Review Summary: Demon Hunter releases an album that stands up to the best in their catalog due to improved consistency and songwriting
Demon Hunter seems to have thrived on a lack of progression. Their last effort Storm the Gates of Hell
was an exercise in mediocrity and had the feel of a B-sides album for The Triptych
. It was a largely forgettable album that showed a band that needed desperately to move forward with their sound, as stagnancy was dragging them down. Ryan Clark continued to prove that his clean vocals were fantastic and that his harsh vocals were one-dimensional and needed to be layered due to how weak they were. The best songs on Storm the Gates of Hell
were the ones that let Clark sing, as his singing voice has the ability to make any songs much stronger, however his harsh vocals had the complete opposite effect, dragging down songs.
Now, while the artwork for Demon Hunter’s newest effort, The World is a Thorn
(terrible name, by the way,) is not much different, the band seems to have made considerable effort to make some changes to their core sound, some good, some not so good. They seem to have discovered a newfound love for the keys, as best evidenced in “Collapsing,” which also features guest vocals by Speed Strid of Soilwork fame. The thing about the keys though, is that it is being used so much more that when you hear it, it starts becoming a distraction, even hindering parts of songs. It becomes a problem as it overpowers the vocals and instruments. Violins show up in “Driving Nails,” which gives a boost to an otherwise boring song. The most annoying change, by far, is Clark insistence on spoken word, in which he sounds like Lamb of God’s Randall Blythe, yet in almost every instance it is annoying and completely unnecessary.
Everything that is Demon Hunter hinges on the performance of Ryan Clark, there is no doubt about it, and Ryan Clark has made quite the improvement in the vocal department. His clean vocals are as strong as ever, and he has made considerable effort to inject some other dimensions to his harsh vocals. His best performance using his harsh vocals is definitely the song “This is the Line,” showing off both a higher and lower register than is normally heard by Clark. The guest vocalists work as well, with the aforementioned vocals by Strid in “Collapsing,” in which he does a serviceable job, and Christian Alvestam, the former vocalist of Scar Symmetry, shows up in “Just Breathe,” just further proving that Scar Symmetry made a huge mistake in letting him go. Lastly, Dave Peters of Throwdown appears in the song “Feel As Though You Could,” further proving that he and Throwdown are a perfect combination, and he is entirely useless in the song.
The songs on this albums are much more interesting and fun than on Storm the Gates of Hell
. “This is the Line” packs more of a punch than any song since “Undying,” and “Collapsing” feels like a much better version of “Fading Away” off their previous album. “Blood in the Tears” is a wonderful closer, showing the beauty in Clark’s vocals. The best song on the album, however, is the aforementioned “Just Breathe.” Combining the programming and riffs perfectly, with Clark and Alvestam’s vocal performance coming together perfectly. A couple songs just fall flat, however. “Driving Nails” is boring and and sounds like a second-rate version of “Carry Me Down” off of Storm the Gates…
, and “Tie This Around Your Neck” and “Lifewar” are by the numbers songs with uninteresting songwriting and boring choruses.
Demon Hunter has reinvigorated their sound with some additions, all while not turning away from the things that make them Demon Hunter. They have bumped themselves up in the songwriting department, and Clark shows off more range than we knew he had. Demon Hunter knew that if they didn’t change up their sound then fans would get bored, and for the most part they succeeded. Some things don’t work, like the off-putting spoken word and the keyboarding sometimes just falling flat. What we end up with altogether is a fun album with more than its share of highlights.