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Greetings! My name is Matthew, and I love to listen to all types of metal. I'm a high school English teacher and aspiring writer. I also write reviews for the Metal Utopia webzine!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Demon Hunter - "True Defiance" Review

 I changed up how I am writing the reviews (both content-wise and the scale) so please give me feedback on the new system.  Thanks!

Demon Hunter - True Defiance
Solid State Records
Genre:  Metalcore

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Ryan Clark (vocals)
Patrick Judge (guitar)
Jeremiah Scott (guitar)
Jonathan Dunn (bass)
Yogi Watts (drums)

Track listing:
1.  Crucifix (3:44)
2.  God Forsaken (5:49)
3.  My Destiny (4:16)
4.  Wake (4:13)
5.  Tomorrow Never Comes (4:54)
6.  Someone to Hate (5:25)
7.  This I Know (4:05)
8.  Means to an End (2:51)
9.  We Don't Care (3:37)
10.  Resistance (4:25)
11. Dead Flowers (5:24)

True Defiance is Demon Hunter’s sixth studio album and the next in a line of passionate, well-crafted albums.  Known for their zealous fans and the intermingling of screamed and sung passages, the band has been signed to Solid State records for the entire duration of their eventful career.  From the tight, almost industrial sound of their debut self-titled album to their last darkly resonant work The World is a Thorn, Demon Hunter has provided ample ammunition for critics and fans alike.  So what’s the hype with True Defiance?  The band has stated that this is the “heaviest” album that they have released thus far.  To be honest it’s on parallel with The World is a Thorn in terms of overall grit.  The album marks a rather obvious growth in the musicianship of the band members.  Demon Hunter has never been a band that incorporates a lot of guitar solos, but it seems like Patrick Judge (The Showdown) sat down with a few fans and had a short conversation.  “How can Demon Hunter improve?”  “A bunch of crazy awesome guitar solos,” would be the eager fan’s reply.  The solos on True Defiance are well-crafted, technical, and for the most part show musical discipline (the solos fit well into the structure of most of the songs and the listener doesn’t get the vibe that Judge is simply showing off).  Demon Hunter has always had a good rhythmic guitar section, and while I don’t think that it quite lives up to The Triptych, Jeremiah Scott (The Showdown) is no slouch.  On the other end Ryan Clark (ex-Training for Utopia) is a virtuoso vocalist.  He has always paired his hardcore screams with a beautiful voice that fluctuates in range from a grave baritone to an occasional graceful tenor.  As if in a race to completely outdo himself, he has now added a new inflection to his screams.  Songs like My Destiny show Clark experimenting in a mid-to-high octave range.  So what about the drums?  Good ol’ Yogi (The Showdown) is back on the kit and the percussion end is solid.  However, there is nothing that stands out as exemplary.  I’ll briefly touch the bass guitar, although it’s not something that Demon Hunter has been noted for—the bass is mostly there for backup on the low end of chords and Jonathan Dunn is proficient in this regard.  It would be nice to see more bass in the future. 
            True Defiance is a record that is full of catchy choruses, sheer brutality, and tantalizing ballads.  Crucifix is a hammering start that brings distinct echoes of The World is a ThornGod Forsaken is one of the highlights of the album and features driving guitars and an emotion-filled chorus.  The chord progression in the introduction shows the ability of the band to write memorable melodic riffs.  Tomorrow Never Comes is a solid mid-paced ballad but is eclipsed by other songs in Demon Hunter’s discography such as One Thousand Apologies and Thorns.  Somewhere towards the middle to the end of the record Demon Hunter begins to momentarily derail.  Means to an End is an insipid instrumental that’s inglorious filler.  It may be executed well, but there’s nothing that stands out and the listener is momentarily bored.  However, the band quickly gets back on track with We Don’t Care, which has one of the best choruses on the album.  Demon Hunter closes with a stunning ballad that runs circles around the “modern” music industry.  Dead Flowers is an instant fan favorite and one of the best ballads that the band has ever written.  You’ll be singing along in no time to the soaring chorus and your heart will be wrenched out of its chest cavity in response:  “Dead Flowers for the torn apart / Laid at the grave to heal a broken heart…”

            Demon Hunter has no qualms about the Christian content of their lyrics.  While some bands slowly let the world seep into their lives, Demon Hunter bucks the trend and is headed in the opposite direction.  Never has the band’s message been more lucid.  While in the past much of the meaning has been veiled in metaphorical language, the last two albums have put Demon Hunter’s beliefs on the table cold turkey, so to speak.  The lyrics on True Defiance are some of the best that the band has ever penned.  There is a dark, poetic sensibility ingrained within the words that shows a mature outlook.  In a nutshell the lyrics embody the Christian ideal of redemption:  wake up and realize your error, smash your idols, and resist the flaming darts of the Enemy.  There will be causalities along the way, but those who exemplify True Defiance will be exonerated in the end.
            Is True Defiance Demon Hunter’s finest work?  Who can say?  I personally don’t think that they’ve released a mediocre record.  The album isn’t perfect, but it gets the job done.  Long-time fans of Demon Hunter will be slavering over this like a pack of cackling hyenas.  Metalcore fans who like a bit of melodic sensibility in their music would do good to check the band out.  True Defiance is a rigorous and definitive monument in the annals of a stagnant genre filled with impersonating hopefuls and downright poor musicianship. 

Overall rating:  8.7 out of 10.0 (Excellent)

Musicianship:  9.0 out of 10.0
Song structure:  8.5 out of 10.0
Album structure: 8.5 out of 10.0

How did I come up with my rating?  I rate the following categories:  musicianship, song structure, and album structure.  I then take an average of these three scores and come up with an overall rating.

1.0-2.9 (Poor:  musicianship is poor, song structures are haphazard, no directional flow)
3.0-4.9 (Good:  musicianship is sloppy, song structures are undeveloped, flow is hampered)
5.0-6.9 (Average:  musicianship is adequate, song structures are good, flow works most of the time)
7.0-8.9 (Excellent:  musicianship is very good, song structures are thought out, songs connect well)
9.0-9.9 (Superior:  musicianship is superb, song structures are varied, flow is almost flawless)

Note:  Ratings may be given in increments of 0.1 for a final score (rounded up) and 0.5 for individual category scores.  I will never give a rating of 10.0 because I do not believe that any one album can be "perfect," and the ratings at either end of the spectrum will be very few.

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  1. Good review, I'm definitely picking this up tomorrow. As for the new review system, I think it's better for you to leave out the song by song break down, it felt almost like a more in depth 2nd review, which was a lot of work on your end I imagine and not entirely necessary. This more focused slimmed down style works well.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, fellow reviewer! :)

  2. Nice review, man! I pretty much agree with everything you had to say about this album. I personally, love it. I actually didn't think it was their heaviest though, not sure why the band put that out there before the album was released, but definitely one of their best. God Bless!