Demon Hunter is back after a bit of a hiatus with their follow-up to 2003’s Summer of Darkness with their new release The Triptych. A triptych itself is a work of art that has 3 pieces hinged together, normally in the form of panels. To coincide with the album name, Demon Hunter is releasing three separate album covers, all spectacularly designed by front man Ryan Clark himself. You may know Ryan’s album art work from his work at Asterik Studios, who did many other Tooth and Nail releases such as Underoath, Anberlin, and Mae. So one thing is for sure – the visual aspect of the album is spectacular, but how is the music aspect? If you’re familiar with Demon Hunter’s previous work, you’ll immediately recognize the distinctive mix of metal and melody with Ryan’s deep growls to his smooth singing voice. One major critique of Summer of Darkness was that it had a very nu-metal feel to it, and that it was undoubtedly softer than Training for Utopia, a band that featured members of the current Demon Hunter line-up. Right from the gate, Demon Hunter establishes that The Triptych is going to be a much harder record.
Following an intro track, the album launches into a driving, furious song entitled “Not I.” Guttural screams with significant metal undertones precede a melodic chorus that showcases the strongest point of Demon Hunter, their vocals. While everybody, including me, wants Demon Hunter to be harder than they are, there is no denying the vocal talent in this band. Effortless melodies spout forth from numerous places on this record, providing a refreshing balance to the deep screams. Other tracks on the record mix an old-school metal feel with more common metalcore riffs to create a sound that is if nothing else, unique from the hundreds of other bands creating melodic metal today. “Undying” has throwback metal riffs that are similar to early Zao material, while the chorus has a great hook that flows right back into its more aggressive verses. A lot of this record actually reminded me of the new The Agony Scene record, at least the harder parts. While the harmonized singing is softer than anything you’ll find on The Darkest Red, the mini-breakdowns and timing of the double-bass are located in similar spots.
While The Triptych is noticeably harder than Demon Hunter’s last release, there are a few tracks that contain no screaming. In their place are ballads that not only have great build-up but are extremely catchy. Well, at least one of them. “Deteriorate” is one of the better metal ballads you’ll hear all year. As previously mentioned, I generally enjoy Demon Hunter when they are harder, but that’s only when their songs are in the middle of the track. Both extremes of Demon Hunter are fantastic, it’s the amount of songs that lack aggressiveness that deteriorate the album’s experience – no pun intended.
While tracks like “Fire to My Soul” showcase Demon Hunter’s metal side, combined with a catchy chorus, songs like “One Thousand Apologies” focus on melodies rather than smash-mouth riffs. I found there to be a bit too much soft material on this disc, but with respect to Demon Hunter’s earlier material, it’s a huge improvement. There are still plenty of ripping songs on this record, yet all of them seem to be slowed by having some sort of singing in them. This kills the momentum of the songs and has a tendency to make the songs sound like one another. Most songs have a chorus with some sort of hook to it, and after about half the record, it all begins to sound the same. It definitely would have been nice to see just a few tracks that took no mercy, so to speak. There in lies the main problem with Demon Hunter. The music is often too melodic to appeal to metal fans, and too hard to appeal to fans outside the genre. There’s a reasonable balance between the two forces, but the result isn’t strong enough to make The Triptych a stand-out record.
Overall, this record really caught me off guard and came as a pleasant surprise. If you passed off Demon Hunter before, give them another chance. It’s different than most of the metalcore bands the scene has floating around these days. Some may see that as a good thing, others may criticize the amount of singing and proclaim their hate for Demon Hunter. One thing is for sure – it’s a gigantic improvement from before.
LOVE this album. None of it sounds the same, it's all unique. Love the lyrics, and how they worked it into the fast guitars and awesome drums. Plus Ryan's amazing vocals tied it all together very well.