To say that Demon Hunter’s sound has matured since the likes of Storm The Gates Of Hell
and The Triptych
would be a pretty accurate statement. Their sound is more streamlined, refined, and just comes off as a much smoother and more thoughtful approach which didn’t sort of dive in head first. However, maturity in songwriting does not always mean improvement in songwriting. On The World Is A Thorn
, Demon Hunter continue to use their core sound as a crutch, despite noticeable re-working of other aspects of their musical display. No matter how melodic the riffs get, no matter how catchy the choruses are, no matter how many Swedish vocalists they “feature”, the music remains immensely boring, uncreative, and lethargic. So, despite the fresh coat of paint hastily sprayed on The World Is A Thorn
, the underlying layer continues to bleed right through.
From the annoyingly and purposefully catchy “Collapsing” (which features Bjorn Strid of Soilwork fame) to the poor pseudo-growls of Ryan Clark, the album just screams mediocrity. As the band’s self-proclaimed “heaviest but most melodic” album to date, one would expect a slew of interesting and memorable melodies amidst the heavy back-end of down-tuned chords to create a really swift bite that will work its way in when needed. Instead, the chords remain floating in oblivion, randomly entering and exiting as the catchy and melodic leads steal the show away with their similar-sounding and, in time, tiresome dominance of simple harmonies and boring solos. Redeemed partially by Clark’s clean vocals which are both impressively emotional and on-key, the display on songs like the ballad “Driving Nails” is both a saving grace to the album, but also a bridge into the radio-friendly world which, in the case of “Driving Nails” or the closer "Blood In The Tears", is something which really doesn’t bother me.
It’s a shame, though, because Clark’s growls are so laughably bad that they eradicate nearly every redeeming quality which his singing brings forth. Throaty, inexcusably underpowered and often immensely irritating, they detract from any good qualities the album contains and instead makes you wish that the heavier songs would be drastically shorter. Couple them with throw-away riffs like the ones contained in the title track “The World Is A Thorn” and you have the making of pretty much all of the filler on the album. Amidst the bass which does absolutely, positively nothing and the drumming which never manages to catch your attention, the only hope the album has is the promise of the next interesting hook or cleanly-sung chorus. It leaves the album with precious few notable moments and a plethora of bland, forgettable material.
When you have guest vocalists who far and away surpass the talent of your own vocalist (see ex-Scar Symmetry vocalist Christian Alvestam on “Just Breathe”, whose growls are quite possibly the heaviest thing on the album, which gives you a feel of just how lackluster the album is), there should be a light going off somewhere saying that maybe there needs to be some improvement. Nonetheless, Demon Hunter press forth with The World Is A Thorn
, the most forgettable album of their career, and quite possibly the point which will make the precious few who still have hope for Demon Hunter just give up entirely. This is one of those albums which you will barely remember immediately after you listen to it, and it is certainly an album which will simply be buried and forgotten given a few months.