(TheMadIsraeli reviews the second album by Once Human, which was released in February by earMUSIC.)
As much as I like to talk shit about bands who are bad or try too hard to be edgy (though not on this site), I’m ALWAYS open to bands changing or making dramatic improvements in their sound. It’s always possible for a band to redeem themselves, and sometimes it’s possible for a band to release an album so good that the detractors have to concede the improvement lest they be convicted of perpetual intellectual dishonesty.
We all had that laugh at Once Human, a metalcore band featuring most notably Logan Mader of Machine Head fame. They released that embarrassing “You Cunt” song that not only wasn’t anything special, the name itself just lacked class and really felt like it was going for cheap nü-metal levels of shock value. We laughed this band so hard into oblivion that they removed any promotional traces of their debut. You’ve got to do some digging now to even realize that Once Human HAS a debut album. But something dramatic has happened to this band.
Evolution is a pretty profound name for the band’s sophomore record, because in every way it is that, on a transcendent level. It sees the band adopting a whole new sound, and one that is genuinely their own. I think the biggest thing of note here is that the particular mix of influences the band chose to channel was an interesting gambit. one that could’ve gone completely sideways and sounded absolutely terrible — but it didn’t.
Mixing the melodic death metal approach of Arch Enemy, the syncopated jazzy melodies and Meshuggah-inspired rhythms of Textures and Hacride, and the choppy thrash-driven groove metal of Chimaira, they’ve created an album that boasts an unusual blend of elements that really sticks out amongst their peers who even verge on anything like this. Combine all that with progressive song-writing structures and some very impressive lead work and theme-writing, and Evolution, and Once Human as a band, could be a surprise underdog this year.
“Flock Of Flesh” is a potent opener, delivering chunky chord work layered under elegent, active leads and combined with powerful jugular-severing grooves and a central death metal riff that feels as vicious as a chain-saw running through corpses. It really sets the stage well for what exactly you’re in for here. While the music on Evolution overall is superb, there are a few songs, “Flock Of Flesh” being one of them, that really show what this band can do when they go all out. Second song “Eye Of Chaos”, the album’s first single, is another example of this. It’s such a bewildering stop-start behemoth of eerie melody and abysmal borderline-doomy presence, and it contains a mid-section that I haven’t heard be this filthy and dirty since Vildhjarta’s Måsstaden.
The Fear Factory worship of “Dark Matter” is another standout, discharging powerful pulsing machine-gun rhythms with a pretty compelling bit of Destroy Erase Improve homage as a mid-section. The pure death metal meat-grinder of “Mass Murder Frenzy” and the shamelessly Meshuggah-inspired “Drain” further add to the scope of diversity of the band’s sound.
One of the most potent additions to Once Human’s arsenal is a third guitar player. Logan Mader, Max Karon, and Skyler Howren pump out tasteful, dynamic, and interesting riffs layered over with compelling leads non-stop. The interesting use of open strings, chunky metalcore-styled chug riffs, death metal tremolo picking, and more progressive, slightly off-kilter chord voicings in combination with otherworldly lead melodies reinforces the originality of Once Human’s sound.
Dillon Trollope’s primal, belligerent drumming style of simplistic pounding grooves and excessive double-bass really drives home the complex yet deceivingly Neanderthal brutality that Once Human are going for. Lauren Hart as a vocalist also deserves recognition. While she definitely isn’t shy about hiding her influence from Angela Gossow, her vocal tone is substantially meatier, and definitely lower-toned. She sounds as powerful as any man, and more powerful than a lot of male vocalists. She really sells this with a compellingly enraged delivery.
Metalcore may be a style that’s languishing in the stagnation of what the scene bands brought around, and suffocating under the weight of what the djent intrusion did to it, but some albums still stand out. Evolution isn’t going to win over people who aren’t a fan of this sort of stuff, but it’s top-tier and distinctive for what it is. Well played, Once Human.