Review Summary: A masterpiece within the genre, Human is as close to death metal perfection as you can get.
Every musical genre has an archetype; one or several bands that set the rules for every subsequent band in the genre to follow. Death
’s first record, Scream Bloody Gore
, is considered an archetypal album of the death metal genre, with it’s gory lyrics, fast riffs, and brutal growls courtesy of frontman Chuck Schuldiner. It set the formula for which future bands, such as Cannibal Corpse
, could easily follow, and at the same time helped create a stereotype for the genre. It’s rare, however, for an archetypal band to re-invent the wheel that they helped create in the first place, but with 1991’s Human
did just that.
Focusing more on technicality than brutality, Human
showcases the band at their peak, with the strongest of their many ever-changing line-ups. Each member is at the top of their game on this album, with all four putting out flawless performances. Indeed, it’s hard to find fault with any part of the instrumentation on the album, whether it’s the technical riffs of Suicide Machine
and Secret Face
, the bass solo on instrumental Cosmic Sea
, or the opening drum fills to Flattening of Emotions
and Together As One
. The band adapt and improve on the progressive elements seen on their previous album, Spiritual Healing
, without ever coming across as overly technical and pretentious, or needing to extend the songs longer than required.
It isn’t just the musicianship that progressed either, Chuck’s lyrics became more insightful, focusing on social issues such as euthanasia (Suicide Machine
), blindness (See Through Dreams
), equality (Together As One
), and deceit (Secret Face
). What’s impressive is that these issues are tackled with sensitivity and thought, never once glamourising or ridiculing the subjects. It’s obvious that he believed in the importance of these issues and wasn’t just trying to sound intellectual; his incredibly powerful harsh vocals prove this. Chuck had one of the most unique voices in extreme metal: not quite a growl, not quite a scream, he shrieks out the lyrics with a level of passion and determination rarely seen elsewhere, before or since then.
has one flaw then it’s the mixing of Steve DiGiorgio’s bass, since most of the time it gets overpowered by the rest of the band; it’s a shame because, like the rest of the band, he puts in an incredible performance with some amazing fills and solos. Of course the short length of the album might also be a drawback for some, but I personally believe it’s perfect the way it is. The songs never drag on too long, each track is as fresh and unique as the last, and not a moment is wasted with pointless filler. I’d rather listen to eight fantastic tracks than fifteen mediocre ones any day.
’s magnum opus, the major turning point in their career where they went beyond the capabilities of the genre and showed that they weren’t content with following the formula they helped create. Technical yet crushing, aggressive yet intricate, short yet immense; this is thirty-five minutes of near perfect death metal which remains a classic to this day.
R.I.P - Chuck Schuldiner (1967 – 2001)