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Demon Hunger (L-R): Jeremiah Scott (Rhythm Guitar), Jon Dunn (Bass), Ryan Clark (Lead Vocals), Tim “Yogi” Watts (Drums, Backing Vocals), Patrick Judge (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals)
Seattle-based Christian metal act Demon Hunter has returned to the scene with their seventh studio release, Extremist, following what turned out to be a rather successful viral marketing campaign on Instagram, which eventually spilled onto Twitter and Facebook.
[FULL TRANSPARENCY: Demon Hunter has been my favorite band since 2004’s ”Summer of Darkness” release. That said, I will do my best to make sure that this review, as promised in my Contest Entry Video, as fair and un-biased as possible. It’s all about the music, man!]
The album fades in with a short, brooding intro in the opening track “Death,” which features building guitar underneath of nondescript chanting, which immediately reminded me of the prisoners’ chant in The Dark Knight Rises. This gives way to the album introduction of frontman Ryan Clark’s powerful vocal style, immediately roaring life into the album. He is accompanied with the full band ensemble, complete with thrash metal-style blast beats from drummer Tim “Yogi” Watts. The track ends abruptly, in such as manner as to cause the listener to immediately crave MORE.
And more is exactly what we get in the second track of Extremist; the first full-length song of the album, “Artificial Light.” This is the first song off of the album that we heard; first over the phone, and then in all its stereo glory on YouTube. This song features the classic DH sound; harsh shouts and growls during the verses, with driving force behind every chord and beat; and clean vocals during the chorus with a steadying of the rhythm. In its opening, I’m reminded of “Descending Upon Us,” the opening track of DH’s fifth studio album The World is a Thorn.
"Artificial Light" gives way to track 3, "What I’m Not." This song is somewhat less aggressive than "Artificial Light"; a slight slowing down of the tempo, with a healthy mixture of "Anthem" and "Ballad" elements, making it a perfect song to drive to. I’m very much looking forward to driving in warm weather with windows down and car stereo volume WAY up to this song.
Next up is “The Last One Alive,” the first full ballad of Extremist. This is the classic DH ballad style; guitars are fully distorted, but vocals are clean. This is a medium tempo track, so it’s still headbang-worthy. Lyrically-speaking, “The Last One Alive” is gold, especially given Ryan Clark’s explanation of the song’s meaning (Watch it HERE). This song also features one of my favorite guitar leads on this album by lead guitarist Patrick Judge, appearing on his third album with DH.
Immediately following “The Last One Alive” is Extremist's SECOND ballad, “I Will Fail You.” That's right, you heard me. They placed 2 ballads side-by-side on the album. If memory serves, they've never done that before, so this is a break from the normal flow of Demon Hunter's albums. It's not something I personally would have done. That said, this is a very beautiful song. It's full-on downtempo, so the headbang element is gone, allowing for a deeper emotional response to the song.
Track #6, “One Last Song” returns to the classic DH formula represented in “Artificial Light.” This song features one of the catchiest choruses on the album, one that I can hear a whole audience singing at the top of their lungs at a live show, as well as a bridge and post-bridge breakdown that, if only it were longer, would make for perfect MOSH PIT music. It’s also another perfect song to drive to.
Next is “Cross to Bear,”which, if I can be as candid as possible, is FREAKING. BRUTAL. This is the Extremist’s most aggressive track yet. Headbanging and foot-stomping levels are over nine-thousand, with not a clean vocal in sight. I’m reminded of my favorite DH song of all time, “Beauty Through the Eyes of a Predator” from the Summer of Darkness album.
I actually have to laugh at the title of the next song, “Hell Don’t Need Me” (The grammar nazi in me just had a chuckle). This is Extremist's third ballad, virtually crushing the momentum built up by “Cross to Bear.” That said, this is a great song to drive to at NIGHT. Steady rhythm with a stronger musical presence than vocal presence. Honestly, it may be my least favorite track on the album, though not so much that I would skip over it. (You ever have that friend that you like, just not as much as you like your BEST friend? That's what this is.)
