Thursday, June 02, 2011

Demon Hunter - Live in Nashville Album Review

I've been an unabashed Demon Hunter fan since their first album debuted in 2002. There was something about their combination of elements of metalcore, nu-metal, and traditional metal that clicked with me. They weren't the most original band in the world, a lot of their mystique was a contrivance of their "secrecy" over the composition of their band, and sometimes their lyrics got a little too Christian-y... but I still listened to them nonstop.  Their later career albums were not as interesting to me as their first 3 albums, and their live performance wasn't quite as good as their recorded works (as I note in my review of their live album below), but no matter what changes this band go through I will always have an attachment to them if for no other reason than I listened to their first three albums more times than I could ever possibly fathom.  The review below was originally published on February 6, 2009 over at Decoy Music.

“Tonight, we dine in hell!”

With that quote from 300, Demon Hunter launch into their 14 song live set recorded in Nashville, Tennessee. It's somewhat interesting that Demon Hunter would be releasing a live CD so shortly on the heels of releasing 45 Days, a 3-disc documentary that contains plenty of live performances and unreleased music, especially considering that there was only a 2 month span between the release of the two. And then when you throw into the mix the fact that there was a special release of 2005’s The Triptych that contained a healthy amount of live material, it makes you wonder why there is really a need for even more live Demon Hunter.

Once you dig into Live in Nashville, you’ll quickly figure out that they should have really titled it Storm the Gates of Hell… Live! Of the 14 songs performed during this concert, half of them are from Storm the Gates of Hell. The remaining 7 songs include 4 cuts from The Triptych, 2 from Summer of Darkness, and a lonely single track from their self titled debut. With such a rich back catalog, and considering how underwhelming Storm the Gates of Hell was, the set list for this particular performance leaves a lot to be desired.

When you look at the history of the band, they’ve softened their sound quite considerably between their debut and their latest album. As they perform their newest songs alongside some of their older material, it’s a little harder to see the difference than when you listen to the album tracks, though, which should be seen as a positive. Demon Hunter manage to add a rawer edge to scratch up the glossy sheen that coated nearly everything on Storm the Gates of Hell. That’s not to say that their newer material isn’t noticeably “lighter” in nature, but it isn’t as off-putting as it could be. In fact, they transform the song “Lead Us Home” into a slightly more menacing version when performing it live since the screams and yells are infinitely rawer than on the album version.

Still, you can’t ignore what a letdown it is to see how their first 3 albums were almost entirely ignored. One of the two tracks from Summer of Darkness, “My Heartstrings Come Undone”, plays the role of slowing things down and, quite oddly, ending their main set and preceding their encore. Why would a metal band choose one of their power ballads to end a show? It’s simply baffling. True, the “actual” show ends with the encore performance of “Not I” and “Not Ready to Die”, but are you really going to get the crowd’s blood pumping for more when you leave the stage on such a slow, mellow moment?

The overall performance isn’t really bad and the band seems pretty tight, which are essential to having a listenable live album. Oh, and with this being a Solid State release, the mixing is absolutely perfect (my guess is there was a lot of tweaking and overdub work done), so you don’t have to worry about a subpar recording. So if you’re a big Demon Hunter fan, I’m sure you’ll be all over this, but beyond the hardcore Demon Hunter fan, though, I don’t see much of a reason for this to be released.

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