Review Summary: An album full of metalcore cliches and unrealized potential.
I remember when I first heard the title track to Seattle-based headbangers Demon Hunter. I honestly wasn't expecting a whole lot, because although I had thoroughly enjoyed some of their previous work, it seemed to me that they had started going downhill after the release of The Triptych. But instead of the fairly standard metalcore fare that was presented on STGOH, I was, for a wonderful 2 minutes 35 seconds, bludgeoned by a maelstrom of machine-gun double bass, thrashy-as-hell guitars, and grating vocals. Now this was what it was all about. DH had once again displayed to me that writing ballads wasn't the only thing they were good at: they could be pretty damn metal when they wanted too, a forgotten fact for a couple of albums. I walked to school the next day with my head held high, and a renewed hope in the abilities of the first metal band I ever enjoyed. And then, the night it was released, I heard the album.
Seeing as how high my expectations were, I was, for a few blissfully ignorant hours, enthralled by the album. I kept on telling myself that this one trumped all those before it: it had better songwriting, better musicianship, more variety, and more heaviness... I even had it rated a 4 for a while. And then I realized the truth (there is no spoon). That truth was that is was actually really, really, well... average.
God damn it, dude.
All the aspects I used to convince myself that this album was good, to some extent, still apply. It is more technical. The songwriting is good. There is more variety. It is heavier. But the problem isn’t what is there: it’s what isn’t. Take opener Descending Upon Us as an example. It exemplifies the album, in that it’s promising at first listen, but could be so much more than what it is. The opening riff is one of the heaviest things the band has written, but it follows the verse-chorus structure blindly, there’s little variation, and the chorus is annoying. Catchy, but just not very good; in other words, your basic metalcore chorus. This trend of unrealized potential is brought to life in other tracks, with Driving Nails, Shallow Water, and Just Breathe being but a few examples. Driving Nails, in particular, disappointed me. While it has one of the best choruses in my iTunes library, it is severely marred by boring verses, bad lyrics, and vocals that are so overproduced that they almost sound autotuned (this is a problem elsewhere, as well). Songs with unrealized potential aside, some are just bad (Tie This Around Your Neck), and some are downright atrocities (LifeWar).
With the bad and boring comes some good, of course. As stated before, Driving Nails has a killer chorus, and proves that Clark is still a damn good singer. Collapsing, while feeling fairly boring and mainstream on first listen, is actually a solid and fairly complex track, with a well-placed appearance by Soilwork’s Björn Strid. This is the Line is a song that one could imagine becoming a favorite live track, with a driving riff and a fist-pumping, anthemic chorus. Feel As Though You Could is a more interesting track that manages to be heavy without being monotonous and clichéd, like Descending Upon Us, and bonus track Desire the Pain is a heavy, yet strangely happy-sounding song. The title track, as stated before, is completely badass. So, here’s to hoping that the band expands on the obvious potential shown on this record. It’s been obvious from, previous records that they have talent; they just need to figure out exactly how to use it.