Demon Hunter – “War” & “Peace”

 Posted by on March 17, 2019 at 15:23  Add comments
Mar 172019
 

Demon Hunter have simultaneously released two albums of material that divides up their more melodic side from their heavier darker side in the albums War and Peace, both of which are filled with heavy riffs, strong vocals, and catchy hooks and choruses…essentially treating fans to two normal albums of material at once bound by the theme, “War in every breath / Peace in only death.”

For those who haven’t heard of Demon Hunter, the band was formed in 2000 by brothers Ryan and Don Clark who at the time were also in the chaotic Training for Utopia, which is another band worth checking out.  Over the years the band has released 10 albums, won numerous Dove Awards for their music, been featured on soundtracks, become a staple on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, toured and played shows with some of the biggest bands (Ozzy, Kiss, Marilyn Manson, Gojira), headlined festivals like Rock the Desert and Uprise Fest, and even by 2010 had sold over 500,000 albums.  A regular on the Billboard charts, War and Peace were #7 and #8 n the Billboard current albums chart as of March 12, and #2 and #3 in the Hard Rock category.  As one might imagine, the band has gone through some lineup changes over the years, most notably in 2009 when brother Don Clark left the band for family and career reasons.  Since 2011, when Jeremiah Scott joined on rhythm guitar, the lineup has been stable and over the course of the band’s history, the guitar roles have been the ones most likely to change, with the lone exception of original drummer Jesse Sprinkle being replaced by Tim “Yogi” Watts in 2004. Similar to their last two albums, Outlive (2017) and Extremist (2014), War and Peace were produced by guitarist Jeremiah Scott and mixed by Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Queensrÿche, Hatebreed), who once again have perfectly captured the band’s metal heaviness that is balanced with the powerful melodies the band is known for.

Admittedly, I haven’t really paid much attention to Demon Hunter since picking up their Live in Nashville album in 2009 at Cornerstone Festival.  Until that point, I had all their albums and was hooked ever since hearing “Through the Black” on a Solid State compilation in early 2002.  After that, there were so many rumors about who was in the band beside the Clark brothers and that iconic logo of a demon skull with a bullet hole in it, that I was eagerly anticipating the release of the debut album.  I can still remember hearing the opening track from that album “Screams of the Undead” which to me had a bit of the Training for Utopia sound combined with an underlying melody and the clean vocals that were a perfect contrast to the raspy growled and shouted vocals.  War starts out the same way and instantly brings me back to why I originally liked Demon Hunter.  “Cut to Fit” starts out with a subdued opening that builds, adding tension before launching into a heavy, pounding riff and Ryan Clark’s vocals sounding even more desperate and ragged on the verse sections but switching nicely to clean for bridge/chorus sections that are punctuated by underlying ragged vocals.  The main verse sections have the rhythm section of Dunn and Watts literally pounding the listener with the production and mixing making sure the music is felt.  Throughout War, one can’t help but hear influences from the likes of Soilwork, Scar Symmetry and In Flames in some of the heavier, faster tracks like “ On My Side”, “Ash”, and “Lesser Gods”.  The speed and intensity in “Ash” shows the band at its best and unfortunately is the only song of its kind in structure and composition on the album and just around 3 minutes long is also the only one that doesn’t have the clean chorus sections Demon Hunter is famous for. “Lesser Gods” closes out the album and similar to “Cut to Fit” starts out with an intro section that builds, in this case one that is also a bit reminiscent of the guitars in the track “Black Sabbath”.  The song then picks up and as it progresses, speeds up and slows down variations on the opening with eerie, near spoken vocals alternating with ragged screams in the bridge/chorus sections which is a switch from the normal structure but really works well here.  Much of War will not seem too different from a normal Demon Hunter release, especially with the more ballad-like “Grey Matter” that seems a bit out of place on this album.

In contrast to War, one would think Peace might be mostly the ballad-like songs Demon Hunter has done in the past, and for the most part that would be correct.  One of the aspects of previous Demon Hunter albums was that these tracks would be sprinkled through an album and not concentrated on one, so that does present some challenges for those looking for the heavier side of things. “ More than Bones” has a great, fast driving pace with Watt’s drums coming through clearly in the verse sections driving the song along and an ultra-catchy chorus.  “When the Devil Come” stands out as quite different with its rolling Western-like tone and feel, again driven along by Watt’s drumming paired perfectly with Clark’s smooth vocals. The band seems to take more chances on Peace than on War with songs like “Loneliness” and “Two Ways” slow things down a bit, aiming for an almost sludgy guitar riff at times, while on the opposite side of the spectrum “Recuse Myself” is a keyboard heavy track with an alternative/industrial feel.  As if to emphasize the idea of Peace, the closing track “Fear is Not My Guide”  beautifully combines just piano and clean, heartfelt vocals.

Demon Hunter certainly are taking some chances in potentially dividing their audience by providing albums that contain part of their overall sound, a mix many of us have come to appreciate.  To my ears, the heavier, darker tracks on War stand out above the brighter, clean, and slower-paced tracks on Peace, but that may just be my personal bias showing through.  Either way, these albums have reminded me of why I liked Demon Hunter after not listening to them for the last 9 years.

War Rating: 8/10

Peace Rating: 7/10

Written by John Jackson

“War” track listing:

01. Cut To Live
02. On My Side
03. Close Enough
04. Unbound
05. Grey Matter
06. The Negative
07. Ash
08. No Place For You Here
09. Leave Me Alone
10. Lesser Gods

“Peace” track listing:

01. More Than Bones
02. I Don’t Believe You
03. Loneliness
04. Peace
05. When The Devil Come
06. Time Only Takes
07. Two Ways
08. Rescue Myself
09. Bet My Life
10. Fear Is Not My Guide

Discography:
“Demon Hunter” (2002)
“Summer of Darkness” (2004)
“The Triptych” (2005)
“The Triptych Deluxe Edition CD/DVD (2006)
“Storm The Gates of Hell: Fan Edition (2007)
“Storm The Gates of Hell: Special Edition CD/DVD (2007)
“Storm The Gates of Hell (2007)
“45 Days CD/DVD (2008) [review]
“Live In Nashville” (2009)
“The World Is A Thorn”: Deluxe Edition CD/DVD (2010)
“The World Is A Thorn” (2010) [review]
“Death, A Destination” [3 album set] (2011)
“The World Is A Thorn”: Deluxe Edition (Digital) (2011)
“True Defiance” (2012) [review]
“Extremist” (2014) [review]
“Outlive” (2017) [review]
“War” (2019)
“Peace” (2019)

Release date: March 1st. 2019

Record Label: Solid State Records

Band Members
Ryan Clark – Vocals
Patrick Judge – Lead Guitar
Jeremiah Scott – Rhythm Guitar
Jonathan Dunn – Bass
Yogi Watts – Drums

Weblinks: Website / Twitter / Facebook

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video for ‘On My Side’

Lyric video for ‘Fear is Not My Guide’

Lyric video for ‘Lesser Gods’

 

 

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