Sound — 8
While the Seattle-based Christian Metal band Demon Hunter had essentially been influenced by Christianity (as many metal bands are) from their inception 14 years ago, they weren't brazen about it until a few albums in, and are now one of the brand names in the Christian Metal genre. With six albums under their belt, their last album, "True Defiance," accomplished two things: being the heaviest album they've ever made, and being the most dominantly Christian-themed album they've ever made - which properly displayed that the band was in no way "past their prime," and that their later albums would be just as worth it as their earlier ones.
With their new album, "Extremist," they've dialed down both the heaviness and the Christian overtones in comparison to its predecessor, but they prove that you don't need to keep raising the bar of energy in order to make a substantial album, and instead of trying to outdo the heaviness found in "True Defiance," they instead focus on covering all areas on the metal spectrum. Songs like "Artificial Light," "One Last Song," "What I'm Not," "In Time" and "Beyond Me" bring a balance of strong chugging riffs and harsh vocals in the verses and slower, melodic riffs and clean vocals in the choruses. Songs like "The Last One Alive," "I Will Fail You," "Hell Don't Need Me" and "The Heart of a Graveyard" are low-gear metal songs, with clean guitars, no harsh vocals and easy drum-lines, and do a good job bringing a forlorn element to the album - though "Hell Don't Need Me" sounds more tired than emotive, and comes off as the weak link of the album. "Cross to Bear" is a top-gear metalcore song with fleeting instruments and no clean vocals at all. "Death" also tries to be another metal song on the heavier side of the spectrum, but comes off as bland. And while the verses in "Gasoline" come off slow and clean, the choruses drop into high-energy metal with a meaty guitar riff, and also provide one of the only breakdowns on the album. Though "True Defiance" had arguably the best guitar-work in all of Demon Hunter's discography, you'll still find some awesome guitar solos in "Artificial Light," "The Last One Alive," "I Will Fail You," "In Time" and "Beyond Me."
Lyrics — 6
As stated before, the Christian overtones in "Extremist" aren't as extreme (ironic, huh) as they were in Demon Hunter's previous album, "True Defiance," but it's not hard to find Christian themes in several of the songs, like "The Last One Alive," "I Will Fail You," "Cross to Bear," "Hell Don't Need Me" and "Beyond Me." Though the lyrical content isn't highly diverse, the lyrics are fairly solid. "The Heart of a Graveyard," "Beyond Me," "I Will Fail You" and "The Last One Alive" have significant and catchy choruses, while angry lines like "Sing to me your plight unjust/define it for the rest of us/no river of your tears, no sympathy will find you here" in "Cross to Bear," and "you sell a fix for our defect/and all we find, artificial light" in "Artificial Light" stand out remarkably in the album. But just like in the sound aspect, the lyrics in "Death" and "Hell Don't Need Me" are weak and underwhelming points in the album.
Overall Impression — 7
"Extremist" is another strong album by Demon Hunter, and it's a good display of how the band isn't "phoning it in" even at the seventh release. Though the album in total runs kind of long (50 minutes) and a couple of songs feel disposable, it flows pretty steady and is certainly worth checking out as a whole. The best characteristic of it is the range of metal versatility: it shows that Demon Hunter can go from metal ballads to mosh-worthy thrash metal to radio-friendly & accessible metal and keep you interested. And the fact that they decided to be switching gears throughout the album - rather than going the "balls-to-the-wall energy" route like in "True Defiance" - makes this more distinguishable in the discography, which isn't easy to do for the seventh album.