Album Review: True Defiance
By Demon Hunter

By Paul Gibson | May 29th, 2012 | Posted In Album Review

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{April 12, 2012}

Solid State

You’ve got to hand it to the boys of Demon Hunter. Plying their trade in a genre that can easily reward the mundane and derivative, the metalcore act celebrates10 years since its self-titled debut by releasing one of its strongest, most exciting releases ever in the thrashy, aggressive, technically impressive True Defiance.
True Defiance is the band’s sixth studio album in the decade (eighth overall when we include the documentary soundtrack 45 Days and Live in Nashville), and unlike much of modern Christian rock and metal, no album can be confused for any other. Demon Hunter always experiments, always pushes the boundaries – is always, ahem, defiant in refusing to be boxed in to the comfort of consistency.
There’s been a price to that experimentation. Sometimes albums fall a little flat (Summer of Darkness), or branch out into areas to which fans and critics object (Storm the Gates of Hell). But fans and critics alike rightly seem to be in agreement on True Defiance: It’s a sterling example of the genre, from the opening aggression of “Crucifix” to the haunting plucking of “Means to an End” to the closing pathos of “Dead Flowers.”
The album opens, like many Demon Hunter records, with a full-on sonic assault. “Crucifix,” like “Storm the Gates of Hell” in 2007, features vocalist Ryan Clark in full-on screamer mode, with nary a clean note to be found. The lyrics arguably are Demon Hunter’s most overtly Christian-themed; indeed, one of the more remarkable aspects of the band’s maturity over 10 years has been an increasing comfort with overt, as opposed to oblique, Christian themes, reversing the usual trend for Christians playing contemporary music.
Every fan has his or her preference for Clark’s vocals – scream or clean. This reviewer first got into Demon Hunter thanks to the clean choruses, so “Crucifix” is less my style than the subsequent track, “God Forsaken,” a classic Demon Hunter tune if ever one existed – only it closes with a very un-Hunter like time change and thrashy guitar riff that sounds like it’s straight off Metallica’s Master of Puppets, a treat for any fan of the classic thrash Demon Hunter claims as an influence.
That’s not the only old-school moment True Defiance features. The instrumental track “Means to an End” fits right at home next to Metallica’s “The Call of Ktulu,” and fans of Slayer and Pantera will have no trouble finding musical homages to those metal icons either.
Such thrash elements are possible thanks to the impressive guitar work of Patrick Judge, whose lead work immediately improved the band’s offerings on The World Is a Thorn and continues here. His solos are a welcome addition to the band’s repertoire – particularly in “Someone to Hate,” one of the all-time great Demon Hunter songs, up there with “Not I” and “Through the Black.”
As has become routine for the band, True Defiance contains a pair of ballads, placed so as to break up the sonic assault and keep the heavier tunes from growing monotonous. As also seems to be usual for Demon Hunter, only one of the songs is really worth repeated listening. “Dead Flowers” is a worthy addition to the pantheon that includes such ballads as “Driving Nails,” “One Thousand Apologies” and “My Heartstrings Come Undone.” “Tomorrow Never Comes,” unfortunately, is a bit too much dirge. It’s the only weak spot on an incredible album that easily sits near The Tryptich at the top of the band’s catalog.
The extended limited edition contains an extra two songs that sound like leftovers from the clean-and-strings motif heard most on Storm the Gates of Hell. They’re decent songs, and Demon Hunter fans will want to own them, but more casual fans can pass them up without much regret.
With True Defiance, Demon Hunter has pushed to an impressive six their streak of fan-pleasing, aggressive metal albums. On top of that, the band has musically never been better and lyrically never been more upfront. So long as Demon Hunter continues producing music this good, it will be a great time to be a fan of Christian-themed hard music.

[rating=5]

~Paul Anthony

 

Favorite Tracks:
Someone to Hate

God Forsaken

My Destiny

This I Know

Wake

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