Since their inception, Demon Hunter has grown to become a main attraction in Christian metal. After four studio releases (the fourth of which having been released just over a year ago) and several DVD and special edition releases, the band is releasing their first live album, Live In Nashville. The live album was recorded last June on the Nashville, Tennessee, stop of their Storm The Gates of Hell Tour. Also, if you already have Demon Hunter's 45 Days CD/DVD set, Live In Nashville will sound VERY familiar, as it's the audio from the live concert DVD portion of 45 Days.
As with Underoath's live album, Survive, Kaleidoscope, the Live In Nashville disc starts off with some quiet ambient music with an industrial style beat behind it. You also hear the crowd cheering and, at first, chanting the band's name. The band then jumps into the title track of their latest disc Storm The Gates of Hell. The sound quality really couldn't be any better, as you have come to expect from any of Brandon Ebel's label imprints. "Lead Us Home" is next, starting off with an avalanche of drums, courtesy of Mr. Yogi Watts. "Lead Us Home" is the second track, and the second track where vocalist Ryan Clark lets the crowd sing part of the chorus (this time around, he sings the "lead us" part and lets the crowd finish with "home"). What's really bad about this is that, on occasion, it's hard to hear the audience singing/screaming along, so it sometimes just sounds like they completely left these parts out. To be able to sing along is an awesome part of the live experience when you're at a concert, but sometimes it just doesn't translate too well onto a live disc. Another noticeable thing by now is that, where Clark sings really high-pitched on the studio disc he is not able to easily replicate in a live setting, so he usually just goes with the complete opposite and sings it rather deeply.
DH then takes it back an album with "Ribcage," where he annoyingly screams the name of the song in the opening guitar riffs (it's a stereotypical metal band thing to scream the song title, even if it's in the middle of a sentence and the rest of the sentence is normal talking). The music is still near-studio quality at this point and really shows no sign of slowing down. Ryan then takes a few minutes to talk to the crowd and thank them for the support and everything (which, to reference Survive, Kaleidoscope once more, is something that was missing from that project, and something that hurt its overall quality). He introduces the next song, and gives the meaning behind it (which is sympathizing with people's weaknesses and failures), and they head into the first of three more newer songs, "I Am You." The pre-chorus features a nice semi-breakdown guitar/drum structure. "Carry Me Down" and "Fading Away" follow, the latter of which has received music video airplay on Fuse and MTV's "Headbanger's Ball," a big honor for metal bands.
Heading back to The Triptych, Ryan Clark explains the meaning behind the next song, "The Soldier's Song," an explanation which most Demon Hunter fans have heard plenty of times. On the plus side, musically speaking, it's one of Demon Hunter's best songs in their entire repertoir. One of the more diverse songs they've ever written is next: "Follow The Wolves," complete with the piano and disco beat heard on the original. DH heads into the first single from The Triptych, "Undying," which still features an incredible breakdown after the bridge. The guys then reach all the way back to their debut, self-titled album (my personal favorite of them all, so I was happy to see at least one track from that album make it onto the set list), and they pull out "Infected" for all the "old schoolers." Still, though, it would've been nice to have at least one more from the debut, like "Through The Black" or "I Have Seen Where It Grows."
Clark encourages the crowd to start moving and jumping around as they make their way back to the new stuff with "Sixteen," a song which features Bruce Fitzhugh from Living Sacrifice on the Storm The Gates of Hell album. I wondered if, since Fitzhugh was on that tour as well, he would come out and perform his part of the song. I was pleased to hear Fitzhugh's super deep and growling vocals make their appearance for the live version, and actually doing even more vocal work than what you hear on the album version of the song. After the song ends, Clark tells the audience to give it up for Fitzhugh, and then announces the final song of the evening, one of their most popular songs (and by far the most popular of their ballads), "My Heartstrings Come Undone."
The song ends and the audience immediately starts with the obligatory "One more song! One more song!" chant. Of course, who can say no to that? So the operatic chantings of "The Flame That Guides Us Home" come through the speakers and repeat several times until "Not I" fires things back up. The band plays like it really is the first song of the night, not showing any tiredness or lack of quality in their performance. The only time that is not the case, however, is in the pre-chorus when Clark changes his vocal tone a couple times and it sounds slightly sloppy. But the singing along from the audience (with "not I!") sounds much much better in this song than most of the previous ones. The real last song of the night ends up being Summer of Darkness' "Not Ready To Die." Live In Nashville then quickly ends with some more thank you's and a God bless.
Live In Nashville, as a live project, is up there with the best. The sound quality is excellent, the musicianship was powerful, and there was plenty of crowd interaction. However, it doesn't change the fact that (dare I say it?) Demon Hunter has a tendency to get a little bland. They are definitely a good band, full of excellent musicians, but sometimes the songwriting can be just standard. And while Ryan Clark's vocals sound just as good live as they do on their albums (an absolute plus, no doubt), he uses the same vocal pattern in a lot of DH songs. It's really easy to mix a lot of their songs up, unless you are a gigantic DH fanatic who has all of their songs memorized from beginning to end. Live In Nashville is recommended for hardcore fans (obviously), and possibly those who are new to the band. New fans can get a small taste of old Demon Hunter, as well as a bigger taste of the new stuff. But the average Demon Hunter fans wouldn't be too disappointed if they spent their money on something else.- Review date: 1/26/09, written by Scott Fryberger
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