There’s really no need for any introduction to these giants. However over the years, Demon Hunter’s sound has slowly transformed from that signature “DH” sound to a cleaner vocal driven sound. With mixed responses, Ryan Clark has continued to showcase his pipes with an impressive vocal range and control.
So here we are not even two years after Outlive with two brand new albums from the band. The two are musically separated into two categories. War handles the heavier side of Demon Hunter, while Peace handles the softer side. What’s most important to point out here is that Peace isn’t just an album of ballads. The songs stylistically range from the sound of “I Am A Stone” to “I Will Fail You.” However, onward to War, what does it have to offer?
“Cut to Fit” wastes no time in great Demon Hunter fashion with fast riffs and screams. The song is lyrically fascinating throughout. With lines like “If I remember this day when the war is through and all the fires that were leading to this/Then I’ll be civil in the corner I was backed into/A lot slower to raise my fist.” The chorus mentions the title of the song saying “Found a world of pain/And cut it to fit in the place of my heart.” Without knowing the perspective and motivations of such lyrics, it’s still meaningful and deserves recognition as most Demon Hunter songs do.
“On My Side” was the first single released off of War. The song is catchy and has one of the most memorable choruses in DH history. It’s here once again that Clark fully gives us what he can do with his voice. Paired with arguably the most recognizable scream in the industry, he also has wide range to suit any song’s sound. This isn’t really news to anyone familiar with Demon Hunter, however as the years have gone by, it’s obvious he’s spent time improving it to an envious quality.
There are less moments on War than usual where lead guitarist Patrick Judge gets to rip all over the fret board, but “Close Enough” isn’t one of them. After listening to the track, if I could talk to that guitar, I’d ask it “What did he just do to you?” On top of the shredding, the track also features a prolonged and vicious breakdown before going into a final chorus.
I should point out that the less often guitar solos isn’t a negative thing as I once thought it to be. After listening to the album many times, I realized that Judge picks his spots carefully on the album to shred. This gives the solos much more meaning rather than just being placed on every song just because he can. When the solos come, it gives a hair raising feel instead of a ‘here’s where a solo goes,’ thought.
Two tracks on the album standout as just ferocious onslaughts similar to the recent hit “Jesus Wept” on Outlive. “Unbound” and “Ash” are some the heaviest songs released in their discography. The latter is just about as thrashy as you will ever hear the band.
One of the few softer songs on the album (which isn’t to say it’s a soft song) has a lot to say. “Grey Matter” speaks of people who claim the same belief has Clark, but he separates himself from them. You can draw whatever conclusions you want about the specifics of who he’s referring to however obvious it is given today’s social climate. “We are not the same. You don’t speak for me. All your matter’s grey. My world is black and white.” This is also another track that features a capturing solo from Judge.
There is so much to unpack on this LP. There hasn’t been a Demon Hunter album that has more deep meaning and scathing lyrics. When each new song comes up on War, it’s clear that Clark still hasn’t said all he wants to say. “No Place for you Here” continues this trend. The song seems to be about leaders who are supposed to “lead our blind” but then say “There is no place for you here. Don’t waste your time.”
“Lesser Gods” closes the album on a significant and epic hook. The ending track keeps you guessing with each section. Once starting slowly, then explodes into a frantic and shredding riff, then returning to slow layered vocals. The track also features Judge on the organ, as well as Jeremiah Scott playing an ominous guitar. The best Demon Hunter albums end on a song that within the first 10 seconds causes the listener to recognize that this is it, this is the finale. War is no exception to this, and we know we’re listening to a finale.
Any review about a Demon Hunter album would be incomplete without mentioning what each band member brings to the table. Bassist Jonathan Dunn compliments the guitar tracks without just blindly following in each song. “Yogi” Watts is again an animal on the drums with a calm precision that I’ll forever be jealous of.
So many bands come and go, however great they are, they come and go. Some bands stick around too long and it becomes clear they don’t have much more to offer than what they’ve already given. To borrow a theme from “A Star is Born,” they didn’t have much to say. Well here we are fifteen years after Demon Hunter’s first album and Ryan Clark still has plenty to say and people are listening. Whether you consider War the ninth or tenth album, Demon Hunter has stood the test of time and found a way to not only continue to be relevant, but stay among one of the most impressive and memorable bands in the scene. War is an accomplishment and a testament to the significance of the band.