Sounds like … hardcore metal resembling Killswitch Engage, Slipknot, Deftones, and Korn, yet with as much stylistic variation as Underoath and P.O.D.At a glance … finally, a hardcore metal album that's not hard to understand, firmly grounded in God's Word, yet thoughtfully worded and musically varied.Track Listing Storm the Gates of Hell
Lead Us Home
Fading Away
Carry Me Down
A Thread of Light
I Am You
Follow the Wolves
Fiction Kingdom
The Wrath of God

I'll readily admit that I'm no hardcore metal expert. It's one of the few genres in which the aesthetics are sort of mystifying to me, because it's clearly not just about decibel level and pounding instrumentation. But while some metal bands offer strong melodic hooks, they're often dismissed for sounding too pop. Meanwhile, those that rely entirely on intensity and guttural screaming lack the broad appeal to develop beyond a niche following. As with most any genre, if a hardcore metal band is to break big, it somehow must find balance that maintains stylistic credibility while bringing something more accessible for a larger audience.

Demon Hunter offers something more, though they're certainly not the first. P.O.D. comes to mind, evolving beyond straight-up hardcore metal by incorporating elements of rap, reggae, jazz, and pop. In turn, Underoath has moved beyond mere "noise" into something more that defies easy categorization and requires serious musical chops. Bands like these prove exceptional through their willingness to advance further than formula and bring stylistic range to their sound.

Range is exactly what makes Storm the Gates of Hell impressive. The band's fourth album in five years is certainly intense and not for the faint of heart, yet it also refuses to get stuck with any one approach. Based on the bombast of the opening title track, it'd be easy for some to dismiss Demon Hunter as more of the same old hardcore. But then "Lead Us Home" kicks in, starting with more hard-hitting metal before unveiling an anthemic chorus that rivals (if not trumps) P.O.D. and Linkin Park.

It's a strength that the band so easily alternates from dissonance to melody, demonstrated by Ryan Clark effortlessly alternating between throat-shredding screams and powerhouse rock vocals. The common complaint is that hardcore metal has no sense of melody. Demon Hunter helps prove otherwise—they just don't always choose to wax melodic. Thus the stylistic range mentioned earlier, bringing a dynamic that's not typically heard in the genre. The band even treads close to pop metal at times. "Fading Away," about waiting on the Lord and acting in faith, could be mistaken for Seventh Day Slumber, and "Carry Me Down" is an uplifting meditation on death that's this album's equivalent to Demon Hunter's previous hit, "My Heartstrings Come Undone."

p>The other misconception with hardcore is that it's always dark and evil. How can something so loud be considered godly? (Answer: think of the intensity as an unleashed heart's cry to God.) How can a band call itself Christian when it blatantly features a frightening skull on the cover of all their albums? (Answer: consider whose devilish skull is being depicted in defeat.) The album's art is inventive, particularly the way the booklet opens, and the back cover depicts the band wearing clerical collars. Demon Hunter takes their calling seriously, offering scriptural inspiration and thoughtful ideas for every song on Storm.