Demon Hunter has been a massively influential band in the metal music genre, especially within the Christian-based metal scene. For over 20 years, the band has developed a beloved model of music which typically includes a range of heavy musical styles and a couple of softer, more melodic songs per record. The latter quickly became fan-favorites among the aggressive metal songs.
Demon Hunter has taken note and with their eleventh album, Songs of Death and Resurrection, paying homage to these alluring songs to tap into their beautiful melodies and transcendent messages. The record features twelve songs–eleven "resurrected" songs and one original from a future album. The band hired a pianist, Joanna Ott, to add to the atmosphere of melody and sound. Ryan Clark's mother is also featured on the track "Loneliness." The band also played a high-quality live stream concert playing it front to back to help promote it.
About this record, Ryan Clark (lead singer), adds, "When my brother and I started this band, our goal was to lead with aggression, but also have some range. Over time, the slower, more melodic songs would become a signature of each and every album, lead the charge of fan favorites, and serve to distinguish Demon Hunter's sound from that of a typical metal band. We hope you enjoy these new renditions as much as–if not more than–the originals."
What was the process like of picking which songs made it on this record?
Well, we wanted to pick a collection of songs where some of them were fan favorites and some of them were ones that we were really familiar with in terms of having played them quite a few times live. We also put a few in that we never played live. There's one new song too, "Praise The Void," from an upcoming record. We wanted to adapt these songs in a new way without alienating our fans and doing something totally different with someone's favorite tune. We also needed the album to flow well - every good album has highs and lows - and this one does, thanks to some more upbeat songs and further stripped-back ones.
Do you or the band have any special memories with a particular song on this record?
For us, the songs take on a life of their own after we are done with them and release them. We write these songs and hope someone can resonate with them and appreciate them. We get the most joy out of playing and creating these songs and then seeing the fans connect to them. They don't usually come full-circle back to us in that way. The cool part about songwriting is that you never know what will happen with a song.
Can you tell us about the new song, “Praise The Void?”
It was a demo for a forthcoming record. We never stop writing demos and ideas. When a studio album is released, we already have demos for the next going. I reverse-engineered this track, similarly to others on the record, to strip it back to the piano, string, and vocal. This one had the most potential out of the current demos we had for this record. The first take with our pianist and everything was perfect; we knew this was a good fit musically.
Lyrically, and thematically, the song takes on a concept of the "void" is what happens after death. Some people feign death to be this sort of comfort in nothingness. They find comfort in thinking death, or the nothingness that they think it brings, takes away the darkness of life. To me, that concept is silly.
A lot of my songs take a sarcastic approach when I write. This one could be seen as a sarcastic praise song for the absence of God. The sarcasm is natural for me and usually comes out in the verses of songs and then a hopeful, or first-person, chorus. This song is opposite that structure, but still sarcastic to the concept it is about as I play the devil's advocate often.
After 20 years as a band, what keeps you going?
There's certain things that I feel like I've honed over the years and then there's other things where I feel like I've kind of tapped out as well. I'm especially thankful that Patrick (Judge, guitar) is helping write music these days. He brings new and fresh musical perspectives to the band a lot. He probably gives me 30 or more demos for each record nowadays. Lyrically, I always have stuff to write about - parenthood, faith, world events, etc. Otherwise, devotion is a huge factor.
I've wholeheartedly thrown myself into music since I was a teenager and, it's sort of cliche to say it, but it's not as much of a choice as it is a compulsion. I have my cake and eat it too because I'm a designer during the day, which I love to do, and dream about recording and writing music. This season of life is great with the design and the band. It would be a different story if the band wasn't as impactful as it's been for the fans. I'm grateful for the fans that have followed us for many years and whom the music has touched.
Lastly, our tour life has kept us alive. I think bands get burnt out on one another. I think once it starts feeling like a job, it loses its luster. We've never had that. And so I think that that's a fair thing. It was seen as a deficit for a lot of years by whether it was record labels or other bands that would want to take us on tour and we would say no, it could be a bummer at times. Looking back, whether on purpose or not, it was sort of a genius model because it allowed us to survive. We don't take it for granted, or get tired of one another.
How does your faith impact your songwriting or the band today?
My lyrics are told through the lens of a person of faith–a Christ-centered way of seeing things. I don't have to think about how it plays out, it just plays out in either the background or the foreground of everything I'm saying. Sometimes it is more evident than others. We have never pulled out punches and it showed from the beginning of the band. A lot of bands were walking the fence, spiritually, going back and forth or weren't upfront about it. We gained respect because we were different about it.
Yet, you're always going to be too Christian for some people; not Christian enough for others. And that's something that I've learned since I was signed to a label when I was 16 years old. When it comes to the term "Christian" band, we find it immature to split hairs over that. I've heard all the arguments and it is not worth it to us. Yes, my worldview and the band's is Christian based and it comes through in music. If you want to call us a Christian metal band, go for it. If not, that's fine.
What do you expect the future of the band and the next record to look like?
It's hard to say. I don't want to give too much away and it's also hard to say because songs are a certain way in their demo form, like at this stage. I feel like after these 10, or 11, records, we can guide fans into a new chapter if we want to, without feeling like fans will bail on us. There's always a certain element to Demon Hunter songs and they'll stay. But I think there is a natural evolution over time that is appropriate. There are some areas we haven't explored, or explored much. We won't be experimenting in a way that leaves fans jaded or anything. We already have a wide range of styles that we have covered too, so our playground is big in that sense.
Ryan Adams lives with his family in Montana. He has been NRT's Rock Reporter since 2018.
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