By Jonathan Faulkner
4 out of 5 stars
In the ever changing world of music 2000 seems like forever ago. As Spoken said in their recent Kickstarter Campaign: “Many of the bands we used to tour with are no longer together,” A sentiment I’m sure Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter shares as the bands nearly 20 year career has outlasted a good number of their cohorts. This is especially impressive in a general like Metal where some bands are lucky to have the same lead singer for 10 years, let alone nearly 20. The genre also boasts a number of bands that never really grew up or came into their own. Yeah, we all love the raw sound of certain groups like Underoath, and some bands do strive to keep that raw sound and do become mainstays. But the bands that are often remembered longest craft and hone their sound, the ones that really outlive all the others are the ones who mature in both songwriting and in material.
Demon Hunter’s latest outing Outlive moves beyond the growing pains of Extremist and shows the band at its best since it reached its height with True Defiance 2012. Yes, it is Demon Hunter as we know them, they have incorporated many elements that have made the band one of the most popular names in metal since their 2002 self-titled release. The album has its share of raw, metal driven rockers that will take the listener back to previous albums. At the same time there is a maturity and branching out that is almost refreshing. One could say this is not a Demon Hunter Album, it is something much, much more, and potentially surpassing all that has gone before.
The album opens with another intro-track similar, down to the opening instrumentation and key to “Death” from their previous album, but “Trying Times” does more than just introduce a topic that will be loosely referenced throughout the album, it sets the theme and the tone for the rest of the album. Suffering from both our own faults and suffering because of the pain of life itself. Life can be a trying ordeal and the band is trying to acknowledge that and even offer a little bit of hope. Musically “Trying Times” won’t turn any heads, it may actually inspire a bit of trepidation and discourage you to listen to the rest of the album. But that which makes it weak makes it strong as the elements from Ryan Clark’s Side Project NYVES serve the purpose of building into a Classic Demon Hunter piece “Jesus Wept” Like the slow building of classic television drama that suddenly explodes into high action. The setup almost pulls the listener into a false sense of security.
If “Trying Times” is the set up then “Jesus Wept” and the first single “Cold Winter Sun” are the payoff. The former will catch the attention of both new and old fans and set the bar for the entire album. What was missing on most of Extremist are back for this song which will also remind fans of former masterpieces such as “Someone to Hate” (True Defiance) and “The World is A Thorn” (The world is a thorn). Not only does the track draw on former Demon Hunter Themes musically it also returns to the theme of personal repentance that has long been a central theme of the bands works. (“Eyes wide, see red, I’m why, bloodshed, eyes, wide, so I don’t forget, I’m why, I’m why Jesus wept.”). The latter will appeal to fans of the newer music, reminiscent of “Artificial Light” and “Collapsing” but with a great amount of musical maturity and high guitar rifts than even Artificial Light. The song deals with the difference between serving self and serving the kingdom (“We give way to sorrow, when the self is all we build…. we are the kingdom come, we are the come undone”). All three tracks serve as a 1-2-3 punch to hook you in and get you to listen to the rest of the album, and it’s worth the listen.
In true Demon Hunter style after the quick jump out of the gate the band appropriately slows things down with a beautifully written and wonderfully executed “Died in My Sleep” Though the track does not feel like a traditional Ballad it has ballad like qualities, culminating a chorus that not only shows that the usually hard charging Clark can bring something new to the table vocally, even after all these years. The song almost marries the usual Demon Hunter rifts with the Ballad work that has longed defined them, bringing in more of a rock feel such as that found in “Heart of a Graveyard” from their previous record. If you are wanting for a true, Demon Hunter, Ballad then you will not be disappointed. “Raining Down” follows the outline for a traditional Ballad and is also a standout track for its message. Following the idea that though our lives may be going well and we may have peace and calm in the moment we should remember that in the life of another there may be a storm brewing or a flood coming and so we should not, in our comfort and serenity, close our eyes to the suffering of another. The tag “It may be calm for now, oh but somewhere else.” Is a powerful reminder of this reality and the need to look beyond our own circumstance is essential if we are to live together on this planet.
One thing that is obvious with Outlive is that the band is branching out, this explains the second half of the record which comes off as more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll outing than a metal album. “One Less, Patient and Slight the Odds” are extremely solid pieces but are also a break from what older fans would expect from a Demon Hunter album. Even the four remaining tracks “When I die, Cold Blood, One Less, and The End” which all feature traditional Demon Hunter verse also feature clean choruses. This is not a problem in concept, but may be for the long initiated listeners who want more of what made Demon Hunter famous.
Overall Outlive is a solid Demon Hunter album that shows the band can expand and grow beyond their set parameters. They are willing to try new things and though the experimentation does not always work it still meets the Demon Hunter standard of excellence that now helps govern the Christian Metal industry. The result of the experiment is yet to be seen, but I think fans will warm to the album in the long run.
Record Label: Solid State Records
Album length: 12 tracks: 49 minutes, 56 seconds
- Trying Times (2:23)
- Jesus Wept (2:44)
- Cold Winter Sun (3:25)
- Died in My Sleep (4:43)
- Half as Dead (4:00)
- Cold Blood (4:25)
- One Step Behind (5:09)
- Raining Down (3:44)
- The End (4:39)
- One Less (3:24)
- Patience (5:19)
- Slight the Odds (6:01)
Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary working on Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. Formerly he worked for Altrocklive.com CMG (Christian Music Group).