Once Human – Evolution

Once Human are an interesting prospect. On one hand a daring female-fronted metal band. They are not a group defined by the gender of their vocalist by any stretch, although vocalist Lauren Hart is easily capable of matching any male in the genre. On the other hand they could be a seen as the band that Logan Madder (Ex-Machine Head) formed when he wanted to start playing metal again, which would be a naive and ill informed assumption. In reality, Once Human are band ready to make their own dent in the metal landscape, bringing together a line up of musicians ready to birth music that borrows from sounds old and new in an attempt to add some much needed light and shade to world of heavy music. Latest offering Evolution is hailed by the band as a new chapter, with Madder saying of the record ” We really found our sound and our identity”.

Evolution, upon first listen shows defiant promise with Flock of Flesh leading the way. Soaring guitars make way for tightknit grooves ala Lamb of God, Hart’s vocals fitting deftly atop the crushing melodeath backdrop. The interesting thing about Evolution, is that it doesn’t do a whole lot to set itself apart from the melodic death pack, but unlike the band’s fairly cookie-cutter debut, the sophomore effort plays to the band’s strengths. Gatling-like riffs mixed with subtle grandiosity are showcased on tracks like the forceful Eye of Chaos and the sublime lead guitars of Paragon.

As mentioned previously, Lauren Hart is a huge asset to the band’s overall sound, combining the vocal styling of Randy Blythe with fellow female growler Angela Gossow to provide a savage focal point for the band. Tracks like the Meshuggah-esque Drain display Hart’s ability to slot her vocal punch inside of cavernous grooves with ease.

Undoubtedly, the real merit of Evolution is Madder’s slick production. His many years at the desk pay off here and really help lock the low rhythms together with gorgeous effect laden leads, in turn making the record sound as if it had been recorded during a glacial apocalypse. Final track Passenger is as good an example as any for this, moving between mammoth deathcore chug and Tool-like rumbling before building to a progressive climax reminiscent of later day In Flames.

As a follow up to 2015’s The Life I Remember, the band’s second time around shows them taking hold of the basic template used on their debut and injecting it with passion and brute force. It admittedly, won’t change metal as we know it, but it will provide fans of the melodic death metal style with something fresh to sink their teeth into. This time around for Once Human, it’s not quite an Evolution, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Dusks Embrace – Reawakening

There’s an expanding trend among band’s who once embraced extreme metal elements, especially in progressive circles, to eventually shed their roots and focus on songwriting elements and the cleaner aspects of their sound. The most notable case of this would be Swedish metal pioneers Opethwho have opted for their last few releases, to ditch the death growls and rumbling guitars in favor of more 70’s influenced sounds. Salem crew Dusks Embrace are another act to stray from the deathly path (although there are still traces) and on latest release Reawakening, they attempt to diversify their sound and bring something different to the table.

Harbinger welcomes the listener with industrial glitched beats and synths. This is something straight out of a Nine Inch Nails record…that is until the debuting Aldo Arevalo makes his presence felt, his folksy clean vocals acting as a call and response to snarling death growls. It is clear with such an introduction that the band is keen to pay homage to its musical past while embracing their new direction. They follow this with second track With Cleansing Flames, opening with elegant piano notes and leading to a soaring guitar riff. It proves to be one of the heavier moments on the record, embracing slick guitar tones and Opeth-esque vocal melodies. The lyrics on the record remain distant and cryptic, but like all great writers who utilize such a style, they paint a picture fitting of the musical backdrop the band provide.

 

The majority of Reawakening falls into the category of lilting, atmospheric progressive rock. The likes of Psycasthenia (an obsolete term for a type of neuroses) and Face Forward engage the listener in dreamy melancholy. The former is a mellow, jazzy number echoing Brand New of all people with its sumptuous harmonies and the latter a similarly delicate track which takes off mid way through with crunchy power chords and swirling keys. The calm only lasts so long however, as the Rush meets Coheed and Cambria of Lydian Dreams shows another side of the band. It’s synth laced riffs collide with a huge chorus to reveal a much poppier side to the band’s sound. The title track then brings the album full circle, using themes from intro track Harbinger to cleverly close out the record.

