Demon Hunter is back with their 11th album in the 20th year of the band. Exile is everything you’ve come to know about Demon Hunter, from crushing heaviness and aggression to carefully crafted melodies, all of which tell the story of how tech has taken over in the not-so distant future.
For me it’s hard to believe the debut album from Demon Hunter came out 20 years ago. For those who don’t know, the band was formed by brothers Ryan and Don Clark in 2000. Over the years, the band has released 10 albums won Dove awards, been on mainstream movie soundtracks, toured and played with a wide variety of other well-known metal bands, headlined festivals, and sold likely over a million albums by now since they were at 500,000 in 2010. As Ryan states, neither him nor his brother were great guitar players, so the band typically added others to handle more of the technical guitar parts with Patrick Judge joining around 2009 gave the band more opportunity to explore changes to their sound and then Jeremiah Scott joining in 2011 solidified the band lineup which has remained constant since then. Similar to albums since Extremist (2014), Jeremiah Scott produced and mixed Exile. For Exile the guests include Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Tom Englund (Evergrey) and Richie Faulkner (Judas Priest) who just so happens to live near Nashville and had Jeremiah Scott build out his studio.
To me, the more recent Demon Hunter albums can be divided up into the heavy aggressive tracks and the more melodic, emotional tracks and Exile mostly fits into that. When you combine that with the idea that this is actually a concept album, those differences make sense given the story. In the expanded, deluxe version, there are interludes at various points with narration, but according to Ryan Clark the idea behind the album was to make sure each song could stand on its own, so it’s not your typical concept album in that regard.
“Defense Mechanism” just explodes as the album opens and no doubt guest Max Cavalera felt right at home in the track that has hallmarks of Sepultura and Soulfly. This is one of those songs that really gets things moving with its heavy groove and shouted vocals. Yogi Watt’s drums really come through in parts of the song, adding a definite drive to the track and even at this early point in the album the production and mixing by Jeremiah Scott really shines, especially in the sections where there is quiet or just vocals as those moments carry the same power as the rest of the track.
“Master” is an interesting song as it could fall into that less aggressive more melodic category given Ryan Clark’s smooth vocal delivery but the arrangement of the track delivers heavy blows in the verse sections that put it in with the heavier tracks. The band released this song as a video of a one-take vocal which is definitely impressive and worth checking out. Add in a careful use of vocal effects in the arrangement and this is another standout track.
For “Silence the World” the band brought in Tom Englund (Evergrey) for some guest vocals and the fit perfectly within the track which reminds me a lot of Evergrey in terms of the emotion in the vocal performance and moody atmosphere in general. For those who don’t know Evergrey, definitely check them out. I just reviewed their most recent album, A Heartless Portrait, which is a progressive melodic metal masterpiece. As if this were an Evergrey song, the track clocks in over 7 minutes in length. “Praise the Void” fits well with “Silence the World” and is melodic, slower but still heavy. Ryan Clark’s distinct vocals work perfectly in this style of song and are in that sense similar to Tom Englund’s even though the two bands approach their music differently.
“Heaven Don’t Cry” has the band returning toward the more aggressive sound but not to the same level as in “Defense Mechanism” which has been a characteristic of Demon Hunter over the years. They manage to bridge the melodic and heavy with driving rhythms, layered guitar riffs and smooth vocals with chorus sections that tend to stick with you. “Another Place” has a bit of that Seattle-feel to it, in particular Alice in Chains in terms of overall song structure and vocal phrasing.
In contrast the tracks right before it, “Freedom is Dead” goes right back to the intensity of “Defense Mechanism”. Clark’s vocals are a bit distorted throughout, guitars are driving and heavy and in the verse sections have an eerie, horror movie sound to them that shifts into overdrive during parts of the song which are more reminiscent of some rough punk tracks in some sections. This is one of those songs live that will certainly inspire chaos on the floor.
“Revolutions” is one of those tracks where the band blends the aggressive with the softer melodic, opening with a fast heavy riff before the smooth vocals come in and slow things down. Add in some soaring vocals contrasting with some growled, shouted ones and then have the song shift back to the faster riffs and driving rhythms and you can almost get a complete picture of Demon Hunter in one song.
For “Godless”, the band brought in Richie Faulkner (Judas Priest) to lend his guitar work and the song is heavily driven by the guitars as one might expect, which is cool to see that it just wasn’t a guest solo on a song that the band had in mind. Richie’s guitar work is incorporated well within the song which also has the bass of Jonathan Dunn being more prominent in some sections compared to other tracks. The extra guitar shines throughout the track showing how the track was built around the guitar versus having the guitar added as an afterthought.
The regular version of the album closes with the epic 8 minute track “Along the Way” which again is one of the slower, more emotional melodic styled songs from the band showcasing Ryan Clark’s vocals and some excellent songcraft in creating the track that ebbs and flows and makes good use of the quiet and silence.
At this point, one should expect Demon Hunter to deliver an album filled with a combination of melodic tracks with catchy hooks and heavy, aggressive tracks suited for chaos and destruction. Over the years, I’ve seen them several times live and listened to nearly all of their albums and they are one of the constants in metal. You know what to expect with every album and they deliver. Strong performances, expert production and songs that stick with you, both the aggressive and the melodic softer ones. Exile fits perfectly…
Written by John Jackson
- Defense Mechanism (Feat. Max Cavalera)
- Silence The World (Feat. Tom S. Englund)
- Heaven Don’t Cry
- Another Place
- Freedom Is Dead
- Praise The Void
- Godless (Feat. Richie Faulkner)
- Along The Way
- Ryan Clark / vocals
- Patrick Judge / lead guitar
- Jeremiah Scott / rhythm guitar
- Jonathan Dunn / bass
- Yogi Watts / drums
Release Date: 28th. Oct. 2022
Record Label: Weapons MFG
2002: “Demon Hunter”
2004: “Summer of Darkness”
2005: “The Triptych”
2006: “The Triptych Deluxe Edition CD/DVD
2007: “Storm The Gates of Hell: Fan Edition
2007: “Storm The Gates of Hell: Special Edition CD/DVD
2007: “Storm The Gates of Hell (2007)
2008: “45 Days CD/DVD [review]
2009: “Live In Nashville”
2010: “The World Is A Thorn”: Deluxe Edition CD/DVD
2010: “The World Is A Thorn”
2011: “Death, A Destination” [3 album set]
2011: “The World Is A Thorn”: Deluxe Edition (Digital)
2012: “True Defiance” [review]
2014: “Extremist” [review]
2019: “War” [review]
2019: “Peace” [review]
2021: “Songs of Death and Resurrection” [review]
Weblinks: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Spotify / Instagram / Tik Tok
Video for ‘Freedom is Dead’
Visualizer video for ‘Defense Mechanism’
Video for ‘Silence The World’ feat. Tom S. England
Video for ‘Master’ a one-take vocal:
Video (audio) for ‘Godless’