Demon Hunter is one of the most stalwart bands in the modern metal scene, a model of perseverance in the face of adversity. This is a band with only two of its founding members left in the lineup, and all members, new and old, are involved in other projects, be they other bands, businesses, or jobs within the music industry. Thus, fans are lucky to see Demon Hunter tour once a year, if that much. However, despite their other commitments, the band manages to release albums on a consistent basis no matter what, and on top of that, each album they release expands on their previous work, making it stronger and more original. The World is a Thorn is no exception. On this, their fifth album, Demon Hunter have managed to top 2007’s beyond-excellent Storm the Gates of Hell and set themselves well above their peers in the metalcore scene once again.
The most notable change from their previous albums is that Demon Hunter has increased the intensity of their music, making this album much heavier than most of their older work. The songs are faster, containing more thrash elements like sweeping single-note guitar riffs and machine-gun double bass. The title track is the best example of this, being one of the fastest songs Demon Hunter has ever written, if not the fastest. Also, guitar solos take the place of breakdowns on some songs, which is outstanding to hear from a band that used guitar solos far too infrequently in the past. On the songs that do contain breakdowns, though, the breakdowns are also faster and heavier than previously heard from the band. Even the slower, more melodic songs on the album like “Driving Nails” and “Blood in the Tears” are intensified, evoking more emotion with their exceptional compositions and beautiful singing. Every song also flows very well into the next, no matter how different the two songs might sound. There is no disjointedness on this album at all, escalating the quality of the songs that much more.
The vocals on this record are really what drive it forward and make it such a memorable listen. Ryan Clark delivers the best performance of his career on this record. His screaming voice extends to new ranges and styles, showing just how unique of a vocalist he can be. His singing voice is even more beautiful than before, delivering the emotion needed on the ballads to evoke the strong emotion that these songs deliver. The guest vocalists on this record also deliver brilliant performances. Soilwork vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid intensifies the pre-chorus lines of “Collapsing”, making the song more than just another ballad, but rather a heartfelt story of self-doubt and helplessness that most listeners can identify with. On “Just Breathe”, Christian Älvestam of Miseration (and formerly of Scar Symmetry) performs a powerful duet with Clark using both his unique growls and towering singing voice, making the song one of the album’s most memorable. Finally, Dave Peters of Throwdown adds his trademark growls to the track “Feel As Though You Could”, increasing the contrast between the song’s aggressive verses and the melodic chorus. All three guest appearances are well-placed and tasteful, fitting perfectly into the album’s structure as a whole.
Demon Hunter continues their meteoric rise in excellence on The World Is a Thorn, proving once again that the metalcore genre can be furthered with some thought and creative invention. This album is a testament to both Ryan Clark’s genius as a songwriter and the entire band’s prowess in musical performance, both in the big, defining elements of songs and the subtle minutiae that give each song that extra punch needed to stay memorable. Demon Hunter are still persevering, and it has paid off hugely on this album.