Demon Hunter is something of profound meaning to their fans, friends, families and supporters, as evidenced by the countless tattoos, fan artwork and videos built upon the metal group's iconic symbol, album artwork, lyrics, overall message and vibe. To many, Demon Hunter is more than a band. Demon Hunter is a symbol, a voice in the darkness.
But make no mistake: Demon Hunter is a creative force in heavy metal whose deft balance of arena ready melodies (several cuts above the current crop) and increasingly extreme metal (which has gotten heavier, faster and more technical in recent years) has won accolades in the metal press and lit up Christian Rock Radio alike for over a decade.
The new album, Extremist, is as bold as the title would suggest, leaving little doubt as to the band's intentions, musically and philosophically. Demon Hunter champions those who stand opposed to the status quo, those who won't settle for mediocrity in life or in art. They are driven by high-minded but basic principles, tempered with stark honesty about their own human flaws, their failures, triumphs, tragedies and inherent brokenness.
The band's seventh album is hands-down their most diverse offering. There's a pandemonium inducing end-of-world soundtrack called "Cross to Bear"; the brutally percussive album opener, "Death"; and the NWOSDM vibe of tracks like "Artificial Light" and "One Last Song," which calls upon the vibrant melodic death metal sound familiar to fans of At The Gates, Soilwork and Amon Amarth. "The Last One Alive" roars with the same melodic punch of Demon Hunter classics like "Collapsing" or "Fading Away." And the balladry is more brazen, more heart-wrenching, more ambitious than ever before, driving the somber, often doomy vibe of "I Will Fail You" and "Hell Don't Need Me."
Lead singer, principle songwriter and band co-founder Ryan Clark wrote the bulk of the album's material in Seattle, before traveling to Nashville, where most of the band is based, for tracking. Longtime producer Aaron Sprinkle (Anberlin, Emery) remained a collaborative partner, but the majority of the production duties were handled by Demon Hunter's rhythm guitarist, Jeremiah Scott. Patrick Judge's jaw-dropping lead guitar work has reached new levels of proficiency and craftsmanship, often serving as mini-songs within songs. Longtime bassist Jonathan Dunn, who has been with Demon Hunter since before their first ever-live appearance, is as fluid and rhythmic as ever. Tim "Yogi" Watts lays down a firm reminder as to why he's so highly regarded by metal heads and percussion fanatics alike, adding masterful but tasteful beats through Extremist's songs.
While Clark remains the band's sole original member, Dunn has been with the group nearly as long; Watts came onboard ten years ago; Judge joined first as touring guitarist and soon after as fulltime member in 2009. Scott was officially in the band in early 2012.
Celebrated rock producer Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Crowbar, Hatebreed) makes his Demon Hunter debut on Extremist, handling mixing duties. In addition to Sprinkle's longtime studio efforts, the band has worked with an impressive list: J.R. McNeely (Acceptance, Underoath) mixed the first two albums; Machine (Lamb Of God, King Crimson) handled the next two; and Jason Suecof (Death Angel, Trivium) the two that followed.
Demon Hunter's reference points are as broadminded as their creative work, drawing upon the energy of metal masters Metallica and Pantera, European Death Metal, Black Metal, doom, gothic rock, radio rock and dark electro-pop artists in equal measure, with a splash of Southern Rock flair evident in their meat-and-potatoes guitar virtuosity. The band headlines major Christian festivals at home and abroad while making fans out of guys in bands like Five Finger Death Punch, In Flames and DevilDriver at the same time.
They've handpicked future headliners like August Burns Red, Haste The Day and Oh, Sleeper to open for them at early stages in their respective careers, while shining a spotlight on scene innovators like Living Sacrifice and Zao on the road. They've toured North America as main support to In Flames and As I Lay Dying, and headlined several treks across the US, Europe, Australia and South America, including Scream The Prayer.
Artwork, imagery and presentation have been paramount within Demon Hunter since the beginning. Ryan and his brother Don Clark founded the Grammy nominated design and illustration studio Invisible Creature, whose clients include rock giants like Alice In Chains and Foo Fighters, much of the current crop of Vans Warped Tour bands and ubiquitous brands like Nike, Target, Seattle's Best Coffee and the latest X-Box system.
The Clarks conceived of the concept behind Demon Hunter over a decade ago, unleashing a self-titled first album (backed by a still shadowy and enigmatic lineup) in 2002. Summer of Darkness broke through in the metal, hardcore and Christian rock scenes, with MTV2 rotation for "Not Ready to Die" and a spot on the Resident Evil: Apocalypse soundtrack. Many couples count "My Heartstrings Come Undone," which Ryan wrote for his wife, as a sentimental landmark song in their own relationships.
The Triptych sold close to 150,000 copies in the United States. Storm The Gates Of Hell crossed the 100,000 mark as well, boasting fan-favorite anthems "Fading Away" and "Carry Me Down." The World Is A Thorn debuted with first week sales of 14,000, even as "Collapsing" became their highest charting song at metal, specialty and Christian radio. True Defiance broke into Billboard's Top 40 albums chart and hit #2 on the Christian Rock chart. Overall, the Demon Hunter catalog has sold more than a half-million albums.
Whether the battlefield is as weighty as spiritual warfare, as fundamental as the struggles of daily life or as important as the fight against mediocrity in popular culture, Demon Hunter will stand in proud defiance. If that's labeled as Extremist, so be it.