Metal thrash legends Demon Hunter has entertained listeners for a long time. And, while rock has changed through the years, Demon Hunter has stayed Demon Hunter: heavy electric guitars, passionately charged vocals, and the gloomy atmosphere gothic rock. Not to mention, lyrics that embody the heart of spiritual warfare. Now, after two years, the band is back with not one, but two new albums. I connected with lead singer Ryan Clarke to talk about the band's new albums, War and Peace, their music and more.
You recently released two new albums: War and Peace. Why two albums? What are the themes for each one?
We’ve been tossing around the idea of doing two albums at once for nearly a decade. We got to the point where the timing felt right, the workload seemed manageable, and it was nice to round out albums nine and ten at the same time. The albums are not conceptual in terms of lyrics or overarching themes. As always, the songs cover a wide assortment of topics from general life issues to confronting mortality and even weathering the current political discussion. I wanted the freedom to be able to write about whatever struck me, without any sort of rigid concept binding it all together. In the end, it was important that these albums were digestible—with peaks and valleys and variation in their own right—but also work alongside the Demon Hunter catalog as a whole.
War has a heavier sound than Peace. Could you explain why?
Therein is the concept, really: two albums showcasing and exploring the polarized styles that we’ve bounced between since the very beginning of the band. The standard Demon Hunter album is usually somewhere in the realm of 80 percent heavy and 20 percent “ballad” (for lack of a better term). The heavy material comes quite a bit easier because we’ve done more of it over the years. As for the more melodic material, we’ve explored quite a bit of varying styles throughout the course of the band. But, comprising an entire album of non-heavy songs allowed us to really dive into some cool and undiscovered territory. We wanted to see where things would go naturally if we just set out to do an album that had no typical Demon Hunter heaviness on it. Peace has quite a bit more surprise throughout because of that.
Some call rock a dying art. Some rock bands adapt by changing their sound (for example, rock to electronic). Many bands are dedicated to keeping rock alive. What are your thoughts? Would you ever change your sound?
I think bands who start out as trendy usually need to adapt to new trends in order to stay relevant. Overall that’s just a bad look. The bands that always appealed more to me were ones that stayed true to their own style, even through the changing of times. I’m not sure if rock is a dying art or not, but if it becomes more niche, that’s fine with me. I believe rock, metal, and punk have always worked best as an alternative to whatever is considered normal or pop. When I have the urge to do something different, I create an outlet for it, like I did with NYVES. With Demon Hunter, we’ve got plenty of room to explore a wide range of styles without alienating fans or jeopardizing the overall blueprint. When we started the band, we immediately began to incorporate softer, more melodic material, so that we’d have the freedom to pursue as much of that as we’d like in the future. I like to think that we’ve done a pretty good job of not following trends within the scene, and I believe it’s helped solidify our core fanbase and increase our shelf life.
Ever thought of doing a heavy metal remake of a classic hit? Think "Sound of Silence" by Disturbed or "Zombie" by Bad Wolves. If so, what would you cover and why?
It’s definitely crossed my mind. I wouldn’t rule it out for the future, but I usually find that I want to express something that is definitively my own when it comes time to writing and recording. I’m brimming with song ideas of my own. To me, the biggest issue with covering a bonafide hit is that it can come off as a desperate attempt at a radio single. If we were to cover a classic song, it would have to be something that was really important to us as a band.
What are some of your favorite artists and music that you listen to and why?
Wow. There are so many, but some of my all-time favorites would be Depeche Mode, Alice In Chains, Bowie, Prince, Deftones, Pantera, Editors, Gojira, Elbow, HIM, Soilwork, Living Sacrifice, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Queen, Rocket From The Crypt, Starflyer 59, Slipknot, and White Lies. I like different bands and artists for a ton of different reasons. Sometimes it’s the overall vibe and artistry, sometimes the lyrics, sometimes the sheer originality, and sometimes because it’s just shamelessly catchy. There are a lot of bands that resonate with me because of my nostalgia for a certain period in my life, and there are some newer bands—though far less-often—that catch my ear with perhaps a unique or new spin on a particular sound.
How do you approach your songwriting?
Ideas come to me out of the blue—whether it’s a riff or a vocal melody or a phrase—and I immediately stop and record them with my voice into my phone. I pile these ideas up throughout the year, and when it comes time to really start writing in earnest, I pull up all of these little “sparks” or song-starters and choose one that I’d like to expand on. And, usually, it flows pretty naturally from there. Lately, our guitarist, Patrick, has been writing a ton of material as well. This has been a huge help for me and has kept newer Demon Hunter material sounding fresh and inspired. Patrick sends me fully-formed songs (instrumentals), and I rarely change the structures or anything at all. He knows what I’m looking for and what I like to write to, so that process is very seamless. With his songs, it’s just a matter of finding the right words and melodies, and that’s been a fun—and less arduous—process for me in recent years.
What's next? How can we be praying for you?
Right now, we’re chilling, enjoying the albums (finally) being out in the world. A big priority for us right now is maintaining our newly relaunched fan club, The Blessed Resistance. We’re putting content on this site almost every day—including podcasts, tutorial videos, Q&A sessions, deep lyrical dices, and much more. This is basically our way of staying active even when we’re not out playing, and I think fans are really digging it. Soon we’ll be planning shows for later in the year, so that will begin to take precedence. We’ve got some really cool ideas in the works for a show unlike anything we’ve done in the past, so we’re excited to put all of the pieces together for that.
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