Longevity is a tricky thing, within the music industry. You’ve undoubtedly heard the horror stories of bands starting off, going into debt with a record label, and then having to quit just to pay off that record. Others have been around 15–20 years and still doing the same thing they did in the beginning. The passion is lost (for some, not all), and they’re just playing the shows and making the records for something to do. After getting the chance to talk to Ryan Clark (interview here), lead vocalist and last original member of the driving metal force of Demon Hunter, I was able to pick out exactly where they were in their tenure as a seasoned band. And what’s kept them going this long, and making great record after great record, staying fresh each time.
Extremist follows the powerful and technically-strong last record, True Defiance, and like the titles suggest, the subject matter is what DH does best, but with some new ideas thrown in. When I first heard the single “Artificial Light”, I was really excited, as it was just as technical and driving as many of the tracks from True Defiance. But there was something different when I heard “The Last One Alive”, as well as the follow up song “I Will Fail You”. These songs were much more ballad-heavy than ever before, and I even went back and checked previous Demon Hunter albums. “I Will Fail You” may be the slowest and deepest sounding ballad the band has ever released. This continues a trend that Demon Hunter has seemed to get just right every time they release a record. With some small exceptions, each record is heavier and more technical than it’s predecessor. In addition, the ballads are slower each time. So they continue to be harder and heavier, but softer than ever before, each time.
This is how a band like Demon Hunter continues to create its legacy. Constantly pushing themselves, and for metal, it’s one of multiple reasons they’re still relevant after 13 years and hitting hard with their seventh album. “Death”, the less than three minute opener, starts ferociously, with a bit of a cinematic feel to kick things off. When I first heard the softer ballads, and particularly “I Will Fail You”, I was a tad disappointed, because I wanted more heavier cuts. But that disappeared when I heard the deep, brooding five minute bass-heavy track in conjunction with the rest of the album. It’s not really even a ballad, as it dives more into a taste of doom metal and a spice of sludge. It’s moments like this Clark spoke about during our interview, of new sounds and influences he’s been using during recording sessions. In the context of a Demon Hunter record, it fits perfectly. In addition, a track like “Beyond Me” ties some electronic elements into it, further expanding the band’s palette, and coupled with the fast double kick and raw solos during the bridge, it creates a one of a kind listening experience.
“One Last Song” is another deeply power-metal heavy cut, with brilliant riffs and guttural screams from Clark. Similar to the opening of the iconic Storm The Gates of Hell, “Cross To Bear” opens with a scratch of electricity before the groove really sits in and allows Clark to spit his deep, searing vocals through the intensity of the track. The dark chugging reminds of Oh Sleeper at times, and even matches on similar intensity. Easily the best cut of the 12, but the final five songs really round out the rest of the sound of Extremist. The doom style returns on a track like “Hell Don’t Need Me”, and chaos reigns on “In Time”, similar to the sounds heard back in Storm The Gates. Extremist is a much welcomed addition to the Demon Hunter discography, and could actually be considered their best record to date. It’s because of the massive amount of time, effort, and attention to detail that Ryan Clark and his band take every time they step in the studio. They’re never content with the same thing twice, and the songwriter’s lyrics get deeper and more introspective from record to record. Simply put, this is Demon Hunter at their peak