights of the city creating a nice visual ambiance that melded with the music.

What I’m trying to say is, Anxiety is a really good album. This is coming from someone who doesn’t necessarily listen to straight up EBM all that often. It hasn’t transformed me into a fanatic of the genre, mind you, but it’s a solid listen to throw on some nights for something different to decompress to. Here’s hoping that this isn’t just a one-off project, and the guys are planning to keep it up with NYVES for the future.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – Storm The Gates Of Hell

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demon hunter - storm the gates of hell

DEMON HUNTER
Storm The Gates Of Hell
Solid State
2007

Demon Hunter’s fourth studio release showcases the band further refining their unique style of alternative metal, something that was evident with the previous. The music is a very infectious blend of the brutal and hauntingly melodic, managing to find the balance between the two without making a mess of things.

It’s with this release that I realize the band has done something that very, very few bands can do: appeal to both my sense of brutality as well as my sense of brooding contemplation. Yeah yeah, I know that sounds all sorts of pretentious, but after the double-fisted \,,/METAL-HORN\,,/ salute that is the opening title track salvo, then the lead-in to the earnest worship howl of “Lead Us Home”, you should get the general idea of why this band features so heavily in my playlist, despite initially having my doubts at first. The entirety of the album is a steady stream of this, managing to forge some rather personable sounding songs without getting too cheesy, as some bands in the metalcore category are want to do.

Storm The Gates Of Hell stands as a really good follow-up to their previous releases, and is a good, solid listen. Check it out.