Christian metal godfathers Demon Hunter have extended their decades-long career with their ninth and tenth sister albums, War and Peace, after long ago striking the sweet spot between strength and consistency. The only logical way a heavyweight could top off nearly 20 years of music must be with a double-header; in the past, the band has tackled the concept of the fight between darkness and light throughout their albums, but, this time around, the band has compartmentalized those ecosystems with a more in-depth look at the facets of good and evil on each individual album
Demon Hunter has offered a more holistic understanding of the songwriting process and personal journey here – in contrast to some of their past work – and this duo of albums dives deep into the philosophical struggles between the demon and the angel, the man
War begins with a mid-energy chant, “Cut to Fit,” and works its way into more modal melodies in songs like “Close Enough,” songs typical of the Demon Hunter canon; the band experiments with sounds and production in songs like “No Place for You Here” and “Lesser Gods.” The musicianship is on par with past records, each riff and each groove sounding effortless. War is a decent dynamic journey and strikes a good balance between clean and unclean vocals, a pattern true to the Demon Hunter sound. The album is accurate to its given name – as one would hope – and fans can expect the same ferocity and honesty that the band has proven over time since their debut release in 2002.
In contrast, Peace offers listeners a softer side of Demon Hunter. While War presents a more pronounced variety of song in energy and feel, the second album falls short in diversity and dynamic as a collection of similar songs. Where musical outliers like “When the Devil Come” delve into what almost sounds like eerie folk music, the majority of Peace is a one-note sonic experience. The tracks do, however, have depth; the lyrics pull in more imagery – which is much appreciated – and the arrangement incorporates unique elements of this subtler sound with the addition of acoustic instruments and ethereal textures.
However, the last track, “Fear is Not My Guide,” successfully brings the listener to a true sense of peace as the entire anthology intends. With a melodic combination of rich low notes and soft, strong high notes, this song is truly the star of both albums. As vocalist Ryan Clark writes, “When time outruns my soul, I don’t have to hide, fear is not my guide,” this is perhaps the most accurately-phrased mantra that Demon Hunter has lived out since its start in 2000.
Demon Hunter has never shied away from the discomfort of living in paradox, and in no way do these albums diverge from that approach.
It is impressive for Demon Hunter to release two dramatically different records in the same album cycle. It takes tremendous mental, physical, and creative energy to write even one holistic album with the attention it deserves. To commit to these equal, extensive pieces of a single story takes next-level commitment and undoubted conviction.
Demon Hunter’s absolute strength is the band’s willingness to tell their story with authenticity. They after 20 years, they now have the utmost of confidence, and it comes through in their performance and control of this double release. War and Peace are bold, forthright statements on the ebb and flow of spiritual life. Just as human thought can simultaneously experience joy and sorrow, anger and harmony, love and loss, these records sit side-by-side in your mind, a living, dynamic entity. Demon Hunter has never shied away from the discomfort of living in paradox, and in no way do these albums diverge from that approach.