When I first started getting into metal, the first three bands I was exposed to were Underoath, As I Lay Dying and Demon Hunter. I recall countless plays of Demon Hunter’s Storm the Gates of Hell and The Triptych – albums full of beautiful balladry, gutty instrumentals, dark vibes, and an intensity unmatched by many metal bands of today. In a day and age when only a select few are able to perfect metal, Demon Hunter did. True Defiance, the newest offering from the band, takes all the elements of Demon Hunter’s punctuating sound, turns everything up a degree or two, and assures that no single minute of this record lacks the passion that put the band on the metal map in the first place.
What impresses me the most about this album is Demon Hunter’s ability to wrap their sound together and make it feel tight and compact. True Defiance is definitely the band’s most focused record. Their 2010 release The World is a Thorn was a bit more experimental (and harder to get into) than their older material, but True Defiance stays fixed on a more immaculate sound characterized by pulverizing guitar riffs that sound inspired by both classic and contemporary heavy metal, drum hits that crash and clatter, and Ryan Clark’s hearty vocal attack. It could be called a more straightforward approach, as the band’s sound is definitely more polished and marketable than their past works. Many fans may strike them down because of this, and I don’t blame them; however, I was still able to adjust to the band’s steadfast approach and appreciate their dynamics anyway.
Even with a more straightforward metal approach, Demon Hunter still strives to keep this record as genuine as possible, and this is mostly due to the great songwriting bleeding through the album’s heart. The band really outdid themselves on the lyrics, and songs like “Someone To Hate” and “Wake” feed off of the passion, transferring this energy into a sound that is full of meaning. Every guitar riff, every brutal melody, every frantic guitar solo, and every vocal cry is full of intense, emotional reverberations that are easily able to hold their own. It’s hard to recall Demon Hunter’s passion rising to levels quite like this in any of their past material. The band interchanges their remedial vocation with their brisk sound, and this makes for some of their most emotional ballads (“Dead Flowers”) stealthiest metal anthems (“God Forsaken”) to date.
True Defiance is powerful, even if it resonates sharply on the hinges of other metal acts that are like them, such as Haste The Day and Underoath. But with a more open mind, this record is chock full of depth, from its dazzling instrumental onslaught to the great vocal approach from Clark – a mix of cleans and screams that have evolved into a routine ravaging. Though there are some prizes of the pack, such as “Crucifix” and “Wake,” in its entirety the album sounds much stronger with its 11 tracks than any other Demon Hunter record – even if there isn’t one single track that matches up with “One Thousand Apologies” or “Carry Me Down.” A clash of brutality, melody, and meaning makes this one incredible piece of art.
Demon Hunter has done a more-than-ample job of creating arguably their staunchest work, pulling away from modern metal releases that sound gimmicky and overproduced. This results in a record that sounds good, is well-written, and represents the band’s philosophy well. Older fans will easily connect with True Defiance, and hopefully its easy palatability will help garner new fans. This record sounds mainstream and takes a fairly straightforward approach, but still doesn’t lack musically or lyrically. With how much enjoyment I found in Demon Hunter’s past releases, I have to say that this might just become my favorite album of theirs to date.