Review Summary: Weep for the life that you've led
It is a rare thing indeed for a band to write their best album to date six records into their career. Rarer still is it that a band continues to evolve and experiment with music after over a decade of writing and touring in what has become familiar to them. Demon Hunter has previously shown that they are not afraid to stray out of their comfort zone, having ventured into the realm of death metal with their album The World Is A Thorn
. With the release of True Defiance
, the band assured their listeners that they were not even close to their decline.
Right out of the gate, True Defiance
hits with a fast paced drum beat that could have been taken straight from a Black Flag record on the opening track Crucifix
, which is followed by a series of songs that each have their own distinct flavor and influences, making one wonder if this is the still the same band that released Storm The Gates Of Hell
(not a terrible album, but it doesn’t vary much when it comes to structure or sound). The only time the band seems to slip back into the traditional Demon Hunter song structure is with the second and third to last songs on the album: We Don’t Care
. One of the most remarkable things about this record is the song Means To An End
. Demon Hunter has never released a solely instrumental track, and Means To An End
does an exquisite job as a palate cleanser and transition to the last part of the album. The closing track Dead Flowers
is a ballad whose synthesized instrumental melody harkens one back to tracks such as The Tide Began to Rise
and My Heartstrings Come Undone
. However, if there is one flaw with the ending to True Defiance
, it is that I Am A Stone
(included as a bonus track on the deluxe version of the album) would have been a much better closer. While Dead Flowers
is not a weak song, I Am A Stone
features both some of Ryan Clark’s best written lyrics, and the band’s best composition so far of a song offering only a string section as instrumentation. As True Defiance
is Demon Hunter’s most experimental and diverse album to date, it would have been apt to end with a song that showcases how far the band has come.
One of the most impressive improvements in the band is the drumming of Yogi Watts. In past Demon Hunter records, the percussion has taken a backseat to guitars and vocals, but True Defiance
brings a sense of balance to the band’s instrumentation. There are multiple songs on the album where it is evident that the drums drive both the rhythm and dynamic, most notably on the tracks God Forsaken
, and This I Know
. The drums typically just define the syncopation of the guitars and vocals, but on Wake
, the drums switch to a different beat halfway through the verse while the other elements remain consistent, causing the dynamic of the music to change drastically.
The other notable improvement on True Defiance
is the vocals of Ryan Clark. Clark continues to push the limits of his vocal chords, increasing both his vocal and screaming range. Both the melodies and harsh vocals on this record are much better and more hard-hitting than Demon Hunter’s previous work, but the most pleasing change that Clark made with the vocals on this album was their pervasiveness. Over the past five records, the vocals have been prevalent in nearly every moment of every song, but this record reveals that Clark has matured enough as a songwriter to know when to let the song breathe, letting both the emotion of the instrumentation and the meaning of his lyrics to soak in for the listener.
would have earned a solid 5.0 on this review, if it were not its fatal flaw: the guitar solos. Patrick Judge is nowhere near an incompetent soloist; we know this from his writing on The World Is A Thorn
and his previous work in the southern metal group The Showdown. However, it seems that he has not fully mastered the knowledge that not every song on a metal album needs a guitar solo. The solos are very technically impressive, but their presence in nearly every song on the album slightly homogenizes an otherwise diverse cast of tracks.
As a whole, True Defiance
is the closest that Demon Hunter has ever come to a flawless record, and will stand out as one of their best albums for years to come.
Tomorrow Never Comes
I Am A Stone