Album Review: Demon Hunter – War / Peace

Demon Hunter are a band that, in my opinion, don’t see to get the respect they deserve. Formed in 2001, the quintet has been steadily putting albums out for nearly 2 decades now and 2017’s Outlive was one of my favourite albums of that year. Late last year the band suddenly dropped the news that they were releasing not one, but two albums on the same day in 2019 entitled War and Peace. With the band’s traditional epic logo and Latin inscriptions on the covers, “Bellum in omnes spiritu” and “Pax sola in morte” respectively, I approached these albums with an open mind and found something rather interesting…

Starting with Peace, this can be considered the “tamer” of the two albums. Having a more hard rock vibe on some of the tracks with Ryan Clark’s superb baritone vocals being front and centre may be a bit jarring to some people who know the band as the metalcore titans of the 2000’s. The band has always had some tracks which are slower and “less metal” on all their albums and having an entire album like that to me makes sense. The title track is arguably one of the strongest tracks with the line “I can’t wait for peace” still sticking in my head many days after first hearing it.

Peace as a whole isn’t as happy and upbeat as you might think though with tracks like “Recuse Myself” and “Fear Is Not My Guide” being notably darker in tone than some of the other offerings. The latter in particular is a perfect example of one of the band’s ability to create a ballad using only a piano and Ryan’s voice with the chorus in particular one of the best I’ve heard from the “softer” side of Demon Hunter.

If Peace was the calm, then War is definitely the storm. All of the signature Demon Hunter trademarks are here with the superb riffs of Patrick Judge and Jeremiah Scott and the drumming of Yogi in particular being impressive. Whereas in the previous album there were no harsh vocals, they are on display for all to see here with opening track “Cut to Fit” consisting primarily of harsh vocals. “On My Side” however has no harsh vocals but is easily one of the best tracks on War showcasing some more of the modern sound which the band explored in True Defiance.

With a powerful and incredibly catchy chorus consisting of “So now, where is the enemy? / I can feel no bite / Where is the enemy, when death is on my side?” it has been cemented as one of my favourite ever tracks from the band. “The Negative” is another song which again has an incredibly catchy chorus but unlike “On My Side”, it features both harsh vocals and a d-beat on the drums. Another fantastic track that brings the heaviness and showcases the band’s ability to create both catchy melodies and headbang-inducing riffs.

Whilst this album may not be as aggressive as Storm The Gates of Hell, Demon Hunter can still bring the heaviness and speed with “Ash” being a prime example of this. Right from the opening drum fill, this song means business with the harsh vocals from Ryan being particularly strong and the rest of the band delivering a performance that would be right at home alongside “The World is A Thorn”, “Crucifix”, “Cross to Bear” and other heavy-hitters from the back catalogue. Rounding things out, “Lesser Gods” blends elements from both of the albums together and creates a song which is one of the best I’ve ever heard from the band. By putting both sides of the band on display in one track, it is a perfect end to the album and rounds out the whole of War and Peace nicely.

I will admit I was a little apprehensive when the band announced two LPs but after having spent the past few days listening to them I’ve found I’m wanting to listen them more than any other album I’ve reviewed for the site. Both are fantastic, entirely unique from one another and feel like a natural progression of the band. For a band that was one that got me into metal originally over 10 years ago with the sheer brilliance that was The World Is A Thorn, to have them releasing some of their strongest material all these years later is nothing short of fantastic.

War and Peace are available now via Solid State Records

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