At this point in time, Demon Hunter fans around the world are undoubtedly overjoyed for March 18th and the next chapter in a rather impressive discography. The World is a Thorn and True Defiance are the metal group's last two releases and are arguably their heaviest albums to date. Many had to be wondering if Demon Hunter would continue this trend or try something different on Extremist. Honestly, the album title alone gives the sense that it will be full of metal mayhem. In actuality, Extremist is without a doubt the softest album in the band's history. That isn't to say there is no Demon Hunter metal flare, but the softer tracks seem to dominate overall.
"Death" opens the record with a Latin chant as the drums and guitars build. As the chant reaches its pinnacle, a bell rings out followed by Ryan Clark's signature scream. Demon Hunter has a knack for opening albums with blistering paced metal jams, but this time opt for a much slower, but just as heavy, metal number. "Artificial Light," a song that has already been released, follows and is closer in sound to their typical opener. "What I'm Not" is third on the track list and feels more like straightforward melodic rock. The most enjoyable part of the song has to be the guitar solo found within; there are juicy solos to be found all over this record. "The Last One Alive" comes in with the first of the expected slower, cleanly sung, songs. "I Will Fail You" follows suit as Ryan sings about the predictability of human failure. Clark sings honestly, "I will fail You to the core." The guys pump the energy back up a little with "One Last Song," but it still doesn't reach the intensity fans have come to expect in recent years. Next up is probably the best of the bunch and will undoubtedly have some fans questioning the lyrical content. As you start to get caught up in the head banging, you suddenly hear Ryan scream, "Not one of you bastards has a cross to bear!" Though some are sure to rush to judgment, the term, often used in a profane way, is actually used within context. In the lyrics, Clark voices his anger over the flippant use of an adage so often recited in today's society: "That's my cross to bear." In an explanation of the lyrics, Ryan clarifies that the sacrifice Jesus gave on the cross is sacred and to trivialize the cross with everyday hardships belittles what Jesus actually did for humanity. The word "bastard" is used to show that people who use these words so brazenly have no relation or knowledge of their Heavenly Father.
"Hell Don't Need Me" is the next slow song. It sounds eerily similar to the other slow tracks on the record, as well as those from Demon Hunter's past, and gets lost in the mix a bit. "In Time" gets things moving again with screams and high-speed guitar and drums. As you begin to get into the sound, the music falls off for the chorus, but does feature a pretty nice transition back to the faster verse. "Beyond Me" has a darker tone in the verses, but opens to a brighter, and softer, sound for the chorus yet again. It would have been interesting to hear a song like this retain that darker feel throughout. Another album favorite is "Gasoline." As the song starts off, it is reminiscent of something like "Heartstrings" or "Carry Me Down." In the chorus, however, it does the opposite of the previous two tracks. As the guitar builds during the pre-chorus, Ryan sings, "We can smother out the flames," and follows it by a screamed, "with gasoline!" The chorus has a heavy grooving guitar and a really nice sound. Sadly, the slower and somewhat forgettable "The Heart of a Graveyard" closes the album out. The melodic chorus is actually closer to pop-rock than the signature DH metal sound.
Coming off two really great and heavy albums, it's possible that a step back in intensity could have been expected. Normally, Demon Hunter's slower material is still stellar, but Extremist, as a whole, feels a little lacking. I definitely wouldn't classify it has a bad a record as it is surely an enjoyable listen, but instead, another word comes to mind. Safe. I would ordinarily never put the term "safe" and Demon Hunter in the same sentence, but that's what Extremist feels like. While there are some great tracks that aren't necessarily safe, especially something like "Cross to Bear," but overall it seems a tad scripted. Thankfully, Ryan Clark and his bandmates write a great script. While it is highly unlikely that Extremist will go down as the group's best to date, it will serve as another entertaining chapter for fans to consume. After the newness wears off, fans will probably start to wander back to something like True Defiance for their Demon Hunter fix. However, those who typically think the band's sound is a bit much, or too heavy, are likely to enjoy the vast majority of this record. If anything, Extremist proves that even when this band isn't at their best, they are still better than most.
- Review date: 3/16/14, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com