It must have been 2006, or maybe 2005. Actually, 2005 sounds right.

It must have been 2005 – me, my best friend Lynt and our very good friend Mike, along with a new friend, Ian and his girlfriend, were on our way to our very first Splashy Fen. We were driving up in my car, Lynt, Mike and I, while Ian followed in his. I had recently procured a copy of Demon Hunter’s Summer of Darkness album, and little did I know that this would become the sound track to our Easter weekend in the Berg. When ever we were back at our camp site, we had my car doors and boot wide open with this album playing on repeat.

I guess we liked to ride the fence. Then we got a little older, maybe wiser, and you know what, we’re a Christian band. We’re five dudes, we’re all believers, we really don’t want to ride the fence anymore.

Don Clarke
On Demon Hunter’s Christianity

Now we find ourselves, 14 years later and listening to two brand new Demon Hunter albums! War and Peace is a dual release that came almost out of nowhere. I think they were teased about a month before being released on the first of March this year and, as of this writing, in about 10 days, I have done about 11 complete listen throughs. And what can I say? They are my albums for March! Even if it is a little early, they are just that good!

War is the heavier album, with less clean vocals and more of a metalcore sound, while Peace is more hard rock with no growling and only clean vocals. Together these albums show the entire depth and breath of Demon Hunter’s talent. Along with the amazing vision of Ryan Clarke – the lead vocalist.

When we officially started we wanted to be very bold about it, we didn’t see any purpose of just beating around the bush.

Ryan Clarke
On Demon Hunter’s Christianity

War

Demon Hunter – War [2019]

War is the heavier album, and I mean, how could it not be with a name like that? Ryan Clarke impresses with his vocal range – singing and growling in all songs.

War opens with the line “War in every breath” on the track Cut to Fit and from the get go, you know this is going to be an auditory treat. Cut to Fit is an incredible opening song – Ryan Clarke’s vocals on top of the amazing drumming of Tim Watts. And that drumming! Man! It is something you have to seriously sit down and just listen to. I must have spent at least 2 full listens of these albums, just tuning everything else out and focusing on the drumming. Its top notch in every single track. And I don’t say that as its heavy, or overly technical on some tracks, but its there, like a spine – you need it as everything attaches to it.

On My Side was one of the singles from this album, and oh man! I need to wait for this song to be over before I can carry on typing about it. Drums are amazing, the guitar chug on point, and Ryan’s clean vocals over the top all tie together to make this one of my favourite tracks on these albums! I have linked the video for you, so you can see what I mean.

So now
Where is the enemy?
I can feel no bite
Where is the enemy
When death is on my side?

Consuming victory
The trumpets calling out to me by name
By name
No looming debt for me
No, death his will find his aim to be in vain
In vain


On My Side – Demon Hunter

And that theme – of death being on my side – carries through the whole album. Being a Christian band, means they fully accept, and believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Although, they are not as clear as Sleeping Giant about it, preferring to sing in metaphors as a way to reach a wider audience. But look deeper, and you’ll find some amazing themes coming through.

Unbound is an amazing song – very thrashy – which really shows Demon Hunter’s ability to take a genre that you can recognize and layer it with their own sound. You can hear that it is unashamedly Demon Hunter, just heavier and faster. I love this song for its simple message – “Unbound. There are no chains on me!” Along with its ferocious sound, those drums with Ryan’s growling makes this a complete headbanger’s ball.

The Negative. If ever there was a Demon Hunter song that I identified with, it would be this song. Growling and clean vocals playing off of each other.

No faith in them, no faith in us
No fix for lifelong distrust
No faith in you, no faith in me
I gauge our fate on history

Everyone
Everyone starts in the negative
The negative
With me

The Negative – Demon Hunter

Ash is another thrash song – fast, guitar chugs, pounding drums and growling really make it feel like you can feel the ash falling on you. Its such a great evolution of the Demon Hunter sound. I can bet I am not the only Demon Hunter fan clamoring for a full on thrash album from these guys after hearing their take on the genre with Ash and Unbound.

Ryan’s singing chops come out on Leave Me Along, and the guitars here pick up what he’s putting down perfectly. Its a little slower, but this is still the War album! Growling and those pounding drums are still present. And this is what amazes me about this band – their amazing versatility when it comes to heavy, hard and soft.

War ends with the track Lesser Gods, and it starts off almost ominous and then drums, guitar and organ come in for a brief interlude before you get kicked in the head again with an onslaught of drums and guitars. And just like that, it pulls back into a slower, more methodical song. Ryan has an interesting effect on his voice which feels unsettling just long enough that his growling comes as a relief. This song plays with tempo – fast and slow – to give you a feeling of more. More than just a song. More than just vibrations on the air. And it works so well to see this album out. Its called War after all. And while War is many things, comforting is not one of them.

All in all – War is a phenomenal album. One that had Demon Hunter put out by itself, would have easily stood on its own. Its got that Demon Hunter sound, and shows that even after close to 20 years, they show no sign of slowing down.

Peace

Demon Hunter – Peace [2019]

Peace is an amazingly interesting album. More hard rock, clean vocals, and a few more slower songs, but still so, so impressive. And while other reviewers seem to pan this album, I have a feeling in the long run, it will come out the stronger of the two. It really shows how talented these guys are – not just musically, but in their vision for these albums as well. And even though its a bit slower, and less heavy, it is no less technical musically and theme wise.

