On March 1, 2019, a day of huge releases in metal, came a dual release from Demon Hunter via Solid State Records. For anyone not familiar with Demon Hunter, they are one of the largest Christian Metal bands in the world and have been making music together for nearly 20 years. Before these releases, their arsenal of music included eight studio albums. War and Peace are standalone albums and show huge contrast.
War is definitely the bigger and more traditional metal album of the two. The lead single “On My Side” is classic Demon Hunter. The drumming and bass work is superb and really drives the song, while the vocals are in half time above them, giving it a heavy feel even with a slower paced vocal. The song is big and catchy and has deservedly been praised as a single.
“Close Enough” is the other pre-released single. The song has a Metallica-esque driving riff that sounds like it has a place on The Black Album until it hits the larger-than-life chorus that certainly grabs your attention.
“No Place For You Here” is likely to be the biggest success story from the album. The guitar work in this track is out of this world. Mixed with the heavy vocals and the really cool tempo changes from verse to chorus, this track is as musically sound as they come.
My favorite track on either record is “Ash.” I knew from the first 3 seconds of the drum solo leading in what I was in store for in this song. Even though it registers right under 3 minutes, it certainly packs the biggest punch on either record. The blazing tempo and heavy vocals coupled with the technical guitar riffs at a high pace almost give you that classic Pantera feel.
“I Don’t Believe You” has a big intro built around my favorite riff on either album, a heavy little run reminiscent of 70’s heavy metal pioneers, that pulls back into a slower paced, death metal-style track with a big hooky chorus that echoes the opening riff, only softer and up an octave.
The title track “Peace” is an uptempo song with a really fun feel. The vocals have a nice harmony and the beat pushes this track through to another resounding chorus. The album takes an interesting turn for a metal band with the track “Recuse Myself,” which spends the first ¾ of the song with limited piano instrumental behind vocals before a build seemingly out of nowhere to a big finish.
But the centerpiece of Peace is in the final track, “Fear is Not My Guide.” The song is a ballad, with stripped down vocals over a piano backing track. It is a beautiful and powerful song and not what I had come to expect from a metal band, but showcases the difference between War and Peace in a very artistic way.
These two albums could not be more different. There has been a lot of criticism about the dual album approach (specifically directed towards Peace), but I think it is important, as with any album, to step back and think about the context. War is the metal album and is what we have come to love from Demon Hunter. Rather than sprinkle in these beautiful ballads among a metal album, the band created two unique approaches. Peace gives the band an outlet to do something a bit unexpected and displays their more stripped-down side. The two albums may appeal to completely different audiences and THAT IS OKAY! Both are musically sound and exceptional for different reasons.