Friday, April 27, 2012

Demon Hunter Turns To True Defiance

Ryan Clark (vocals) likes to say that every Demon Hunter album must be a step up from the last. But you know how that goes. Everybody says it. Not everybody means it. Even fewer can actually do it.

"This record without a doubt is our most aggressive," says Clark. "It seems like most bands' prime years are long behind them. I refuse to let that be the case of us."

This is only one reason that True Defiance is such a standout album. While many metal and hard rock bands soften with each passing year, Clark, Patrick Judge (guitar), Jonathan Dunn (bass), Yogi Watts (drums), and newcomer Jeremiah Scott (rhythm guitar) have stepped up to produce what is arguably their best album.

The Seattle-based alt metal band that was conceived by Clark and his brother Don ten years ago has moved beyond what was starting to feel formulaic. Sure, there is still some predictability in specific arrangements and even in the order of the album as a whole. But they get it right this time, enough so that even people who aren't fans of metalcore are quick to note that something is different here. And that difference is better than good.

True Defiance by Demon Hunter works with Clark digging deeper into his material. 

Kicking the album off with Crucifix was one of several great calls for this album. Clark skips delivering any of his signature metalcore melodies in favor setting a different pace for the album. He growls unapologetically in describing the wickedness of people over a ripping drum set by Watts, probably his best set on the album.

Crucifix is stunning as Clark grimly channels the appropriate amount of aggression without giving up on everything. As good as that song is, God Forsaken is tracking as the fan favorite mostly because it best represents the what people expect from the band. The riffs are catchy, the vocals are clean, and the bass lines line up right.

My Destiny, on the other hand, is one of the better songs to showcase the band's direction. And although the chorus eventually erodes into snarls (weakening the effect), it's easy to appreciate the reason reason for Clark writing it the way he did. This is his song, harkening back to the day when he decided which path he wanted to follow.

That said, it only makes sense that the aggression would eventually be overcome by something else. What I can't help you with in the video is the interspersed skateboarding clips. While the band is happy enough to include skateboarding stills on their Facebook page, it doesn't feel like it fits.

The confessional nature of My Destiny is the likely reason it was picked to promote the album over some of the better tracks, including Wake. The lower tones in Clark's chorus lines and guitar solos make it one of the must have songs from the album. It's also less overt in its message than many tracks, content with waking the fine line between following the masses and self-reliance.

Someone To Hate, We Don't Care, and Resistance are all solid. Someone To Hate best epitomizes the album's title, True Defiance. We Don't Care has a harmonic chorus that cuts up apathy. And Resistance, which is similar to Someone To Hate, is a down tempo contrast.

And then there is Dead Flowers, which can easily be sized up as the band's best ballad. It's about the death of a friend, balancing despondency against hope that they're in a better place and will be seen again. In fact, it is the imagery within Dead Flowers and songwriting of I Am A Stone, released as a bonus track, that represent some of Clark's best lyrics, words he deftly delivers.

True Defiance By Demon Hunter Rips 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

True Defiance isn't a perfect album, even if it is the best Demon Hunter has put out and quells any ideas that this band is past its prime. In fact, they have a long road ahead of them if Clark continues to raise the bar. True Defiance proves he will. At the same time, some songs do tire out faster than others. My remedy is simple. I stick with the best six to nine songs.

True Defiance (Deluxe Edition) by Demon Hunter is available on iTunes, which includes the must-have I Am A Stone. True Defiance (Deluxe Edition) [+Digital Booklet] is also at Amazon. If you are only interested in the original release, you can find the CD at Barnes & Noble.

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