Demon Hunter has long been one of the most established, if enigmatic, forces in hard rock. Their influence is so unparalleled that they have maintained the ability to fall off the map for a year or two at a time and then return to a fanbase still as tuned-in and dedicated as ever. The latest return of Demon Hunter, following one of their longest gaps yet without new music, comes in the form of Outlive: a searingly heavy masterpiece backed by the loyal fans and released with Demon Hunter’s longtime partners at Solid State Records.
Pre-released songs like the eerie “Cold Winter Sun” and “Died In My Sleep” are the best of the Demon Hunter sound, crushing riffs and ethereal choruses demonstrating why it is that they’ve been a cornerstone of their genre for over 15 years. “Died In My Sleep” also shows however that they’re not resistant to change, as electronic threads weave their way through a flurry of guitar riffs.
That electronic thread is picked up in “One Step Behind” also as Ryan Clark’s vocals sing like a prayer: “Breathe in, breathe out the light / And leave your shadow behind / For this day your pain is mine / So let me carry the weight.” The ability to utilize synthesized elements, or later the symphonic strings that introduce end times epic “Slight the Odds,” prove Demon Hunter’s refusal to settle into the “heavy just for heaviness’ sake” trap that many metalcore acts can fall prey to.
Make no mistake however: this is one of the most unabashedly heavy albums to release this year. “One Less” reminds of Summer of Darkness-era Demon Hunter with its scratched-out screams and fierce defiance of the dark and demonic. “Cold Blood” is full of the visceral imagery that has so often infused Demon Hunter’s work with gut-punching power.
Thematically, the album doesn’t let up either. “Jesus Wept” instantly wins a place as one of Demon Hunter’s best songs of all time, confessing sin and pleading for salvation, furiously mourning “I’m why Jesus wept.” The lyrics of “Patience” are rife with relational tension, introduced by a chilling piano riff eventually picked up by Patrick Judge’s crushing guitar. “Raining Down,” one of the most musically accessible tracks here, recognizes the inevitability of pain. “The End” pleads for reassurance amid spiritual death and rebirth.
With Outlive, Demon Hunter has created a heavy masterpiece devoid of filler tracks, beautifully executing every element that has made them one of the best metalcore acts of our time. Initial listens will captivate fans with the controlled chaos of hard rock mastery, while further sessions will provide spiritual depths to explore.
Related Artists: For Today, Memphis May Fire, RED