Review Summary: A fast paced, aggressive album with some great vocal work and amazing tracks.
As one of the most openly Christian bands in the metal scene, Demon Hunter are bound to have some critics all over the place. The idea of Christianity being showcased within metal music is so alien to some people that they write off every band that attempts this despite the fact that many bands that are open about their beliefs in music are actually rather good-listen to Tourniquet's Psycho Surgery for more convincing. Arguably the strongest Christian thrash album you will ever hear. Hopefully, Demon Hunter's album Storm The Gates Of Hell will silence critics everywhere.
This album comes charging from the gates and kicks you straight in the face with the title track. It opens up very fast and aggressive with a thrash sound to it before the last section comes in, using what sounds similar to the main riff from Lamb Of God's Laid To Rest to great effect whilst Ryan Clark roars the line "Hell hath no fury at all." This is probably the strongest way they could have opened this album and sets the tone for it right away-this is one angry record. If you envision Christians as being all nice and sweet and singing about the rose petals in their gardens, guess again, because Ryan Clark is one angry man on this album. He screams his way through tracks such as Sixteen with as much conviction as could be found, spewing out lyrics promoting Christian morals throughout. That particular song speaks of the idea of many Christian bands that achieve success having their fifteen minutes of fame and then returning as sinners, so we should grant them a sixteenth minute of fame so as to wash away their sins and keep them pure. However, Ryan is no stranger to clean choruses and shows just how strong a singer he is on that song as well as tracks such as Lead Us Home, laying down anthemic choruses like few other metal vocalists could hope to accomplish.
The instrumental work here is just as tight as the vocal work and whilst it carries some nu-metal influence in its nature (it is mainly a mixture of open strings and a few notes here), it is not quite as guilty of being lazy as their first album was, and lays down a nice background. The riffs are varied, with the fast paced one on the title track standing out as an example of just how heavy this band can get, but Fading Away has some slower moments that really set it apart from the others. That particular song also has one of the strongest choruses this band has put out, and is rightfully considered to be a classic among their songs by fans of the band. Carry Me Down suggests loving and trusting in someone on the final day of the world, and is highly melodic and the work the drums do to create a nice rhythm is simply phenomenal. It is amazing how such a slow pace can remain interesting even with such a pedestrian beat to it, you will still find it working its way into your head. The chorus here is magnificent and the lyrics throughout are as strong and beautiful as it gets.
The one bone to pick with this release would be that it is just a tad too long. There are a couple of songs that could have been cut due to not quite holding up the standard of the first half of the album - tracks such as Fiction Kingdom, with its odd opening, can not hope to match up to a similarly heavy and angry track such as sixteen. They are by no means awful but do come as a little bit of a let down and feel like filler material used to pad out the album when it is not necessary. Had Fiction Kingdom and Incision been cut, the listener really would not feel the loss as they are both just bland numbers that do nothing particularly interesting. Incision is just a little boring and feels disjointed, with the drumming being surprisingly lackluster compared to the other tracks here. The production is also a little lacking in the respect that the vocals dominate the mix and the bass is completely inaudible, despite the fact that all instruments have a crisp tone to them.
I highly recommend this album to those who enjoy a good metalcore album and are not opposed to lyrics openly promoting themes associated with Christianity. The heavier numbers are mainly enjoyable, with Sixteen and the title track sticking out as the best of the bunch, whilst the more mellow songs pull their weight with ease, crafting a varied and truly fantastic album.