The Human Abstract
Nocturne


4.0
excellent

Review

by Andrew Gold CONTRIBUTOR (71 Reviews)
March 19th, 2013 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An ambitious and technically impressive debut marred by poor songwriting

Every once in a while comes a band with more talent than they know what to do with – The Human Abstract is such a band. Based in LA, the progressive metal quintet hasn’t been the most consistent band in the world. They’ve been through a number of line-up changes throughout the years, ex. The original singer leaving right before the release of Nocturne, their bassist bailing during the recording of their sophomore slump Midheaven, guitarist and backbone of the band A.J. Minette taking a break from metal after their debut (then returning for 2011’s Digital Veil), rhythm guitarist Andrew Tapley fired during Digital Veil’s recording sessions, etc. The point is, the band’s been through a number of changes and even though their three LPs contain very different influences from these various musicians, the core talent is still there and has been present ever since their 2006 debut Nocturne.

Nocturne contains my personal favorite THA line-up: A.J. Minette and Dean Herrera on lead and rhythm guitar respectively, Kenny Arehart on bass, Brett Powell on drums, and the infamous Nathan Ells on vocals. Minette is undoubtedly the heart of the band, writing most of the riffs and being able to sweep, tap, and basically whatever other guitar lingo there is, plus the ability to sound effortless doing so (solo in ‘Mea Culpa’ is the best example of smooth sweeps along with being the most epic moment of the album). His classical influence on acoustic guitar shines through as well in songs such as ‘Harbinger’, ‘Polaris’, and ‘Channel Detritus’. This is a metal record of course so there’s plenty of heaviness to be found. Namely, the breakdowns of ‘Self Portraits of the Instincts’, ‘Mea Culpa’, and ‘Vela, Together We Await the Storm’ are pretty much guaranteed a headbang upon listening, and the perplexing time signature changes in ‘Nocturne’ and ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ are as confusing as they are impressive.

One of the most controversial aspects of Nocturne is the presence of vocalist Nathan Ells. He joined the band last minute, replacing Nick Olaerts as frontman right before heading into the studio. You have to cut him some slack for learning all the songs so quickly, but his unique voice can pretty much define whether or not you like the band. Technically speaking, he’s not that great of a singer. His range is relatively stagnant and his tone ranges from decent to dreadful. The middle of ‘Nocturne’ when Nathan whines, ”No wonder here, just an echo resounding”, is just painful to listen to, and his crooning over some of the nicer acoustic passages is downright cringe worthy. Screaming wise he’s actually solid, but when put next to Greg Puciato or Rody Walker he’s way out of his depth. Having said that, his unique contrast between the harsh and clean vocals is very interesting. For the most part he sings and screams in the appropriate places, often combining the two to add some extra beef, not to mention he can come up with some infectiously catchy choruses (try listening to ‘Polaris’ or ‘Self Portraits of the Instincts’ without having them pop up in the back of your head later on). Nathan has some screaming highlights too, like the breakdown on ‘Mea Culpa’ where he yells, ”I failed and I don’t know why!”, you can hear the emotion in his voice, as much as he’s straining it, and it sounds damn good.

Regardless of how you feel about the vocals, the instrumental work is definitely the highlight of Nocturne. The rhythm section is incredibly tight – no matter how many sweeps and taps A.J. is doing, the other members hold the beat together like glue. Even the bass has its moments to show off, and usually while the lead guitar is harmonizing arpeggios, the rest of the members are doing something interesting underneath to add more layers to the sound. Drummer Brett Powell is probably second to A.J. when it comes to talent, throwing ridiculous fills in the most appropriate places and even having some speedy double bass work in ‘Echelons and Molotovs’. Where the band falls short is in the songwriting department. There are plenty of amazing riffs and ridiculous licks from a technical standpoint, but none of the songs really feel like songs; more like a bunch of ideas loosely connected by a repeating chorus. The first three tracks are the biggest culprits of this as they travel from riff to riff without smooth transitions to hold them together. It’s easy to manage them in short bursts, but when listening to the album in one sitting the spastic songwriting can get a bit tiresome.

At the time Nocturne was released, The Human Abstract was noticeably a young and naïve band, however their ambition and talent is so painfully obvious it’s easy to ignore most of their flaws. And at the end of the day, even among all progressive metalcore outfits and all the pseudo-progressive technical wank bands flooding the metal scene these days, not one sounds quite like The Human Abstract did on Nocturne.

Recommended Tracks:
Self Portraits of the Instincts
Crossing the Rubicon
Mea Culpa
Polaris
Vela, Together We Await the Storm



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Dunno what happened to Josh D's review of this. i thought it was great

Digging: Soen - Tellurian

mindleviticus
March 18th 2013


8326 Comments


Mea Culpa is awesome

Great rev, Ins.

mindleviticus
March 18th 2013


8326 Comments


this guys cleans are pretty cringeworthy though, but they make up for it with awesome musicianship

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yea some of his cleans are awful but they're not nearly as bad here as they are on midheaven. And thanks man

mindleviticus
March 18th 2013


8326 Comments


Well nothing is as bad as Midheaven that album just flat out sucked

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 18th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Lol true

climactic
March 18th 2013


19839 Comments


theres something about this band i really dont like

ChuckyTruant
March 18th 2013


15725 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review

Necrotica
March 18th 2013


10063 Comments


Fantastic debut album \m/

ChuckyTruant
March 19th 2013


15725 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i agree

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nah

Well consistency wise i guess but this has sentimental value to me cause it was one of the first albums that got me into harsh vox

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Never listened to from first to last but I heard they suck

sixdegrees
March 19th 2013


17562 Comments


they do

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yG6iw7AeWE

Scoot
March 19th 2013


17887 Comments


midheaven is such a shit album

Digging: Renounced - The Melancholy We Ache

wacknizzle
March 19th 2013


13613 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good stuff, nice review Andrew.

Digging: Redwood Hill - Collider

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks man

And Im probably alone on this but I really like the production

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

also midheaven is such a shit album [2]

still good for a laugh every now and then

fromtheinside
March 19th 2013


19029 Comments


lol people don't know this band is bad yet

Digging: Ibex Throne - Ibex Throne

Insurrection
Contributing Reviewer
March 19th 2013


21638 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yea i agree with that

mindleviticus
March 19th 2013


8326 Comments


Love the classically classical metalcore feel



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