Review Summary: Believer has never been a band that revisits the past, and that has never been more apparent than now. Transhuman showcases the band with a whole new sound and a fresh vocal approach.
Believer has always been a band in constant motion. Every album in their discography has featured a notable progression and an ability to push in unexpected directions. Despite this penchant for experimentation, though, the band has always left the vocals alone. Admittedly, they have played around with different secondary vocals (notably opera), but the core ‘metal’ delivery has remained virtually unchanged since 1989. Considering the band’s constant evolution it always seemed odd that they would ignore the vocals, but it is no longer an issue. On Transhuman
Believer has finally decided to play around with varying vocal styles and, despite a few growing pains, they have basically nailed it. Of course, they weren’t content with just expanding on the vocals; they’ve also taken what is probably their largest musical leap to date.
In the past, Believer generally built their songs on a thrash foundation that allowed them to experiment with rhythms, melodies and any additional elements, but that’s not quite the case anymore. On Transhuman
the band has stripped away a lot of the thrash influence in favor of a rigid and rhythmic approach that is more melodic and technical. The most noticeable impact of this change is that the music has lost a lot of its primal thrash energy and has taken on a very cold, mechanical feel. A lot of this robotic feel is due to the band’s expanded use of disjointed rhythms and a layered approach to the way they create a lot of their melodies – a method that generally fuses semi-dissonant chords with bleak sci-fi electronics. It should be noted, however, that just because the band dropped the thrash influence doesn’t mean that they still aren’t delivering heavy songs. It’s just that songs such as “Entanglement” with its rhythmic main riff also have powerful choruses that often exude a feeling of desolation or loneliness. Although, they do close the album with “Mindsteps” – a mellow and uplifting track that seems to imply that there is still hope despite the bleak feel of the rest of the album.
The music’s cold, clinical approach can probably be directly attributed to the theme that runs throughout Transhuman
. On Transhuman
the band have decided to explore the overarching theme of what it means to be human; and not in some fruity philosophy style either. To develop the album’s subject matter the band looked for inspiration from Dr. Ginger Campbell’s Brain Science Podcast, which explores recent discoveries in neuroscience, as well as Dr. Thomas Metzinger’s scientific research and philosophical study of consciousness and the self. This is where Kurt Bachman’s new approach to singing really makes an impact. Neither the subject matter nor the music would have worked as well if Kurt had stuck to his old approach to singing. Throughout much of the album he uses a melodic shout that can best be compared to Devin Townsend’s solo work with kind of a Denis Belanger (Voivod
) twist, and it’s these vocals that seem to have the most impact and impart the most feeling. Throughout the album they also utilize layered vocal harmonies, Kurt’s signature rasp and even a lower-pitched growl that definitely adds a whole new dimension to the band’s music.
When the band reformed after a sixteen-year hiatus people might have been skeptical, but Gabriel
easily proved that the band were back and as good as ever. After that, the only question was would they continue to evolve as they always had or would they play things safe during their second era. In hindsight the answer should have probably been obvious, but just in case there was any doubt Transhuman
should dissolve any lingering concerns. Not only is the band not playing it safe, they’re actually pushing their sound further than they ever have before. With Transhuman
Believer have entirely stepped outside of their safe zone with a totally modern approach to their signature metal sound – a sound that finds Kurt Bachman singing, growling, and rasping like never before.