Demon Hunter has become a staple of the Christian metal community over the years. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Demon Hunter's self-titled debut as well as their 8th full-length album. Only two original members remain, but one is the founder and the creative force behind the band, Ryan Clark. Their last release, Extremist, was a bit underwhelming for many fans and early singles had them wondering if Demon Hunter was going to show a major shift to a more electronic sound with their new album. With Outlive (stylized Ovtlive), thankfully, neither of the scenarios are completely true. While the new record isn't as heavy as True Defiance, it also isn't as soft as Extremist and while there are electronic elements present, Clark's side project, NYVES, hasn't come to life in Demon Hunter. Outlive is a slightly different kind of Demon Hunter album, with a brighter tone, that stands alone.
"Trying Times" starts the album off on a slower note, but not in ballad format. The track contains big drums and some mild electronic ambience before the guitar starts chugging at the 1:30 mark. The intro track leads perfectly into the blistering "Jesus Wept." John 11:35 -- the shortest verse in the bible -- is one of the first verses we learn as kids, but Clark puts a different and more personal perspective behind the scripture as he screams, "I'm why Jesus wept!" The song features a killer solo by lead guitarist Patrick Judge and flows into "Cold Winter Sun," which was written by Judge. "Died in My Sleep" was one of the songs that was released as a single and got a bit of mixed reception. While the appeal has risen after multiple listens, it's still not representative of the best the album has to offer. "Half as Dead" and "Cold Blood" are up next and both are solid jams. In "Half as Dead" Clark exclaims, "When I go to sleep bury me three feet deep. I'm not half as dead as they are; half as dead, half as dead as you." "Cold Blood" gives you the most metal feel since "Jesus Wept," but still comes in with clean vocals on the chorus.
At the halfway mark, Demon Hunter shifts gears to what can almost be described as an alternative rock song in "One Step Behind." "Raining Down" continues the rock n roll vibe with something you may expect to hear from a band like Disciple. While "The End" features a metal inspired verse, the majority of the song -- aside from the breakdown/interlude -- carriers a straightforward rock sound. "One Less" brings the intensity up tenfold, however, and joins "Jesus Wept" as the only true metal songs present; the higher pitched screams and slight death metal influence in the chorus help to set the song apart from the remainder of the album. "Patience" and "Slight the Odds" end Outlive on a somewhat softer note. "Patience" starts with a piano before shifting to the rock sound that dominates the second half of the album. The thing that really stands out is the extremely bright tone of the chorus. "Slight the Odds" starts with soft strings before the guitars strangely fade in as the strings fade out -- almost like a DJ fading two different songs in and out. It's a bit of an awkward transition, but as the song continues, you discover another bright sounding rock tune like "Patience."
Demon Hunter fans hoping for a return to the metal of True Defiance will be let down. Instead, the majority of Outlive feels much more akin to a rock record. The album has heavy moments, softer moments, and plenty of melodic sections. There's also a lot more experimenting with major chords giving many songs a much "happier" tone. Demon Hunter shows they can still be a metal band with great sounding aggressive songs like "Jesus Wept" and "One Less," but I'm not so sure that the band still wants to be considered "metal" these days. They released their softest album in Extremist three years ago, and now Outlive is experimenting with electronic elements -- something Ryan Clark has been drawn to his entire career -- and walking the rock n roll side of the fence. Nevertheless, Demon Hunter's 8th LP is still a solid listen from front to back and a step up from 2014's release. No matter how you look at it, Demon Hunter wasn't content being the same band for their entire existence. While you may not love the results, you have to give Ryan Clark and company credit for trying something new. As we all sit back and wait to see the next step the band takes, enjoy Outlive in the meantime.- 3/28/17, Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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