"These are trying times/ we will make the dead rise," Demon Hunter frontman Ryan Clark laments on the opening track of the bands eighth studio album, Outlive – fitting opening lines for an album that marks new life for this band. Outlive is almost an anthology of sorts of Demon Hunter's career up to this point, containing all the best elements of the sound they've developed over the past 15 years, gathered in what is perhaps their most complete collection of songs to date. While it's not a major stray from their last two albums, Demon Hunter take a few welcome risks on Outlive that, indeed, breathe new life into their tried-and-true brand of metal.
Most notable this time around is the decidedly European influence found on tracks like "Died In My Sleep," which borrows a page from bands such as Dark Tranquility to great success. The band's ability to juxtapose the harsh with the melodic has perhaps never been as adept as it is on Outlive. Few bands of this ilk have attempted to explore so many genres within a framework that is most safely labeled as metalcore, and Demon Hunter is admirable for doing so. As Outlive unfolds, traces of rock, death metal, groove metal, thrash metal and goth can be heard, complimented by melodic undertones that add to the accessibility and memorability of each song.
Demon Hunter hasn't been free from the plague of lineup changes over the years, but they seem to have found a sweet spot with the addition of guitarists Patrick Judge and Jeremiah Scott, both of whom have performed on the band's past three records. It also doesn't hurt that Scott has produced every album he's been a part of since he's joined; by this point, he clearly knows the Demon Hunter sound inside and out his songwriting contributions have only strengthened the band's sound. The mainstays of the band, Ryan Clark, drummer Yogi Watts and bassist Jon Dunn have all developed in their musical abilities over the years, and they've fully come to a head on Outlive.
The familiarity of Outlive could also be perceived as it's biggest flaw. Eight albums in, Demon Hunter have settled on a style they're comfortable with, and for the nitpicky listener, Outlive could very well appear to be another rehash upon initial listens. However, when given the proper chance, Outlive displays a revitalized Demon Hunter, one that is ready to break back into the current mainstream metal scene and take it by storm. There's a little something for everyone on Outlive, from the radio-friendly "Half As Dead" and "One Step Behind" to the aggressive romps of "Jesus Wept" and "Cold Blood," and though it's been a few years since Demon Hunter have embarked on a tour, these songs will fit right into a setlist comprised of some of their classic tracks.
In a time when metalcore is a bad word, Demon Hunter prove that there's still some life in it yet. It's bands like Demon Hunter that serve as important gateways into heavier, more aggressive music for young metalheads, and Outlive is a great album to do just that.