Overall Score: 8/10 Songwriting: 8/10 Vocals: 8/10 Production: 9/10 Pros: More expansive songwriting | Top notch production Cons: Not as much hooks as previous work
Logan Mader has been a busy guy lately. Aside from his acclaimed production work, he made a surprise return to performing music in 2015 with melodeath group Once Human, putting out an impressive debut at the end of that year. 2016 was then spent with some touring, before recruiting a new member (third guitarist Max Karon) and jumping straight back into the studio to write a sophomore effort. Now, with Evolution, we see the band solidifying their sound and crafting their own musical identity with lethal precision.
From opener “Flock of Flesh” right through to closer “Passenger” (which features a rare vocal contribution from Logan himself), Evolution offers a relentless barrage of melodeath fury, with a thick wall of guitars pummelling you into submission at every turn thanks to the triple threat of Logan Mader, Skyler Howren and Max Karon. The addition of Karon has given Once Human that extra ingredient which takes the successful blueprint laid out by The Life I Remember and adds extra technicality and progressive elements, helping this effort really live up to its title. Every musician has stepped up their game on this album particularly frontwoman Lauren Hart, whose vocals sound inhuman at times, while her lyricism has also greatly improved in the past 2 years. Gone are the cliches of “666” and dropping C-bombs. Instead, the lyrics are much more thought out and meaningful, giving a new serious edge to the music. A special mention must go to “Drain” as well, by far the most “djenty” track on the album. Its jumpy and off-beat riffs wouldn’t feel out of place on a Periphery record, but with Hart’s all-out aggression it becomes a whole different beast altogether. The same can sort of be applied to “Killers for the Cure”, which itself re-interprets the riffs of “Gravity”, taking something old to create something new and exciting.
It’s fair to say that the band has taken a lot of influence from Gojira in carving out a progressive death metal identity for themselves. There are certain moments in “Mass Murder Frenzy” and “Dark Matter” which have an undeniable Gojira groove and tone in them, but considering the calibre of music Gojira produce, that’s in no way an insult. Once Human may borrow from their peers at times (such as the groove juggernauts of Meshuggah and even DevilDriver), but they use it in such a way that it becomes distinctively Once Human, and now they’ve found their sound, it’s something that they will almost certainly develop further as they progress down this path they’ve chosen for themselves. And with Logan’s own top tier production, you know you’ll get top quality for your money.
The main problem is, that aside from singles “Eye of Chaos” and “Gravity”, there aren’t any moments that truly ingrain themselves in your head and can be considered hooks. It’s something that they’ll need to work on if they want to get fans at concerts to really get involved in the way that they do with their cover of Machine Head’s “Davidian”. We know from Logan’s brief nu metal spell that he’s more than capable of writing some mean hooks, but then it becomes a question of how they can inject that sort of songwriting into the sheer brutality of what they’re currently doing. Another question is, when you’re playing technically challenging death metal with whiplash-inducing aggression, are hooks something you really want? Most death metal fans would agree that if it’s something that you can just lose yourself in and go crazy to, then you’ve achieved your goal. In that respect, Once Human achieve that with flying colours.
Once Human’s new album Evolution is out now via earMUSIC. Follow the band on Facebook for tour news and updates.