Review Summary: Demon Hunter finally embracing their strengths....
Demon Hunter tends to be a divisive band in the music world; a considerable amount of metal fans write them off as contrived religious nonsense, and the average angst-filled Christian teenager heralds them as some sort of modern Metallica. The reality is that neither of these points are truly valid, and Demon Hunter fall somewhere in between. Each of their albums has its high points, including those that have received a less than positive reception (The World Is A Thorn
in particular). Extremist
's predecessor, True Defiance
, saw the band pursuing a significantly heavier sound, but also expanding their melodic sensibilities. This lent the album a well-balanced dichotomy and came off easily as one of their best efforts to date. A sizable portion of the standout tracks from the release happened to be Demon Hunter's trademark melancholy ballads, and they seem to have recognized this to a fuller extent on Extremist
Often labeled a metalcore band, Demon Hunter casts off much of their association with the genre on Extremist
. It may come as a surprise to the uninitiated, but this album really isn't very “extreme” at all. The style flits seamlessly between various genres, including mainstream rock, melodic death metal, thrash metal, and even a surprisingly effective, borderline pop rock, song as a closer. Currently their most diverse effort, Demon Hunter show no fear of experimentation. Of course, they are a band that can afford to do this, thanks to their long-established fan base.
opens with Latin chanting and the sounds of pages being ripped from Anton Lavey's Satanic Bible (no one ever said Demon Hunter are subtle in their message), and segues smoothly into an absolutely relentless two minute display of heaviness. Sure to be a adrenaline-pumping opener live, "Death" prepares the listener for 50 minutes of sheer brutality and extremities. However, this is quickly found to be entirely misleading
The first two tracks are typical Demon Hunter fare, comparable to “Crucifix” and “God Forsaken” from the previous album. They turn out to be two of the most memorable points of the album, with choruses that will stick with you for days. Yet, it is not until the fourth track, “The Last One Alive”, that things start to get extremely interesting. Demon Hunter begins to exhibit a new knack for mainstream rock and metal, and this is not at all a bad thing. They certainly take cues from past ballads for melodies, but add a generally heavier/darker musical backdrop to the style. This results in a sound that is defiantly Demon Hunter, but differs greatly from their previous outings.
Naturally, heavier offerings make sporadic appearances throughout Extremist
's runtime, the most notable being “Cross To Bear” and “Gasoline”. The latter is actually a quite satisfying hybrid between the aforementioned new sound and a more customary metallic riffing style. In direct contrast, “Cross To Bear” is a ferocious display of thrash prowess and makes use of especially vicious lyricism as Clark bellows, “not one of you bastards has a cross to bear!” repeatedly. These tracks are likely to sit well with longtime fans of Demon Hunter's brand of metal.
The production of Extremist
is leagues better than True Defiance
(which I found quite weak), and possibly their best yet. The sharp punch of the drums perfectly accentuates the technical riffing and smooth distortion of the guitar, and the bass is rendered virtually inaudible, as is sadly conventional. Instrumentally, the band has come miles from their lackluster nu-metal debut, making ample use of tasteful guitar solos like never before. Ryan Clark is stunning as usual, displaying an amazing amount of versatility and control over his vocals. There are not many faults to be found in these areas, or in the album as a whole. Demon Hunter have succeeded in making a record that is enjoyable from start to finish, while continuing to diverge from their established sound. They have demonstrated that they are not fading with time, and will instead continue to be one of the most prominent and evolving bands in the scene.