Demon Hunter is now 10 years and six albums in. And if you're wondering if the passage of time has somehow softened this fierce Christian metalcore act's prophetic stance against our culture's steady spiritual erosion, the answer is a resounding no.
Frontman Ryan Clark recently told loudwire.com, "There's an unapologetic tone throughout the record. I would say that's the underlying theme. The album title [True Defiance] says it all—in an age and society growing further away from what I believe, I find a sense of comfort going against the grain. I have a lot of beliefs that would be considered unpopular or politically incorrect, but I see myself clinging tighter to my worldview the older I get."
As for the spiritual particulars of his posture, Clark added, "If heavy metal were to have an official 'stance,' in regard to its themes and ideals, we would be the antithesis of that. We carry the same relentless aggression that metal bands do, but the views we express in our lyrics are at odds with that of most metal. If it's decidedly 'metal' to denounce God and worship self, then we're the ones being truly defiant within the scene."
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Album opener "Crucifix" rejects "the idols of humanity" and placing one's "hope in a revolting human race," while reminding us that Christ alone took on the sins of the world ("Every curse, lie, violation of our lives/Every careless error of breath, corruption of our minds/ … The weight of a wicked world/Embodied on a thankless crucifix"). "Tomorrow Never Comes" recognizes that fear has the power to pull us "far away from grace." Meanwhile, "Wake" counsels against following the masses on the broad path to destruction ("Don't follow the mass to an endless grave") and warns against self-reliance as a means of salvation ("The gravity of death is on your breath/ … I don't buy your self-reliant soul"). "God Forsaken" explores, albeit cryptically, spiritual self-sabotage, specifically how our tendency to embrace our shame instead of relinquishing it results in soul-deadening distance from God ("All the blame I carry around my neck, a dead cycle of pain").
"My Destiny" is a nostalgic song, according to Clark, that recalls the moment at a concert when, as a teen, he realized he wanted to make music, the moment he knew he would "carry that flame" as his calling. The ominous-sounding "Someone to Hate," meanwhile, is actually about the band's willingness to stand up for what it believes, even if it generates a hostile response ("I avow to the call on high/My resolve in the blessed above, in this ever-consuming divide/ … To my last breath, I am someone to hate").
"This I Know" rejects "vain and vile ways." As often happens in Demon Hunter's songs, other lyrics in that track describe the spiritual battle between God's people and demonic forces: "Let my will be a violent path to tear apart what's left/All hell falls down around my feet when I speak with a word of wrath." It's a battle that reminds combatants of their true spiritual identity ("In the fight I find my name, this I know/The blade of my call"), and the song concludes with a clear allusion to Christ ("One name above all/All others will fall"). Likewise, "We Don't Care" laments "a degenerate culture" in which "damnation is passed down to our sons" while apathetic people sit around and watch it happen. The band, however, is determined to fight the rising tide of apathy ("This is a lifelong declaration of war, no sacrifice in vain").
"Resistance" contrasts God's kingdom with the kingdoms of self and Satan ("There is a kingdom beyond your eyes/Whole of redemption, defining will/The path of self is wrought with fatal lies/Send them back to hell"). "Dead Flowers" mourns the loss of a beloved friend or family member, but looks forward to that person's resurrection ("Dead flowers for the torn apart/Laid at the grave/To heal a broken heart/Let it rain until it floods/Let the sun breathe life once more/Reborn").
Deluxe edition bonus track "What Is Left" threatens, "I left you in bones at the end of the road/I'm trying to evade you/I'm dying to be done/One solemn night I'll take you down the barrel of my gun." Fans of the band will assume right away the target here is Satan. The overt gun reference obscures that spiritual context for everyone else.
As always, Demon Hunter draws a razor-sharp line between the way of faith/life and the way of rebellion/death that inevitably comes when humanity rejects God. In doing so, Clark and Co. sometimes utilize vivid, violent imagery to make points. "Crucifix," for example, begins with grim lyrics about what happens to children when they're not shielded from soul-sapping worldly influences: "We will trample on our children till this world is flooded red/No boundary for depravity/ … Now weep for the life you've led."
Suffice it to say, images and ideas like these are a long way from the CCM mainstream—but not, it's important to point out, from the metal mainstream, much of which zeroes in on similar subjects from a nihilistic, despair-filled perspective. For fans of metalcore, thrash and death metal, Demon Hunter continues to offer a provocative alternative, appropriating similar language in the service of an altogether more hopeful message … even if it doesn't always sound like it on the surface.
A postscript: Demon Hunter's lyrics aren't always easily decipherable, and they may even mean the opposite of what they seem at first to be saying. In an interview with the music website Alternative Press, Clark pointed out one such example: "I have to admit I like to play with words that sound like they're saying something but actually mean another, which is definitely the case with the chorus on this song. 'If tomorrow never comes for all the cold and bitter ones, we can breathe.' At first glimpse, it seem like I'm saying, 'If the cold and bitter people would just die, we could breathe easy,' but what I'm actually referring to is someone whose life is in a downward spiral—and the hope that whatever ill fate dwells around the corner, never comes for them."