Review Summary: The Human Abstract finally grow up as a band, and all it took was kicking out the old frontman and regaining a former guitarist.
The Human Abstract started out as a progressive metalcore band that stuck more with what was trendy than what they were capable of. Their debut, Nocturne, showed that this could work in the band's favor. However, come the time of their second recording, things took a misguided turn, and it all went down the tubes. Midheaven became stamped as one of the worst metalcore records ever, with its utter hatred placed on the shoulders of then-frontman Nathan Ells. His vocal style got worse with the recording, and his lyrics were so half-assed that they couldn't even pass for metaphysical as much as just plain pretentious.
With their utter defeat, Ells was kicked out. Luckily, their next vocalist showed promise, and thanks to the return of original lead guitarist A.J. Minette, the band was able to finally grow up as a progressive metalcore band with this album.
The first thing that everyone notices with this particular band are the guitars. The guitars on this album are the best that THA has put on record so far. The reason being is because the band now focuses on letting the progressive songwriting come naturally instead of using the overused fast guitar leads placed in every 10-20 seconds most of the time. They have also focused on the experimental aspect of their music, which is (aside from technicality) what prog is all about. This is the first sign of the maturity the band has gained with their original guitarist coming back: they've focused on the music instead of their image as a progressive metal band.
The vocalist does an excellent job on this record. He makes his lyrics easy to understand, while at the same time make the audience think. I would share a few lines from
"Complex Terms", but they'd just sound stupid out of context with the rest of the lyrics on the album. The lyrics range from disdain towards modern society ("Complex Terms", "Digital Veil", "Horizon to Zenith") to dissension from common beliefs in society ("Faust", "Holographic Sight", "Patterns"). Or at least, that's what the lyrics imply. I doubt the guy truly feels this much scorn for society. In addition, thanks to the new vocalist's ability to growl and scream like a beast, the band can now put "brutal" on top of the many words to describe Digital Veil. The vocalist is apparently Travis Richter, the original harsh vocalist of From First to Last. To be honest, my first and only experience with his vocal style was the FFTL album Heroine, and I found the clean vocals on that album to be utterly horrendous, and the harsh vocals to be exceedingly underutilized. I was surprised to see his name as the vocalist on this album, because he sounds completely different. His clean vocals (while I've never heard them before) are deeper than expected, his harsh vocals are used to good effect, and his clean vocals aren't as whiny and off-key as Sonny Moore's on Heroine. Frankly, I think he, along with THA, has matured and improved on this album.
The bass is, well, what is there to say" The bass doesn't really stand out in the music, and at times, is just inaudible. Most of the low frequencies are held up by the drums, so it's probably because of that that the bassist really goes unnoticed most of the time.
The drums are what basically holds the music intact at this point. If they were to have failed in this area, the album would've been screwed beyond the point of salvaging. Thankfully, the drums hold up pretty well, as they make the music express the aggressive side ("Digital Veil") or the experimental side ("Complex Terms") clearer. Like I said, the bass drums make the bass unnoticeable for the most part. Nonetheless, the music's bass heavy quality without having any noticeable bass is attributable to the drums, which help give the songs more brutality without the stereotypical chugging like so many of their peers use (*cough* *cough* Emmure).
All in all, this is a solid record. Nocturne may have been a bit fun to listen to, and Midheaven may as well have ruined their career, but Digital Veil not only shows the band blossoming, it proves to be just as fun to listen to as Nocturne, as interesting as Midheaven thinks it is, and just about as headbang-worthy as any other good metalcore album. The band now has more promise than ever before, and hopefully, they put it to good use, and don't waste it like it was on Midheaven.