On March 5, 2021, Seattle based metal outfit, Demon Hunter, released their eleventh studio album titled Songs of Death and Resurrection, an acoustic album. Made up of Ryan Clark on vocals, Jonathan Dunn on bass, Yogi Watts on drums, and Patrick Judge and Jeremiah Scott on guitars, Demon Hunter has been a staple of the heavy music scene for nearly two decades. Though they’ve been around longer than this year’s high school graduates, each new release feels more highly developed than the last; unafraid to try out new creative directions while still maintaining that familiar Demon Hunter sound. Songs of Death and Resurrection (from here on out called SODAR) is another one of those novel ideas come to realization and the result is astounding.
Released through Solid State Records just like their other ten studio albums, SODAR takes a look back through Demon Hunter’s entire catalog and pulls from each of their past releases (with the exception of Outlive). Every song is completely reinvented, swapping out the electric guitars for string-driven, acoustic arrangements. SODAR does feature one new track called “Praise the Void,” which will be released again on their next studio album with an electrified update. In total, SODAR isn’t a “best of” album or a collection of their greatest hits, rather Demon Hunter selected the more obscure songs that they knew the fans would enjoy. Closing out at 62 minutes long, SODAR, in essence, is Demon Hunter’s love letter to their fans.
Though almost all of the songs may be familiar, Demon Hunter’s creative arrangements completely reimagine them, adding depth to more recent tracks and breathing new life into older ones. Gorgeous harmonies replace any screams from the original versions. The distorted electric guitars are replaced with a shimmering string section as arranged and performed by Chris Carmichael . The piano and vocal talents of Joanna Ott brighten many tracks . Drums and percussion still play a central part in most of the songs but they are simplified, creating space for the lush orchestration to sweep over the sonic palette. Unique sounds such as a harp, bagpipes, and the vocals of Peggy Clark, Ryan Clark’s mother, can be found throughout the album .
In fact, the only song that doesn’t feel as though every part has been replaced by a stringed instrument is “I Am a Stone” whose original string section has been exchanged in favor of an acoustic guitar, a piano, and drums with a slightly quicker tempo. Other stand-out moments include the guitar solo in “I Will Fail You” which has been replaced note for note by a striking chorus of strings. “Dead Flowers” ends with the sound of bagpipes whose bright droning stoically closes the emotional track. The full vocal harmonies in the final chorus of “Deteriorate” gives me shivers every time. “Praise the Void” features a powerful piano performance that perfectly compliments Clark’s passionate vocal delivery.
As the album title suggests, each song on the record follows the themes of death and resurrection, often contemplating the inevitability of death and the prospect of what lies beyond.
As many of these songs have been out for over ten years and have already been dissected thoroughly, I’d like to explore the message in the new track, “Praise the Void.” Often, Demon Hunter tracks are difficult to fully decipher, remaining purposefully ambiguous, yet nonetheless poetic. “Praise the Void” very much falls in the same realm of ambiguity, however we can still glean a bit of the message. My interpretation of the song’s meaning is that we (society or humanity) have in a way given up hope in heaven or the idea of salvation. Instead we “praise the void” and believe that “nothing is enough” to save us from this dark and lonely end. At first glance, this song and the world view it embraces seems rather depressing. However, in the bridge, I believe that Clark is posing a question to the listener: do we really believe that there’s nothing after death? If so, then all this love is essentially wasted since it all ends in the dark and lonely void, as the song explains. I think that Clark’s goal with this song is to challenge that mindset of hopelessness, that we all end in nothingness. It instead is meant to spur his listener to find something in which to have hope.
This theme of hope in death carries through many Demon Hunter songs, but they are most prevalent here in SODAR.
My Final Thoughts
I’ve been a massive fan of Demon Hunter for about eight years now and time and time again, each consecutive album amazes me without fail. SODAR is no different. Though only one song is truly new, the acoustic arrangements give every song new life and I think is much preferable to electronic remixes. The vocal layering and bagpipes in “Dead Flowers” brought me to the point of tears and the harmonies in “Deteriorate” still give me chills every time I listen to it. In my opinion, this is, once again, a great creative success for Demon Hunter. It has made me fall in love with some of their more worn out songs all over again. Also, the album artwork is some of the best I’ve ever seen.
Those who are just getting into Demon Hunter may not experience the same nostalgia that veteran fans will feel when listening to SODAR, but it’s still an absolutely beautiful album and I highly recommend it. Demon Hunter has proven once again that they can shine both in the loud and aggressive side of music as well as in their slow contemplative ballads.
The Blessed Resistance: https://blessedresistance.com/
“I Am A Stone (Resurrected)” – Live in the Studio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olidl8VbnZk&ab_channel=DemonHunter