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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Demon Hunter -- The World Is a Thorn


After an album that ventured a little too far into pop territory, metal vanguards, Demon Hunter, return with some of their heaviest work yet. But while The World Is a Thorn is enjoyable overall, it features a new set of problems that lower it to the same level as its predecessor, and put it below Demon Hunter's finest work.
Let me get the bad stuff out of the way. My biggest problem with this album is drum production. When Yogi Watts took the sticks from Jesse Sprinkle, the drumming lost some originality and sophistication, but gained some brutality. Of course, this only works if the drums sound like they're going to break down your door. The drum sound on The World Is a Thorn lacks punch. There are times where the drums simply sound like someone has pulled a sheet of loose-leaf tight and is plucking it with their fingers. This is not acceptable. The second issue with the album is passion. Demon Hunter's albums are usually full of emotion. When vocalist Ryan Clark says he "won't leave without a trace" on Summer of Darkness's "Play Dead," you can feel every word. For the most part, that passion doesn't exist on this album, especially in Clark's singing. The two ballads, "Driving Nails" and "Blood In the Tears" are absolutely rote. Demon Hunter are one of only a handful of metal bands who can actually build anticipation through an album for the arrival of a ballad. The World Is a Thorn's two do not meet expectations.
There, I got the bad stuff out of the way. There is still plenty to like about this release.
First, this is the most old school album Demon Hunter have done. It's apparent in the artwork and in every song. The anthemic 80's metal-style guitar riffs that kick off "Descending Upon Us" are a great example. The speed metal touches in the title track are another. Demon Hunter sound more grizzled than ever, and in this genre, at this point in history, that's a good thing. Second, this album is full of unconventional moments. The second track, "Lifewar," is completely unexpected--the band slamming one chord into the ground over and over beneath Clark's continuous growl for two straight minutes. "Lifewar" also spawned a pretty great video.

"This Is the Line" begins with a weird midnight harmony, and some surprising guitar work in the middle. The guitar solo is now a consistently deployed weapon in Demon Hunter's arsenal, and Patrick Judge's work in this department of The World Is a Thorn is applaudable.
Finally, The World Is a Thorn's greatest asset is several songs' relentless brutality. I've already mentioned the title track, but "Just Breathe," featuring a fire-spitting performance by Solution .45's Christian Älvestam, is the most ferocious song Demon Hunter have ever recorded. Even the keyboard is heavy. It's songs like this that put Demon Hunter ahead of the metal pack, even on their less than stellar albums.

2010 Solid State Records
1. Descending Upon Us 5:30
2. LifeWar 1:52
3. Collapsing (Featuring Björn "Speed" Strid of Soilwork) 3:38
4. This Is the Line 3:59
5. Driving Nails 4:06
6. The World Is a Thorn 2:35
7. Tie This Around Your Neck 3:29
8. Just Breathe (Featuring Christian Älvestam of Solution .45) 3:55
9. Shallow Water 3:44
10. Feel As Though You Could (Featuring Dave Peters of Throwdown) 3:53
11. Blood In the Tears 4:49

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