It's rare that a heavy metal band delivers on the promise of a record that's "heavier than ever yet more melodic", but Demon Hunter has done exactly that with The World is a Thorn, their fifth studio album.
The World is a Thorn follows the breathtaking and sometimes heartbreaking documentary 45 Days and a catalogue of landmark albums that have made the band one of the most important in the genre. It was produced by long-time collaborator Aaron Sprinkle (Acceptance, Anberlin, The Almost) and mixed by Jason Suecof (All That Remains, Trivium, Chimaira). It's a pairing emblematic of how skilfully Demon Hunter has always blended metallic might with melody.
Songs like "Descending Upon Us", "Lifewar" and the title track are by far the most aggressive of the band's career and tracks like "This is the Line" and "Collapsing" are hard-driving, fist-pumping anthems while "Driving Nails" and "Blood in the Tears" are ballads the likes of which their fans, "the Hunters", both expect and cherish.
Guitarist Patrick Judge, who made his debut with the band on the Live in Nashville collection, is joined by new guitarist Ryan Helm (The Ascendicate). They lend their talents to a new batch of songs written by co-founder / vocalist Ryan Clark. Yogi Watts returns with another jaw-dropping drum performance, backed up by long-time bass player Jonathan Dunn. The World is a Thorn recalls the best of the genre's past while pushing the envelope forward at the same time.
"The album title refers to the often harmful and destructive world that we live in," explains Clark. "Most of the songs deal with the current state of the nation and the world as a whole. In particular, the lyrics take aim at the ideals of a Godless people and the depletion of our morals and values."
Demon Hunter has always been a Christian band and has represented their point of view strongly, despite the larger trend of watered down philosophies that straddle the line for popularity's sake. This stance has won them respect from fellow believers and opposite points of view alike.
"In this age it has seemingly become more and more detestable to be a Christian," Clark elaborates. "Our opinions on social and political issues are no longer tolerated as valid and we are commonly viewed as the enemy. Subjective truth, self-love, unrestricted perversion, the destruction of morality: these are the things that have ultimately brought us to a place of depression and madness.
"This album is the antithesis of the modern way of life."
The World is a Thorn follows previous studio albums Storm The Gates Of Hell (2007), The Triptych (2005), Summer Of Darkness (2004) and Demon Hunter (2002), as well as the live album and three-disc CD/DVD set 45 Days, which have sold close to a combined half a million copies. It's an incredible feat for a band that has yet to venture from North America and has never toured regularly.
"Fading Away", the first video / single from Storm the Gates of Hell, has received over one million views on YouTube. That song, "Carry Me Down", "Undying", "One Thousand Apologies", "Not Ready to Die" and "Infected" - to name a few - have all been staples of Christian, college and speciality radio and featured continuously on MTV2's Headbangers Ball and Fuse. Ryan Clark was featured on the cover of Revolver in 2006 as part of their "Christian Metal" cover story and they are regularly a huge draw at festivals.
The "Hunters" in the "Blessed Resistance", as the band's most devoted fans are known, have championed the cause since day one and are making their voices heard throughout the underground.
Demon Hunter's level of commitment to the quality and presentation of their music is matched only by their attention to detail with their packaging and overall aesthetics. Ryan Clark's graphic design firm he co-owns with his brother Don (formerly of Demon Hunter), Invisible Creature, has racked up several Grammy® nominations in the packaging category.
The fans match that passion and dedication, proudly displaying the group's symbol on their social networking pages and tattooing it on their bodies. The connection these men have made with their audience is staggeringly beyond compare.
Demon Hunter is an anomaly in today's heavy music scene, jettisoning fashionable trends and easily recognizable cliches in favor of traditional heavy metal power and melodic hooks. The World is a Thorn is a definitive mission statement from a band at a creative apex, firing on all cylinders with awe-inspiring intensity.