First things first, you gotta love the absolutely beautiful artwork that Demon Hunter cooked up for this album’s logo! Like all Demon Hunter albums, the artwork is a new take on the “Demon Head” logo that the band is known for (which has been tattooed, painted, sculpted and reimagined by legions of Demon Hunter fans); a demon skull with a bullethole through its forehead; representing, natch, good triumphing over evil. And in a bid that’s about as creative and crushingly wicked as they come, the new logo features striking art that is sure to catch the attention of anyone who pays heed to it. There are two different album variations for the standard version of True Defiance, each with a completely different theme on the same Demon Hunter logo (a skull that looks much more demonic this time around). One of them features a crown of thorns around the demented skull, complete with a burning, majestic flaming candle atop! Equally as striking and beastly is the other variation, which features a crown of thorns made up of nails and encircled by barbed wire. While these logos don’t come anywhere near the awe-inspiring cathedral artwork from The World Is A Thorn, these new logos are just as effective and beyond killer.
True Defiance is #6 in the band’s discography, which started with their self-titled debut Demon Hunter in 2002. That album featured an “old-withered” book look to it, applying that look to the Demon Head logo as well. Demon Hunter’s sophomore album landed in 2004 and was called “Summer of Darkness“. It really established the Demon Head logo with a graceful, simple cover that featured a Demon Head skull on a bed of black roses. The third Demon Hunter album was aptly titled “The Triptych” and released in 2005. The title is an artsy term that means three-related artworks that make up a whole work; typically interconnected. Usually panel-art. The Triptych was their most ambitious project yet, and featured three pieces of art with different themes for the cover and Demon Head logo: Crows on a wooden Demon Skull, a Demon Skull spider, and a serpent theme with the snake crawling through the Demon Head (the crow piece was always my favorite). A Special Edition Triptych album was released in 2006 that combined all three logos into one. It also added three acoustic songs (My Throat Is An Open Grave from their self-titled, My Heart Strings Come Undone from Summer of Darkness and The Tide Began to Rise from Triptych, as well as a remix of Undying; in addition to a DVD with making-of and concert footage, alongside music videos!)
“Storm the Gates of Hell” hit in 2007 and featured a metallic logo, which was by far the most underwhelming album cover yet released; sadly it featured nothing unique about it but offered an incredible album with a whopping 14 songs on the Storm the Gates of Hell Deluxe Edition. It was here that Demon Hunter took a bit of hiatus… Storm the Gates was followed in 2008 with “45 Days“, a documentary featuring an album cover of a fan with the Demon Head logo tattooed on his chest and included a DVD documentary video and a CD soundtrack; which featured instrumental tracks along with two bonus versions of previous material. In 2009 Demon Hunter released their first live album, entitled “Live In Nashville“, which featured one of their greatest album logos yet (and arguably their best in my humble opinion!), with a badass collage madeup of concert photos in the shape of the Demon Skull, where a stage-light at top represented the bullethole in the skull! Finally after three long years, fans got an all-new core album in 2010 with “The World Is A Thorn“, which featured an epic “thorn”-themed Demon Head drawn by the same person who drew the Triptych art. In 2011 Demon Hunter released their first compilation album, called “Death, A Destination“, featuring re-releases of the band’s first three albums (Demon Hunter, Summer of Darkness and The Triptych). It also featured a really cool Demon Head logo made up of leaves, sticks and twigs, formed into the shape of the Demon Skull. Last but definitely not least, Demon Hunter released their first Christmas single, a beautiful singing ballad, called The Wind from Demon Hunter on Happy Christmas Volume 5 on Solid State Records. And that leads us to 2012, with True Defiance.
True Defiance is an absolutely rock-solid album with titanic sound and some absolutely HEAVY, killer tracks and deep, intricate lyrics. It features Demon Hunter going into some new directions where singing and guitar solos are concerned, with more emphasis on both than ever before. Ryan, as always, also tries his hand at some all-new vocal styles that really give the album some diversity. The result is an album that is, at places, just as heavy as anything else they have done (if not more so) and yet offers much more singing in their heavy songs than is normal for the band along with a slew of slower tunes. However I do not think that their slow songs on this album, their ballads, are as good as before (initial impressions, of course). Although they have a completely different sound than their ballads on previous albums which makes them very unique. Which is always a plus.
Since I don’t have any real grasp of musical knowledge, I am simply going to discuss how great I think the album is. I would say True Defiance (Deluxe Edition tracks not included) is just as good as The World Is A Thorn. I’m a fan of all of the tracks so far, although there are are a few that I didn’t care for this time around. This is only my first listen so this could change. Thematically, the album deals mostly with the sin that the pervades the world and the decline of our Godly culture in America today. The tracks are heavily focused on this theme and, as always, feature incredible writing from just about every track. The tracks take a more serious nature on this album than a lot of the tracks on The World Is A Thorn, and I felt that they were more intellectual and deeper overall. As always though, Demon Hunter proves once again, in spades, that they are a band of depth.