I must admit, it took me a few more listens to Peace to really get the flow of this album compared to War, but thats my own preference to heavier music. But the more I listen to it, the more it shines. Its still Demon Hunter through and through, of that I have no doubt. Peace gives them the freedom of exploring a little more experimental sounds. What do I mean? Well lets dive in. Oh, and just like with War, after a listen or two, go back over the album, and listen for the drums. They are incredible on every track.

More Than Bones opens up with “Peace in every death” and playing off of War’s “War in every breath”, the listener is really treated to the duality, not just of these albums, but of life itself. We rage, we fight, every day just to keep ourselves alive, and death – for the Christian – is the peace we have been promised. Just the fact that these two albums play off of these (and many other) themes, makes them standout albums in my mind.

When I leave you
I leave you more than bones

More Than Bones – Demon Hunter

If you listen carefully, More Than Bones has a slight electronic sound – the experiential nature of the band coming through straight away on this song, along with the more electronic sound that Ryan has dabbled in with his other band – NYVES (Pronounced: Knives and not Neeves).

The next song is probably a tune that Christians have heard more than once. A discouraging tune, a tune which drags on the soul. How often have you shared your belief, your absolute truth with someone who is not a Christian, and they turn around and tell you

When aimless hearts are suffering alone
And hope has turned its tide
When souls are empty, where do you go
For the resolution
We heard you calling, selling a solve
A way to heal our wounds
A violent passage soothing us all
For a time

It sounds like a fury
I’m sure it is
Something to cure me
The problem is

I don’t believe you, no
I don’t believe you, no

We stand here bleeding, left to atone
To pacify ourselves
We bought Your gospel down to the bone
For a lie

That sounds like a fury
I’m sure it is
Something to cure me
The problem is

I don’t believe you, no
I don’t believe you, no

Whatever the voice you claim to be
Save your breath
The faintest faults are plain to see
Whatever the face your remedy
Lines you’ve read
Your vision holds no truth for me

But it sounds like a fury
I’m sure it is
Something to cure me
The problem is

I don’t believe you
It sounds like a fury (I don’t believe you)
I’m sure it is
Something to cure me (I don’t believe you)
The problem is

It sounds like a fury (I don’t believe you)
I’m sure it is (I don’t believe you)
Something to cure me (I don’t believe you)
The problem is (I don’t believe you)
No

I Don’t Believe You – Demon Hunter

Peace is a great tune to build back after I Don’t Believe You and Loneliness. Its more upbeat, but the lyrics are, again, a bit heavy and melancholic. Still, its an epic song – amazing drumming, amazing singing, amazing guitars. It reminds me a lot of the band Porcupine Tree in the way Ryan sings here, and I am not sure if that’s intentional, but I like to believe it is.

The very next song will take you by complete surprise! And no, thats not an overstatement. When The Devil Comes is a very western inspired song, that sounds like it has been taken right out of a John Wayne movie. They got the sound perfect for this song. And yet again, it shows how Demon Hunter are able to take a sound, a genre, a feeling and put their own sound over it. And it just works so well! I can bet a lot of metal heads have suddenly gone looking for western music after this song. Its one of my surprise favorites on these albums. I’d recommend everyone goes to listen to it if they can.

Recuse Myself is an epic ballad that fits so well on this album. Again, we are treated to Ryan’s singing and vision for a song. Its a slow song that begs to be listened to, for all its intricacies. Ryan’s voice shines when its just him and a piano, but he still sounds powerful when the drums kick in. Go. Listen to it. See what I mean.

Peace closes out with Fear Is Not My Guide – a beautiful song in the way only Demon Hunter can do. The song that ends the album Peace, is a truly peaceful song. Ryan Clarke’s vocals over a piano – no drums this time, no guitars. Just pure, unadulterated, truth. I could think of no better song, or message to end on. Fear is not my guide, because death is on my side.

When time outruns my soul
Fear is not my guide
Death is on my side

Fear Is Not My Guide – Demon Hunter

For 14 years, I have been following this band. Not as super closely as I used to – the joys of getting old and responsible – but I have followed them. Each release impressing me more and more. Watching the members of this band split off, start new projects, come back, or get replaced, and watching this band grow. I am so grateful that Lynt made me listen to that CD all the way through. I am grateful that we, as brothers, sat around a camp fire and discussed this album in depth, before, after and while listening to it. I am grateful that after 14 years, Demon Hunter are still going strong, still putting out the message, still blazing the trail for Christian metal, and still not afraid to experiment. I love this band, and I love what they are doing.

And I shall forever remain Undying.

Categories: Music Review

1 Comment

Rebekah · March 12, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Man, I’m so glad I heard about this dual album release. I’ve really enjoyed several Demon Hunter songs in the past, so I thought of myself as a “sort of” Demon Hunter fan. These albums have their own Spotify playlist so I can just play through the whole lot over and over. I’m well and truly in the Fandom now. I’m going to revisit their older albums and see if I overlooked them.
I didn’t think to pay special attention to the drums, I’ll do that next time, thanks. 😁

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