July 3, 2022

New Fury Media

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“5 Albums That Changed My Life” with Ryan Clark (Demon Hunter)

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They have a new album out, titled “Extremist”, out in March. With a month until the drop date, I’ve been exploring Demon Hunter’s back catalogue lately (I’m fairly certain Storm The Gates Of Hell is at the top for me) to get me ready for the new album.

Meanwhile, vocalist Ryan Clark stopped by to elaborate on 5 albums that have had a huge impact on his life. Check his surprising selections after the jump – and be sure to pick up Extremist next month!

5 Albums That Changed My Life
by Ryan Clark

When writing this, I really had to make a distinction between my favorite records, and records that truly changed my life. I think it’s natural to get the two categories confused… and I take my “top 5/10 lists” very seriously. Honestly – I actually have a perpetually edited list of top 10s just for my personal use – everything from records to cars to places visited. I’m actually not as OCD as that might suggest, but I do find comfort in order, and writing things (lots of things) down as to not forget them. Anyway… I’ve gotten way off. Here are the five albums, in chronological order (my personal chronology), that changed me the most:

01. Depeche Mode: Violator

My family moved from Bend, Oregon to Sacramento, California in 1989. Up to that point, my musical education had been mostly handed down from whatever my brother Don (who is four years older than me) was introduced to, which was Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, etc. As great (and still extremely relevant) as all of this stuff is, it wasn’t until after we’d moved and my cousin Kyle showed me Depeche Mode’s Violator album in 1990, that I really felt drawn to music. It was different than anything I’d ever heard. Melancholy at it’s finest. It straddled the line between dark/macabre and beautiful. Dave Gahan’s brooding voice, backed by the vibrato of Martin Gore gave me chills. The songs were perfectly constructed – a combination of traditional and electronic components. It was from this point that music in general started to speak to me.

02. Led Zeppelin: IV

When I was 13, my best friend at the time had an uncle who let us borrow some of his albums. I don’t know if he intentionally sought to inspire us, or “save” us from the woes of modern pop, but these records truly shifted my perspective. The two records that really stuck with me were Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, and Led Zeppelin IV. I doubt I have to explain what effect “Stairway To Heaven” has on a 13-year-old mind, but let’s just say this album was quite possibly the biggest influence on my desire to learn how to play guitar, and ultimately, start writing music.

03. Pennywise: Unknown Road

I started taking guitar lessons in 1993, doing my best to teach myself Metallica and Zeppelin songs. At the time, I was also starting to dive deep into skateboarding, and the culture that surrounded it. I skated pretty much everyday. Lots of the kids in the neighborhood, most of whom I went to school with, skated as well. We would spend much of our adolescent years together, waxing curbs and stacking things to ollie over.

One of the neighborhood friends I skated with a lot, Gabe, began to introduce me to punk rock. He showed me albums by Bad Religion, Face To Face, NoFx, and Pennywise. There was something about this style of music that so perfectly exemplified that time and place for me. It was these bands that really fed my obsession for wanting to start a band. Gabe and I would come up with band names (which I’ll spare you) long before we had any business playing music.

Unknown Road sticks out to me because I’m fairly certain it was the first of its kind that I heard. Pennywise played a “riffier” brand of pop punk. The guitar tones had more of a metal sound than many of their peers, which, for me, made it the perfect bridge from bands like Metallica and Slayer. One very important aspect was that the songs were relatively easy to learn on guitar – much easier than the metal stuff I had been listening to. Once I mastered the octave chord, the pop punk sky was the limit. I began to build confidence in my playing, and I was closer every day to being good enough to start my own band.

04. Focused Bow

Growing up a pastor’s kid, we occasionally visited the Christian Book Store to buy records. I understand it seemed like a safe bet for my folks, who at the time would rather me listen to Heart In Motion than South Of Heaven. The problem was that “Christian music,” for the longest time, couldn’t hold a candle to what was being created by “general market” contemporaries. Everything seemed like a really cheesy, and far-too-derivative version of something else.

I had recently heard a couple albums that were starting to change my mind about this problem, which were Tourniquet’s Psycho Surgery and Mortification’s Post Momentary Affliction, courtesy once again of my cousin Kyle. Although they weren’t exactly what I was into at the time, I could tell a creative shift was happening in the world of Christian music.

On one such trip to the book store, I picked up a copy of Focused’s debut album Bow. I dug the cover art. It looked dark. The album starts off with vocalist Tim Mann reciting a spoken-word call to arms that would later become the memorized anthem of many a Christian hardcore kid – a sort of proof that you’d been down from the start.

Finally, an album that didn’t reek of Christian copycat overtones. Finally, something that embodied my personal faith that I could actually get behind.

Not only was this my introduction to faith-based music that didn’t make me cringe, but it was also my path to hardcore in general. Like many others searching for good music in a world of pre-internet darkness, I used to scan the “thank you” list in the liner notes for new bands. It was like a veritable hardcore band thesaurus. Many records came after, but Focused gave me the very first record that made me feel like being a Christian and a punk/hardcore kid at the same time wasn’t lame.

05. Radiohead: OK Computer

This is a pretty typical choice for musicians my age, but I think that says a lot about the record. I had been listening to Radiohead since their first album, after seeing the video for “Creep” on MTV, and quickly running out to buy Pablo Honey on cassette (along with Rage Against The Machine’s debut) while on a family vacation in (oddly enough) Seattle. If you’re roughly my age, and remembering hearing that guitar tone before the chorus kicks in, you know the drill.

A few years later, I remember hearing a few songs from The Bends but, like many of us, pretty much ignored that incredible record until later in life. Regardless, by this point I had dove so far into punk, hardcore and metal, I was essentially blind to anything happening outside of these realms… but with “crossover” bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, The Promise Ring, and Jimmy Eat World, who were turning hardcore kids into people with feelings and and a taste for “real singing,” my mind was opening.

I won’t get into the specifics of why, because you can find a poignantly well-written synopsis of why this is one of the best records of our generation pretty much anywhere, but I will say that I probably listened to this record more than anything else before or up to now. If it were permanently glued into the CD player of my first car I wouldn’t have noticed. The only possible contenders for most-played would be Superdrag’s Head Trip In Every Key or Misfits’ Static Age.

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