In recent years the Christian music scene has really exploded into all corners of the music spectrum. Whereas before you had mostly worship music with the occasional rock or rap album, now you have genres such as EDM and heavy metal represented as well. Demon Hunter have shown themselves to be one of the pioneers of Christian metal music. Starting off in Training for Utopia, frontman Ryan Clark and guitar player Don Clark then went on to form Demon Hunter in the early 2000s, releasing their self-titled debut in 2002. Summer of Darkness followed two years later, with The Triptych appearing in 2005 and Storm the Gates of Hell in 2007. Two live compilations followed and then DH reappeared with The World is a Thorn in 2010. True Defiance was released two years later and their latest release, Extremist, came out in 2014.
True Defiance (Deluxe Edition) (2012): 13 tracks, 58 minutes
Describing the musical qualities of Demon Hunter briefly is a difficult undertaking, although many of their songs feature heavily distorted guitars with southern-rock guitar solos, speedy drum beats, screaming lyrics mixed in with clean vocals, and an all-around powerful, edgy sound. This record displays much of that stereotype, but “I Am a Stone” features beautiful strings throughout the song and DH brings an instrumental to the mix (“Means to an End”), adding to some of the diversity.
This album is solid lyrically. While Clark uses Hell quite often, it is always to describe the place of eternal damnation. However, in “What is Left” a line reads “One solemn night I’ll take you / Down the barrel of my gun,” a reference most likely to Satan, but that could confuse listeners.
Most of this record is honest about being depressed in our sinful tendencies. “Crucifix” relates to the “perverse generation” of Jesus’ time and how he took it all on the cross. “God Forsaken” sees us giving up the true satisfaction of Christ “For the passing vain inhale.” “My Destiny,” “Wake,” “This I Know,” “We Don’t Care,” “Resistance,” and “I Am a Stone” wrestle with similar issues. “Someone to Hate” resists the cultural norms and leaves us as being someone to hate, but it says something worth noting, “Taught to write the scriptures for our lives / We inherit the lies,” which most likely means that we should live by God’s standards not our own, but it also got me thinking about how we tend to take little “Scripture nuggets” and make the Bible serve our own purposes rather than what it actually means.
In the past few years, Demon Hunter have grown increasingly dissatisfied with the metal genre, much like August Burns Red’s J.B. Brubaker, who said “I feel like anyone who can pick up and play a guitar and learn to play a metalcore riff and any drummer who can learn to play a thrash beat over a breakdown is doing it . . .” Ryan Clark feels the same way, and he said of True Defiance, “We’ve been extremely underwhelmed with metal for the last five years or so, and that’s been the fuel to create this record.” While it may not be my favorite album out there, Demon Hunter sure have stepped it up with this record and its success attests to that fact. 8.0/10.