And of course, we go right back into METALville with track #9, “In Time.” This song has a pretty epic feel to it. I can hear this as a soundtrack to a battle scene in a Lord of the Rings movie (actually, I just might make that happen, haha). This song also features another one of my favorite lead guitar parts by Patrick Judge, although it seems to end almost as quickly as it begins. This song actually does something else DH has never done before; fade out into an acoustic outro, which is actually a lot better than it sounds. Trust me.
Extremisttakes an interesting turn with the next track, “Beyond Me.” The intro of the song is somewhat mystical, then immediately gives way to good old-fashioned DH speed-metal aggression. The clean vocals over the pre-chorus & chorus come back with a vengeance here, and it appears that the song pays homage to DH recording techniques of yesteryear, with multiple layers of vocal tracks in the verses. A slight nostalgic kick, followed immediately by more of their updated style. And of course, more brutal shredding by Patrick Judge. How anyone could dislike this track is…well…beyond me. #seewhatididthere
"Gasoline" is ballad #4 on Extremist…or IS it? It starts out innocently enough; a little bit less guitar distortion, a little more singing vocals, and then right at the end of the chorus, a fun little unexpected vocal surprise from Ryan Clark. Another carefully-placed breakdown just before the bridge brings the headbang factor up and keeps it there for the rest of the song, then runs you into a brick wall with the ending.
And at last, we arrive at the final regular track of Extremist, titled “The Heart of a Graveyard.” The intro of this song made me check the tab on my internet browser, because I was certain that I had somehow accidentally switched over to an old-school Linkin Park station on Pandora. This gives way to another awesome driving song; heavy & stead, no screaming vocals, but now low-key enough to qualify for “ballad” status, thereby ending Extremist on a medium-high dynamic that leaves the listener more or less satisfied with the experience.
In conclusion, I can very comfortably give Extremist a 3.5/5 star rating. I would have liked to have seen the songs arranged in a different order (but hey, iTunes playlists are a thing), and I would have liked to have seen less dramatic shifts in dynamic throughout the album. I can without a doubt predict that this will likely be my favorite release in 2014.
Extremist releases on Tuesday, March 18.
Demon Hunter - “Extremist”
Solid State Records
02: Artificial Light
03: What I’m Not
04: The Last One Alive
05: I Will Fail You
06: One Last Song
07: Cross to Bear
08: Hell Don’t Need Me
09: In Time
10: Beyond Me
12: The Heart of a Graveyard
I find it remarkably interesting how the American Church’s use of the word “persecution” has been dramatically ramped up in recent years, especially in recent months. From the tragic theater shooting in Aurora, CO, to “National Chick-fil-A Day,” to any natural disaster in recent history, to ANY political election, religious discussion has always tended to enter into the equation. Debate and argument then breaks out, and eventually, the term “persecution” gets thrown into the mix.
Persecution (n.) - a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs
Take a deeper look at that definition. A “program or campaign,” which is an organized and concentrated effort. “Exterminate, drive away, or subjugate”…all words used to imply violent and/or peace-less dismissal.
OK, so let’s take a look at some hard facts. According to a recent chron.com poll, nearly 80% of Americans identify themselves as “Christian.” Now, we could debate all day long as to whether or not everyone who officially identifies themselves as “Christian” are truly Bible-believing followers of Jesus Christ, but that’s a whole different post. The fact remains that an overwhelming majority of the American population openly claims a measure of religious belief.
In addition, there are just over 300,000 churches in America, approximately 1,300 of which are megachurches with more than 2,000 members, representing dozens of denominations and factions. What do they all have in common? Most of them all legally established, tax-exempt religious organizations that are fully permitted to operate and practice religious doctrine and activity within the scope of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
That, my friends, is far, FAR from religious persecution, especially when you consider that America is one of just a handful of countries with such rights as ours. Throughout the world, there are approximately 200 million Christians who face horrific persecution from their governments on a daily basis. Depending on the country, and the laws regarding religious practice, Christians caught in the illegal practice of Christianity could face anything from public ridicule, torture, or death. There have been countless reports of Christian pastors who have been forced to watch as their families have been brutally slaughtered in countries where Christianity is outlawed. Here is just one recent incident in Syria.