Dusks Embrace have taken an bold step with Reawakening, penning a selection of tracks which vary in style and sound but ultimately come together to achieve the common goal, summarised in the album title itself . In the process, they have almost completely shed their past musical skin and replaced it with a knack for elaborate but focused songwriting, which will no doubt help them appeal to a wider audience.

Aphyxion – Aftermath

For fans of Soilwork and In Flames, Aphyxion bring their own brand of melodeath to the fore-front and thankfully it sounds beautifully catchy with the right level of inspirations from newer bands to ensure they stay relevant within the musical canvas of 2016.

The vocals of Michael Vahl go from the perfect level of sombreness to the right level of screams. This can truly influence what he’s singing about as in the track Prisoner Of War he gives the sombreness of a battlefield through his more emotive style of singing. In a track like A Part Of The Solution he sings in a more croaky style that isn’t actually screaming, doing a tactic that can be compared to the greatness of a vocalist like Randy Blythe (especially with the joint effort of backing vocalist Bertil Rytter). On a track like Same Kind Of Different where the track feels more like a metalcore track he brings out the sound of a singer such as Winston McCall. This is a fascinating display of how only subtle differences can change the sound massively.

The use of electronics within the track work amazingly well and gives the last track, The Nature Of Mankind, a haunting ending and allows the album to have a huge crescendo. This is a group which thinks about their connections to the fans and something along the lines of this feels great to listen to. The use of two guitarists also feels great as they play off each other perfectly throughout the context of this piece. Both Jonas Haagensen and Bertil Rytter feels great within this release and layer their instruments on top of each other perfectly. This works best on second track where the two layer to give a solo and a more melodic nature to this otherwise quite extreme band. Given that this album feels like it’s an extreme metal album that wants to invite uninitiated fans into the genre, this is a tactic that works extremely well.

Bassist Jais Jessen has his moments to shine especially on the thumping moments of a track such as Born To Stand Strong. This song cuts through the speakers and thankfully for fans of Melodeath, this is an element that will keep fans invested. The drums work much in the same way and the power that Jakob Jensen puts into a track like Dark Stains On Ivory allows the band to keep the integral intensity that has existed within Melodic Death Metal.

This is the perfect briding album for fans of Metalcore to get into Melodeath or even Death Metal at points. Without being too alienating this is an album which has little weak points (only real exception is Can’t Be Beat which feels too standard for an album of this creativity) and many elements that will keep fans coming back for more. This is a great introduction for what the genre means and for a band only on their second album to be referred to in such a way, only stands great stead for their career. With catchy songs and a perfect sense of melody expect this group to be hitting festivals like Download in the not too distant future.

Dark Tranquility Announce Tracklist for ‘Atoma’

This November, veteran Metallers Dark Tranquility look set to unleash their latest opus. The album titled Atoma, their first since 2013’s Construct, sees the band at their dark and brooding best. Recorded and mixed by Anders Lagerfors at Nacksving studios, the band had the following to say about the album “A lot of our songs start out as pieces of music written on piano/ keyboards before getting transformed into guitar driven metal. With this recording, we wanted to explore what would happen if we instead let the material take another direction, and we’re extremely thrilled by the result.”

Tracklisting for Atoma is as below.

  1. Encircled
  2. Atoma
  3. Forward Momentum
  4. Neutrality
  5. Force of Hand
  6. Faithless by Default
  7. The Pitiless
  8. Our Proof of Life
  9. Clearing Skies
  10. When the World Screams
  11. Merciless Fate
  12. Caves and Embers

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Atoma is released November 4th through Century Media and will followed by a US/Canadian Tour throughout autumn/winter.