Demon Hunter is a Christian metal band that takes the concept of religious music to new and aggressive heights with hard-hitting music and ruthless lyrics about defeating evil to back it up. Before you reread that sentence, laugh and change the page, stick it out and reflect on the fact that regardless of lyrical and religious content, this is a band with elite musicianship that makes them a phenomenal metal/hard rock group. With the release of their sixth album, True Defiance, Demon Hunter once again provides metal-heads with possibly their hardest record to date, even if it comes up a bit short of their best work. The mesmerizing guitar riffs, the mind-boggling drumming schemes and the brutally magnificent breakdowns are all still intact on True Defiance, but in making one of the hardest albums in their discography, Demon Hunter sacrificed the harmony between the hard and soft elements in favor of the relentlessly hostile side to make for some bone-rattling metal songs. Although Ryan Clark’s clean vocals have never been as soothing as the singing style of most modern post-hardcore bands, his singing is severely limited in favor of frequent growls screams and bellows that typify the metal genre. This may not seem like a negative, but what made The Triptych and Storm The Gates Of Hell such phenomenal albums was that even though the hard metal elements were prevalent, they were counter-balanced with lighter choruses to create some truly transcendent songs. True Defiance packs the wallop any metal fan can appreciate, but the overemphasis on the harder aspect of the music prevents it from being anything truly exceptional.
“Someone To Hate” is a prime example of how wicked Demon Hunter’s breakdowns can be, complete with heavy guitar chugging from Jeremiah Scott and Jon Dunn, frequent double bass pedals from the drums of Timothy Watts, and a breathtaking solo from lead guitarist Patrick Judge. This standout track denounces the influence of the evil one and its lyrics show clear and unadulterated scorn for “all you advocates of hell” and “corrupters of free will,” perfectly displaying Demon Hunter’s attack-evil-and-all-its-influence-with-faith-and-no-mercy approach. Clark’s vocals are flawless here, rapidly changing between appropriately devastating bellows and softer singing for the lighter sections. All in all, this is a perfect example of Demon Hunter’s brutal but religious style of music as the best song on the album.
“We Don’t Care” narrowly misses out on the best-track-of-the-album award with its undeniably infectious guitar riff that gives it true head-bobbing rhythm. Clark delivers his rallying cries in the verses of this metal anthem before proclaiming a catchy but castigating chorus: “Feels like we’ve run out of air / They tear the breath out from out lungs / And we don’t care / Feels like we’ve run out of air / Damnation passed down to our sons / And we don’t care.”
“Dead Flowers” rounds out the album on an emotional and compelling note in typical metal-ballad fashion. Clarks subdued vocals are appropriate in revealing the pain behind losing a loved one but also the beauty of death, as he mourns “Dead flowers for the torn apart / Laid at the grave to heal a broken heart / Let it rain until it floods / Let the sun breathe life once more / Reborn.”
At the very least, True Defiance is yet another solid iteration of the quality metal that Demon Hunter is capable of. While it doesn’t elevate to the memorable heights of The Triptych and Storm The Gates Of Hell, it still provides a terrific new dose of Demon Hunter as a definite step up from their last album, the disappointing The World Is A Thorn. Clark once again displays a knack for livening already brutal tracks with guttural growls and surprisingly polished clean vocals for lighter choruses. Fans of Becoming The Archetype, Haste The Day, Project 86, War Of Ages, Disciple, Living Sacrifice, August Burns Red and The Devil Wears Prada will appreciate this group and their balance between hardcore music and the Christian emphasis. The lyrical content is unparalleled in the world of Christian music, and although the premise of using faith and love to stick it to Satan and evil in the world is a little cheesy, Demon Hunter’s aggressive and ruthless approach in their writing comes off as inspiring and formidable. In fact, the recurring band logo that dons the cover of every Demon Hunter album in some variation is a goat head with a bullet hole in its skull, as the goat head is often associate with Satan and demons, further emphasizing the group’s philosophy of mercilessly conquering evil. The premise seems questionable on paper, but this band has potent lyrics and ridiculous breakdowns to back up this combative mentality. And although True Defiance actually takes the aggressive elements a little too far, it has a number of memorable tracks that make it a satisfactory experience. From the fervent and fast-paced “My Destiny” to the skilled and hard-hitting “This I Know” to the heartfelt and contemplative ballad “Tomorrow Never Comes,” True Defiance is an improvement from Demon Hunter’s last effort and proves once again how hard a Christian metal band can rock.
Final Score: 7.1/10
Rank: 3rd (six total albums)
- God Forsaken
- My Destiny
- Tomorrow Never Comes
- Someone To Hate
- This I Know
- Means To An End
- We Don’t Care
- Dead Flowers