This is why I find it so despicable whenever an American Christian, who is legally guaranteed religious freedom to practice and espouse Christianity, cries persecution when their candidate isn’t elected President, or a law they voted in favor of doesn’t pass, or their faith is questioned or criticized by a co-worker, or an atheist neighbor asks them to stop leaving tracts in their front door, etc. It’s an insult to the millions of Christians worldwide who have to worship in secret for fear of death from their government.
Does persecution exist in some measure in the United States? YES. Is it possible that our rights to religious freedom and free speech could be threatened? Of course! Does the American wing of Christianity suffer legitimate persecution at the hands of those who would see the eradication of dissenting views? By no means.
I’ll leave you with this. Christians in this world who face daily persecution are some of the strongest Christians on this planet. They’re dedicated to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of what may happen to them. They face death, yet they do not fear it and they do not back down. They embrace Christ’s words in Matthew 10:22 (“You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”), John 15:18 (“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first.”), and John 16:33 (“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”)
What then does that say about us, when we cry persecution when we’re made fun of at school for wearing a Christian t-shirt that we’re legally allowed to wear? Or when we get on Tumblr/Facebook/Twitter/YouTube and post lengthy rants about how the government is violating the First Amendment rights of Christians because the President isn’t hosting a National Day of Prayer? If we would react this negatively to mere disagreement, I shudder to think of how we’d hold up to legitimate persecution that would see us murdered in the streets for owning a single page of the Bible.
Somehow, through all of that, we seem to forget James’ message in James 1:2-4 (“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”) As our persecuted brothers and sisters in anti-Christian countries demonstrate, it is indeed a beautiful thing when we consider ourselves blessed in the face of animosity and adversity from our peers because of our love of Jesus.
Besides, we constantly talk about our eager anticipation for the return of Jesus. Yet we seem to have forgotten what’s going to come with Christ’s return…the most hellacious period of persecution against Christians this world has ever known. And guess what: it will even happen right here in America. It would do us a great deal of good to be thankful to God for the privileges we enjoy in a country where we face virtually no real recourse for our faith. Perhaps then we’d be able to take our eyes off of ourselves and pray for those who are truly sharing in Christ’s suffering.
I’m going to do another round of Theology Q&A here on Tumblr. If you have any questions regarding faith, God, religion, etc. that you’re curious about, or are holding you back from belief, or you’ve just always kinda wondered, ask them using the “Ask Me Anything” feature on my Tumblr page (black button, upper-right area of the page). I may not be an expert, but I do a lot of reading, studying, and practical application, and I think that previous posts speak for themselves. You can ask anonymously, but any trolling will be ignored.
Okay, I’m going to be blunt here. I am seriously disappointed in all of you who sit there and mock this Amanda Todd suicide and compare it to other suicides. Really guys? Another girl kills herself for whatever reason and all you all care about is her background and who else killed themselves for…
This is the difficult bit. If I got this right, you’re reading this a week after we left in the TARDIS. The thing is, we’re not coming back. We’re alive and well; stuck in New York, 50 years before I was born. I can’t come home again, I won’t ever see you and that breaks my heart. I’m so sorry, Dad. I thought about this for years and I realised, this is what I could do, I could write you a letter, tell you everything about how we lived, about how, despite it all, we were happy. But before I do, I need you to know, you are the best dad any son could have had. And for all the times I drove you mad and you drove me mad, all the times I snapped at you… I’m sorry. I miss everything about you, especially our awkward hugs. I bought a trough, we have a small yard, I garden. But one more important bit of business, the man who delivered the letter, Anthony.. be nice to him ‘cause his your grandson. We finally adopted in 1946: Anthony Brian Williams. He can tell you everything, he’ll have the family albums and I realise having a grandson who’s older than you is so far beyond weird but I’m sorry.
I love you, Dad. I miss you.
We’ve never actually been to one before, so this was a new experience.
After getting our ice cream, I looked at a poster on the wall by the exit door. It was about how proud they are of their “progressive” values, and how they “recognize” that capitalism doesn’t benefit everyone and they support efforts to correct the “injustices” that it causes.
Never eating there again.
I find that incredibly humorous, since they are an American business that benefits from an American capitalist system. Seriously, people, know your place. You’re a business that makes money from selling ice cream. Stick to that. No political views necessary.