Demon Hunter has proven time after time to be one of the most consistent metal bands of the 21st century. For the past two decades, the Seattle quintet has released new music nearly every other year, and they’ve done so while maintaining a solid core sound. The only other band that’s matched them in this feat is the now-defunct As I Lay Dying, who had ironically compared their constancy to Slayer in a 2011 interview before their vocalist was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence. Now, Demon Hunter isn’t a modern Slayer or anything, but — like the ‘80s thrash icons — they’ve done an admirable job of churning out quality music for the masses without moving too far out of their comfort zone.
However, LP number eight makes a few more progressions than we’re used to from the group. With a larger presence of Ryan Clark’s clean vocals, as well as more balladry and classic rock and metal influence, it’s an intriguing forward step. But three years removed from Extremist, a scorching and fulfilling metalcore display, the band flaunts their abilities while simultaneously sounding a tad out of balance on the follow-up. That’s because, unlike usual, they’re building songs more around melody rather than aggression — and they do so to mixed results. Standing between slower rock anthems and fast metal barn burners, Outlive depicts a band striving — and somewhat struggling — to straddle the in-between.
All four singles combine the heavy and light aspects of the band, but in doing so, the band cancels out some of their furiosity with forgettable moments. The sludgy guitar riff in “Jesus Wept” fronts the album’s most impressive offering, with speedy drums and a chanted chorus showcasing all the great aspects of the five piece’s classic metal-meets-metalcore approach. The bouncy guitars and eerie synth of “Died in My Sleep” combine to complete Demon Hunter’s definitive dark aura, although it lacks in the vocal department. “Half As Dead” doesn’t have half the replay value of its predecessors, as the overreliance on Clark’s cleans and slower instrumentation keeps it from getting it off the ground. Outlive does have its fair share of highs, but it’s also mired by some dead time throughout its 50 minutes.
The second half of the record treads the same middle-ground, with “One Step Behind” and “Raining Down” acting as comfortable hard rock offerings and nothing more. The preceding track, “Cold Blood”, feels much more at home for the band, as Clark goes back and forth between screams and cleans to enrage its verses and heighten its choruses. The only difference is the presence of a nifty guitar solo instead of a breakdown. Throughout the album, the band plays around with solos, further noting the old-school metal influence that’s emerged across their previous four releases.
In its final stages, listeners are bombarded with the same prowess, but less of the standout ability they’ve come to expect from the band. With their mid-tempo ooze, “Raining Down” and “The End” don’t help in this regard. However, an interesting hybrid of melodic and aggressive in “Slight the Odds” is a solid endnote, capping off an LP that leaves listeners wanting a little more. As a whole, the record is far from flawless, but it does provide excitement in spurts.
The career of Demon Hunter has been marked mostly by consistency, and for the most part, Outlive continues this tendency. Even though it’s full of more inconsistencies and dull moments than we’ve come to expect from the group, it’s still a satisfying listen for its blend of rugged metalcore, classic metal technicalities, and hard rock balladry. They may be far past their defining records in Summer of Darkness and The Triptych, but Outlive finds the band trying to move forward. Though not always succeeding, they’ve created a fairly worthwhile metalcore investment in Outlive.
Metalcore | Solid State Records