A hefty amount of stamina is needed when a non-metal listener like myself engages with the 2017 metal album Outlive by Demon Hunter.
The opening atmospheric track of this, the band’s eighth studio album, builds in anticipation with each drum hit and chord oozing ominous excitement. The first song blends seamlessly into the second track called “Jesus Wept,” a classic metal song with incessant double bass drum, unstoppable guitar solos, and growling vocals inducing high levels of adrenaline.
A slight reprieve occurs during the third and fourth tracks, mid-tempo songs with melodious vocals, as well as the introduction of the synth sound that subsequently appears throughout the album. By the fifth track I needed to rest my ears. However, I was hooked and came back to the rest of the album after a short break.
Demon Hunter formed in 2000 by two brothers, Ryan and Don Clark. Don left the band to pursue other interests, but Ryan has continued the band, doing the majority of the songwriting. The metal genre seems to offer an appropriate framework for forward-looking music coming from a more black-and-white perspective when much of the rest of popular music seems to thrive on ambiguity and nostalgia of the past. And Demon Hunter, an overtly Christian band, fit within this genre very well.
The themes of this album as are in-your-face as the music itself, exploring faith (“Jesus Wept,” “One Less”), death (“Died in My Sleep, Half as Dead”), parenthood (“One Step Behind,” “The End”), anger (“Patience”), the dangers of social media (“Cold Blood”), and walking alongside those who are questioning their faith (“Slight the Odds”).
I gained a lot from this album both musically and thematically. Engaging the album in small sections helped me notice the intricacies and subtleties found even among what at first appears to be an unforgiving wall of noise. The album encourages the listener to consider a future that may be difficult and possibly scary for Christians, as demonstrated in “Trying Times”: “We can’t be silent/we can’t belong/we have a promise, to die upon/We’ll set the fire/into a song/to burn eternal, when we’re all gone.” And yet it keeps in perspective that this future begins with the foundation of Christ, who will be beside us through it all. (Solid State Records)