- San Diego, California - Demon Hunter has a special place in my heart; the band introduced me to the entire metal subgenre. I gained my taste for screams, growls, dissonance, and double-kicks through their 2007 album, Storm the Gates of Hell, which I serendipitously stumbled upon within a few weeks of its December release. Since then, I’ve followed the band’s releases eagerly; Demon Hunter’s first five albums show a very distinct stylistic progression, moving from solely scream- and growl-oriented heavy metal to an evolving metal/rock hybrid. With their 2010 release, The World Is A Thorn, this hybrid style came clearly into focus and solidified the band’s musical identity.
2012's True Defiance continues in the hybrid vein of The World Is A Thorn. Instrumentally, many of the songs work heavily off a rhythm guitar-drum pairing that surges and reels in sync, with layered screams and multi-part harmonies to provide melodic and harmonic variation. Guitar solos also make several appearances on the album, varying between dual-guitar melodic sequences and no-holds-barred shredding bridges. “Means To An End” is the first appearance of a non-metal, instrumental track I have heard from them, which they pull off quite handily. There isn’t a particular hook that stands out from the others in the album, but taken as a whole, it’s an enjoyable experience.
The mixing on True Defiance is impeccable. The drums are mixed close without obscuring the melodic qualities of the guitars and vocals. Further developing the mixing sensibilities of The World Is A Thorn, this album blends multi-part sung harmonies as well as multi-layered screamed verses into the wide, deep “space” of the wide-panned rhythm guitars and ferocious drum sections. The drums, while mixed to the front, do not “step on” the other instruments; the tonal qualities of both the rhythm and lead guitars remain clear at all times. The variety of singing and screaming types mixed on this album is impressive, and I would recommend it as a resource for aspiring metal mixers as an example of a powerful, balanced sound.
One issue I have with True Defiance is that it risks sounding a little bit too much like what has already been done in Demon Hunter’s past releases. While a direct A/B comparison between True Defiance and past Demon Hunter albums does show differences, the essence of the band’s style has not really advanced since their last album. Though things tend to sound better between this album and previous ones, they do not sound very fresh or daring.
The other problem with this album is that it falls into a predictable structural and stylistic pattern. Unlike Demon Hunter’s past releases, which have featured a combination of all-metal, all-melodic, and mixed-metal tracks, almost every song on True Defiance is in the same mixed-metal style. While the sound is more streamlined on True Defiance, it is also more forgettable. Previously, the structural and stylistic variation helped to pace the album and keep individual songs distinct. Without these musical extremes, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the one track from another or get a sense of the album’s musical momentum.
In sum, True Defiance is an enjoyable experience, but it does not make any statements about the band’s long-term musical direction. Instead, it sums their past developments and clearly defines the essence of Demon Hunter’s individual style. Because of this, I would recommend it to new listeners as a great introduction to Demon Hunter’s music, to be followed by their more volatile former releases. As a follower of the band’s musical progression, however, I greatly hope that this album does not signal the end of Demon Hunter’s explorations, but is instead a brief respite from the band’s flurry of experiments in preparation for the next leg of its musical journey.
Rating: 3.5/5 Sour Grapes