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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Demon Hunter -- Storm the Gates of Hell

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7/10 

Storm the Gates of Hell starts off more strongly than any other Demon Hunter album. The title-track is the heaviest opener they've ever done. "Lead Us Home" is excellently written, one of the most dynamic songs in Demon Hunter's catalog. "Sixteen" features a punishing guest spot by Living Sacrifice's Bruce Fitzhugh and an incredibly brutal, unique breakdown.
After this opening trio, it's obvious something is different about the band. Instead of using metaphors touching upon their Christian faith in subtle ways, Demon Hunter bring it right to the surface: it's in the lyrics, in the song titles, in the album title. While this is refreshing, it's also a little bit of a let down. The Christian stuff was always there for those of us who like to dig deeper, but it was intelligently fixed into the music. Now, that depth is gone.
The second difference, though, is more disappointing. I've mentioned Ryan Clark's skill at creating singable, yet not poppy melodies in my previous Demon Hunter reviews. Well, for the most part, that goes out the window on Storm the Gates of Hell: the melodies are often major key, and often poppy and more higher pitched than usual. While Clark's screams and the band's music on this album have at times never been heavier, the drums never more intense, they are juxtaposed with this new pop sheen. Perhaps it is a matter of personal taste, but I don't like that. I know Demon Hunter are always striving to do something different, and I commend them for that, but this time they tried something that falls out of my circle of enjoyment.
Then again, the brilliant parts are brilliant. "Fiction Kingdom" features a poppy chorus I could do without, but the rest of the song is excellent, and Clark's vocals in the bridge are, to this moment, still the most powerful performance he has ever recorded.

"This war is a page unwritten/but we know how it ends!"
So what we have here is a giant, delicious chocolate-chip cookie with some raisins sprinkled throughout. If you like raisins, you'll have nothing to complain about.

2007 Solid State Records
1. Storm the Gates of Hell 2:44
2. Lead Us Home 4:24
3. Sixteen (featuring Bruce Fitzhugh of Living Sacrifice) 5:18
4. Fading Away 4:12
5. Carry Me Down 4:32
6. A Thread of Light 3:35
7. I Am You 4:14
8. Incision 5:04
9. Thorns 4:06
10. Follow the Wolves 3:55
11. Fiction Kingdom 4:53
12. The Wrath of God 4:06

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