There are only a handful of Demon Hunter tracks that I routinely skip (doesn’t mean I don’t like them, just that I don’t like them as much as their other songs, so I typically don’t listen to them). These tracks that I skip, from throughout Demon Hunter’s entire discography, include the following: Not Ready to Die (From Summer of Darkness, blasphemy I know, but never cared for it), One Thousand Apologies (The Triptych), Beauty Through the Eyes of a Predator (Summer of Darkness, even though the ending is one of my favorite musical moments of all time), and This is the Line (The World Is A Thorn).
This time I have more than one track which falls into that category, which you may conclude as a very bad thing. But overall I am greatly impressed by this album and I think it is a triumphant piece of work for Demon Hunter. Their sound has evolved in a notable way, you can’t compare this to any previous album because it has it’s own sound, although it sounds closer to The World Is A Thorn than any of their previous work. However it has a much more… closer-knit theme to the way the songs sound, and many of the songs feature epic guitar work in the vein of Just Breath from their previous album. However it’s always after the bridge in the song (after the two choruses, where a new lyrical line is added before going back to the chorus. Chorus being the main repeating part of a song) so once again Demon Hunter maintains a typical song-structure of Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus.
Here is my breakdown track-by-track and what I thought of each song upon my first listen of the album.
Song #1. Crucifix (3:44)
The opening track of True Defiance is one of the most powerful, hard-hitting, heavy and strongest tracks on the whole album. In typical Demon Hunter fashion, the opener is an absolute headbanging near four minutes of pure awesomeness, and this is the track that I returned to again-and-again and relistened to more than any other. This track is absolutely flawless IMHO and is by far one of the standouts. It’s very heavy but also features some of the deepest lyrics on the entire album.
Song #2. God Forsaken (5:49)
I absolutely love this track. This song is also one of my favorites, it’s not as overly heavy as the opener, and gives you a change of pace with a lot more singing. However the song segues into what is a near-perfect singable chorus, and this is another track I kept going back to and already love to sing along to the chorus. But it also features growled vocals for the verses, and an absolutely head-crushing outro.
Song #3. My Destiny (4:15)
This is an interesting track, but so far “My Destiny” is my “This Is the Line” (from World Is A Thorn) track on True Defiance. In other words, I didn’t care for this track and this the only song that I didn’t listen to repeatedly. I’m not sure if that’s Ryan Clark growling the vocals or not (it doesn’t sound like him on first listen, but there aren’t any guest vocal credits on this album, so it may be. [Edit: IT IS]); either way it goes into a different growl that I am not a fan of. You can clearly tell when Ryan Clark comes in with vocals that sound like his normal growls. As such, I found it to be a major turnoff as those different screams comprise the majority of the lyrics in this song. We’ll have to wait and see if it grows on me. This song was one of the featured tracks Demon Hunter posted online with a music video. If you heard that then rest assured that it is NOT representative of the rest of the album at all. [Post-Edit] Either way though it is very interesting territory and marks another new area that Ryan Clark pushed himself in with vocals that remind me of other metal bands (once I think of who I’ll let you know) and that are a complete departure from his usual vocal style. [Post-Edit 2: This song HAS grown on me]
Song #4. Wake (4:12)
Wake is a really interesting song, and is another one of my favorites, although I didn’t love it upon first listen. It really switches things up and the vocals on this song are extremely strong, taking Ryan Clark in a new direction as he belts out deep yet unscreamed vocals on the verses.
Song #5. Tomorrow Never Comes (4:53)
This is the first “ballad” on the album, with almost the entire song being sung instead of growled. I don’t care for this song too much, and it is not as good as previous ballads such as “Carry Me Down”, “My Throat Is An Open Grave”, “Driving Nails”, “Thorns” or “Blood in the Tears”. I’d rank the song more in the line of The Triptych’s “One Thousand Apologies”, which another Demon Hunter track that I’m not a big fan of. However this track features a really cool end that outright redeems it in my eyes. This song also marks a different kind of slow song for Demon Hunter, and it sounds nothing like their previous material. I applaud the band for trying it out. Hopefully it grows on me.
Song #6. Someone to Hate (5:24)
BOOM! This track is by far the heaviest, most badass track Demon Hunter has EVER recorded and the first verse on to the chorus will pound your eardrums with pure destructive bliss until they bleed. This IMO is THE standout track on the album and “Someone To Hate” is arguably my favorite song. It is an absolute BEAST and one of those heavy, crushing pieces that ranks the band next to any metal band you can throw against them; although the song is not entirely made up of growling. Believe it or not. It’s got its melodic singing portions too. In my humble opinion, the first three tracks you should listen to are “Crucifix”, “God Forsaken” and “Someone To Hate”, in that order. Do so and you’ll be utterly convinced of how incredible True Defiance is. “Someone to Hate” is the “Tie This Around Your Neck” of True Defiance.
