Review Summary: The Switchfoot of Christian metalcore.
I'll be honest: when I was 13 years old, Demon Hunter was pretty ***ing cool. Being a Christian teen raised in a mildly conservative and highly religious household, I started really getting into Christian metalcore at that age. In the car I could play a band like Underoath or August Burns Red, and when my mom inevitably interjected with "This music sounds Satanic!" I could say, "But mom, they're a Christian band!" Storm the Gates of Hell
was one of the first albums I ever bought, and I even purchased and thoroughly enjoyed The World is a Thorn
when that was released. In the four years since then, I have largely abandoned my religion, and in turn I've developed a sort of disdain for Christian music.
If you feel the same way as I do and are willing to forgive the lyrical content, Extremist
ends up being of the better albums Demon Hunter has released in recent years. "Artificial Light" is a fantastic single; its verses contain some of the band's heavier moments to date and the chorus succeeds at being rousing and catchy. Meanwhile, "Cross to Bear" is full-on metalcore, containing no clean vocals at all and it's an absolute blast. That's not to say this is an excellent album. In fact, it's plagued by flaws, albeit different ones than the problems their music has had in the past. At the heart of Extremist
, there's an identity crisis raging on. Sometimes it seems like Demon Hunter is trying their hardest to be a modern day Metallica; on the other hand, songs such as "The Last One Alive" and "I Will Fail You" are practically post-grunge. Even if it's a notch above whatever Nickelback is ***ting out these days, it can still get pretty boring, and at 50 minutes in length the album feels about 10 minutes too long.
's biggest and most pleasant surprises come when it gets genuinely atmospheric. Ryan Clark has always been a capable vocalist, especially in his lower range, and the verses of "Hell Don't Need Me" and "Gasoline" especially benefit greatly from this. The irony of Extremist
is that arguably the best song here sounds nothing like the Demon Hunter we're used to. Album closer "The Heart of a Graveyard" is neither tepid post-grunge nor thrash-influenced metalcore; it's straight up electronic pop rock, and you know what" It's also the catchiest and most compelling song they've done in a long time. If they want to soften up their sound, they'd be far better off making more songs like this instead of "Beyond Me."
Simply put, Extremist
is a somewhat mixed bag of an album from a band who cannot seem to decide where they want to take their sound. Variety can be an excellent thing, to be sure, but I'd much rather have an album full of songs like "Cross to Bear" or even "The Heart of a Graveyard" than what we've been given here. I'm sure the majority of their fanbase was pleased with Extremist
. For the rest of us who aren't completely allergic to Christian metalcore, there are enough gems here to be worth a few listens, but this is certainly not a career-defining album - like Switchfoot, Demon Hunter is one of those bands that has released a lot of genuinely good songs over the course of their career, but they've yet to make a consistently top-tier album, and Extremist
does nothing to change that.