Logan Mader has been absent from the stage for a long time. After the former Machine Head and Soulfly axeman’s attempt to front nu metal band Stereo Black failed to pick up significant interest, he retreated to the production table for the next decade, helping bands such as Cavalera Conspiracy, Gojira, Fear Factory and SepticFlesh to achieve such high quality sound on their releases. Gone were the green dreadlocks and flying V guitars of old. However, after being introduced by Monte Conner (former Roadrunner and current Nuclear Blast Records A&R guru) to a young musician called Lauren Hart, though, something clicked and led the pair to form a new band, the melodeth juggernaut of Once Human. Now after a year in the shadows, and signed to earMUSIC (responsible for releasing such acts as DragonForce and BABYMETAL to European stores), they emerge, complete with Mader’s new blonder dreadlocks, with debut effort “The Life I Remember”.
Theatrics are a key point to developing the atmosphere in this album, with nearly 3 minutes of orchestration meandering into the crushing riffs of ‘Ground Zero’. Hart’s vocals are extremely vicious and complement the subtle orchestrations and Mader’s excellent guitar playing, showing that he hasn’t lost his touch in his 12 years out of the game. Terrific musicianship is a staple of this album, with the riffs of ‘You C*nt’ a particular highlight. Meanwhile, Lauren Hart seems to always know what sort of vocal style works best for the song in particular. ‘Pick Your Poison’ has moments where the song can easily slip into a rip-off of The Agonist, but maintaining the harsh vocal style she’s perfected keeps it going. At the same time, starting from ‘Devil Can Have You’, the latter end of the album is full of clean vocals, which manages to keep Once Human distinct enough to avoid claims of just being another Arch Enemy clone. Traces of metalcore (such as in the ruthless ‘Terminal’) are welcome changeups to keep the album going at the same ferocious pace non-stop.
The main problem is consistent within this effort. ‘You C*nt’ is a great track, but it is somewhat taken down a bit by its incredibly blunt and dunderheaded lyrics, which are a real sore spot in this album. It takes a lot of work to be able to tune out these lyrics (including “Your diagnosis, 666!” during ‘Terminal’) at times as they can become rather jarring, but if you can tune them out then you have a fantastic album. This isn’t to say that all of Hart’s lyrics are bad, but the moments where her songwriting falters are all too often the moments that you’ll remember when listening to the album. There is also the very real risk of songs blending into each other, because there is a real lack of unique selling point within this band and a very one-dimensional (albeit extremely well executed) approach being taken here.
All in all, this is a fantastic first effort but the band really has a lot of growing to do to really stand out in the melodeth scene. First rate riffs and musicianship will only get you so far if you can’t expand your sound to make yourself noticeable in an already diluted scene, while the lyrics need to iron out the flaws to avoid becoming too jarring. Some lessons to be learned, but a fantastic effort nonetheless. The band may have stuck to what they know, but boy do they know what they’re doing.
Once Human’s debut album, “The Life I Remember”, is out September 4 via earMUSIC. Follow the band on Facebook for updates and tour dates.