Sound — 4
"Outlive" is the eighth album by everyone's local church band, Demon Hunter. Coming out of a three year break since 2014's "Extremist", the American something-or-other core band have done a dirty on everybody and lost all semblance of identity in the space of five songs.
Quite surprising in terms of the history of the NWOAHM, Demon Hunter isn't quite doing the dirtiest of dirties and going full Trivium on their material. Well, not to the same extent anyway.
The pattern for the last couple of albums has been to essentially ape the style of Swedish Melodeath into as American friendly a package as possible. This effect has been enhanced further as "Outlive" stands to show because in the same way In Flames decided to go fully off its own rails of radio metal, Demon Hunter have released an album of ballads.
Bit of a sweeping generalisation but not strictly untrue.
Album openers "Trying Times" and "Jesus Wept" (bloody hell, bit on the nose) split themselves between Nine Inch Nails movie-score and relatively interesting metalcore bruiser in the space of four minutes. Already, it's not clear what exactly is going to happen in this album and usually that sort of effect isn't even a bad thing. However, as soon as "Jesus Wept" blows it load to quite the effect, the album inundates you with the pure Swedish cheese that completely derails the entire tone of it all.
And by cheese, it's not just any old cheese. It's - very specifically - a highly refined blend of recent Soilwork, Scar Symmetry circa 2008 and Solution .45 and by blend, really it's more of a unrepentant dismantling of the best bits. Not in any overtly heinous way - even if some of those melody lines are dangerously close to it - but holy shit, does Demon Hunter lack any sense of self because of it.
All the way from "Cold Winter Sun" to "One Less", it's a slogfest of radio singles and things that sounded old over six years ago: "One Less" being a mathcore-oriented piece, if you can believe it. Oh yeah, very competently written, granted. Can't fault the production or mix either, especially the still-questionable vocal mix (for other reasons, explained later).
It's just overall, how much do you enjoy listening to essentially the same song for seven songs in a row? That is this album. Even "Cold Blood" only manages to distinguish itself for being vaguely Slipknot-inspired (it's beyond influence at this stage).
Also to add, this viewpoint comes from listening to the album at 1.25x its normal speed based on recommendation. Although filled with artificial energy because of this, removing said energy makes any pretense of excitement for this album fall away like oh so many autumn leaves.
It's not even unreasonably fast because of it: Soilwork's 2013 album "The Living Infinite" had even faster songs than the sped up versions of the "Outlive" tracks and pulls off this sound to a much more impressive level.
And even disregarding all of this comparison and referencing, a perfectly acceptable thing to do if you're sick of this reviews general up-itself-ness (sorry), the album is just dull. Painfully slow, lacking in memorability outside of things it borrows from and it's still able to perplex the listener with just how inconsistent it all is.
Lyrics — 7
This wash of negativity all said and done, it's no small task to effectively emulate two of metals most recognisable vocalists.
Ryan Clark is by no means a bad singer or a bad vocal line writer but down to the detail, vocal production included, he is mimicking both Christian Alvestam and Björn Strid but not quite doing the best of either.
He doesn't have Alvestam's upper range and doesn't have Strid's inventive melody lines nor eithers harsh vocal talent.
Take that appraisal as you want but it's impossible not to think "Damn, I should just go listen to Lethean Tears" or "wow, when did Scar Symmetry re-release 'Pitch Black Progress'" while listening to this album. But hey, at least a new listener is getting a fresh earful of a very particular kind of vocal style. Again, Ryan Clark is a good singer but this kind of assessment won't lessen without some originality.
Lyrically, well, we all know they're a Christian band who go for the "edgy" aesthetic so the lyrics are "brutal 4 jesus" or something. Ok, they're significantly more nuanced than that but overall, the way they're framed is the only thing to take issue with.
And that's cuz it still sounds like they're done in the "Alvestam way".
If you combine this with the established idea that Demon Hunter are essentially "lame Scar Symmetry", the disconnect of listening to Demon Hunter seems weirder and weirder given the former's decidedly pro-religious lyrical content and latter's... space agey, futuristic and vaguely atheistic content.
Different strokes, etc.
Still, it's impossible to escape the point that has been heavily woven into this review so far: Lyrical phrasing, rhythmic patterns and decidedly everything except the actual themes are all based on Strids and Alvestams mannerisms.
How can one even know if this is Ryan Clark and not some otherworldly breeding of all three previously referred vocalists into one homogeneous mess of "not quite there yet"? Listening to "Outlive" won't make it easier to tell.
Overall Impression — 4
Obviously, there's a certain grain of salt to be had here: competent so-called "melodic metal" is both hard to pull off and not as common as one would think. At least "Outlive" is good in that department.
But for some sort of spark, excitement, something new and something that isn't actually ripping off the Swedes from like ten years ago, "Outlive" is something not really worth the time.
And I'm deadly serious about speeding the thing up, it's honestly a mercy.
Songs to look out for: "One Less", "Patience", "Spectrum of Eternity", "Morphogenesis", "Lethean Tears". (I'm serious)