Song #7. This I Know (4:04)
This song takes a more traditional Demon Hunter approach, and I didn’t find anything that stood out in this track. This song is “meh” IMHO.
Song #8. Means to an End (Instrumental) (2:50)
Demon Hunter has never included a straight-up instrumental on an album before, although they did a whole album of it with 45 Days. This song sounds unlike anything they have ever done before and is absolutely KILLER from beginning to end.
Song #9. We Don’t Care (3:37)
The instrumental flows into the suitably heavy “We Don’t Care”, which jives perfectly after the instrumental with some true headbanging heaviness. Sadly the song loses me after the first verse, and I was a bit disappointed in the end with this song. However this song features some excellent verses.
Song #10. Resistance (4:24)
With the album winding down, I was hoping for an absolutely killer heavy track, instead this track is more of a heavy ballad, with more signing than growling vocals. It’s a good one and has nice singing portions; but I was hoping for more.
Song #11. Dead Flowers (
Dead Flowers is the second (or really first) true ballad of True Defiance and is the sole slow song that is singing all the way through. This song attempts something in the line of “Carry Me Down” from Storm the Gates, but doesn’t succeed IMHO. I didn’t relisten to this song, which means I didn’t care for it too much upon my first listen.
As an ending caveat, I often times have to listen to albums multiple times, with multiple passes through each song, before I tend to like every track. Case in point, it took over FOUR COMPLETE listens before I liked Flyleaf’s sophomore effort “Memento Mori”, so take what i say here with a grain of salt and don’t let it discourage you from listening intently to every song on True Defiance. Case in point, “This Is the Line” is one of my brother’s favorite tracks from The World Is A Thorn, so even though me and him have similar tastes in metal, everyone is different and won’t always like the same thing. I am confident that all of these tracks will grow on me. In the end, True Defiance is an absolute knock-out of an album and I was NOT disappointed. Go out and buy it and to yourself and the band a service! If you can, get ahold of the Deluxe Edition which features two additional tracks. I will review those soon.
Does True Defiance top The World Is A Thorn? That’s a hard one to make, to me they are equally great. However I think the cohesive themes, the deep lyrics in many more songs, and the epic guitar work really make True Defiance shine brighter. Overall the album is absolutely EPIC and well worth the cash!
Deluxe Edition Songs
Song #12. What Is Left (Deluxe Edition Exclusive) [4:29]
If you’re hoping for heavy songs on the Deluxe Edition, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is a very slow song and another ballad of Demon Hunter’s. I didn’t care for this song too much, and I found the chorus somewhat annoying… [initial impression]
Song #13. I Am A Stone (Deluxe Edition Exclusive) [5:46]
This is another extremely slow song, but unlike the previous one, this one is absolutely INCREDIBLE. A completely fitting ending, this song is more like a true hymn, with strings throughout! I expected Ryan to come in with some growls at some point just absolutely randomly. That didn’t happen, and by the end I was left floored by the absolute beauty of this song. Definitely a keeper!
Note: This review is somewhat of a work-in-progress, I will be adding my favorite song verses below each track from each song, as well as giving this review one more proofread in which point I will add/remove sections and make it all flow better. So please come back soon to give this review another read!
Music Album Reviews
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8. I AM By Becoming the Archetype (Posted: September 14th 2012)
7. Find Your Worth Come Home By To Speak of Wolves (Posted: May 25, 2012)
6. Celestial Progression (Remix Album) By Becoming the Archetype (Posted: May 21, 2012)
5 Return to Life By War of Ages (Posted: April 28, 2012)
4. Thousand Foot Krutch – The End Is Where We Begin (Posted: April 20, 2012)
3. KJ-52 – Dangerous (Posted: April 16, 2012)
2. Manafest – Fighter (Posted: April 15, 2012)
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5. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (N64) [Posted: January 31 2013]
4. Resident Evil: Code Veronica Review (Dreamcast) [Posted: October 5 2012]
3. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PS1, GameCube) [Posted: September 18th 2012]
2. Resident Evil 2 (GameCube) [Posted: September 3rd 2012]
1. Resident Evil Remake (GameCube) [Posted: August 14 2012]
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2. Gilmore Girls Season One Episode 2 – The Lorelais’ First Day At Chilton Review
1. Gilmore Girls Season One Episode 1 – Pilot Review
3. The Amazing Spider-Man [Posted: December 1 2012]
2. Prometheus (Ridley Scott’s Alien Prequel) [Posted On: November 25 2012]
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