Album Review: Once Human – Evolution

By Francisco Zamudio

For some, genre labels are unnecessary and “un-cool”. “It either rocks or it doesn’t, bro”, and to them nowadays, everything rocks. And no matter how many new bands come out, more often than not it seems, you have more bands aiming their marketability towards the mainstream by incorporating a multitude of genres in their songwriting, to reach a broader audience. But it’s necessary to distinguish and identify the multiple genres within metal, or how else will you be able to describe what it is you like? Now, while a female-fronted metal band isn’t necessarily a genre but a preference – on paper, Once Human is a noteworthy band now carrying that heavy helm.

They are still fresh and new to the metal scene, having been thrown into the masses on a large tour in support of their debut album ‘The Life I Remember’ (earMusic, 2015) with industrial metal heavyweights Fear Factory. Now, the established collaboration between former Machine Head/Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader and Australian vocalist Lauren Hart has released their sophomore album in 2017 again through earMusic, appropriately titled ‘Evolution’.

This is band brought together with the help of former A & R of Roadrunner Records, Monte Conner (now of Nuclear Blast), who introduced the two to each other for a studio deal that eventually turned into something more. Originally the brainchild of Mader, he composed and engineered this new project and brought on Jens Bogren (Amon Amarth, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Soilwork) for mastering. The new album goes on a diverse trail with each song coming across as a medley of different styles and nearly constant progression, while somehow maintaining its subtle identity that Hart successfully controls with her brutal death metal vocal style that has definitely grown. In essence, the female-fronted melodic metal outfit added a tech-death and djenty feel on ‘Evolution’ with progressive tendencies.

‘Evolution’ is just that, a growing and learning process from what ‘The Life I Remember’ was. Not only for Hart, but for Mader to get back in front of the scene versus his years spent behind the scenes producing numerous great bands. Understandably motivated by Lauren Hart, one can’t blame him. It is also a learning process for their fans who have decided to follow them and gain a broader perspective of what Once Human now is. So obviously, ‘Evolution’ will either lose fans or gain more. It’s nearly a completely different sound, not to mention practically a whole different band from their first album. Hart and Mader lead the role along with returning bassist Damien Rainaud, newly added Dillon Trollope on drums, guitarist Skyler Howren and now a third guitarist, Max Karon.

The first couple of tracks, ‘Flock of Flesh’ and ‘Eye of Chaos’ have a common formula beginning with a symphonic tone that coincides with their core melodic sound throughout an album of transitions and groovy down beats with semi-odd time signatures. ‘Mass Murder Frenzy’ nearly follows the same pattern but starts with double-bass laced groove and stretches out to a faster pace. ‘Gravity’ is one of the many examples of the progressive tone on this album with nearly four different progressions within the first minute of the track. It’s apparent Once Human really wanted to explore tech-death rhythms and incorporated them a lot in places you wouldn’t expect.

Then ‘Dark Matter’ hits and really demonstrates a focused level of heavy. Hart’s vocals are so powerful on this one, a stand alone song that really pounds with thick and straightahead aggression, smooth transitions with groove and some how finds a heavier rhythm to hit. Even with the djenty groove, it wont lose you and I believe will be a favorite track for many fans old and new. ‘Paragon’ will be another crowd favorite, when you finally get to the chorus and hear Hart’s clean singing, eloquently carrying the song and will likely have you singing along.

‘Drain’ heavily carrys the djent rhythm and that tech groove with over 5 minutes and nearly a dozen progressions, complimented by more of Hart’s clean vocals to comfortably blanket it all. ‘Killers For The Cure’ is another of the heavier tunes that along with a good balance of what will be their trademark melodic style, will gain good crowd engagement.

Rounding out Once Human’s ‘Evolution’ (pun intended) is the cleverly titled ‘Passenger’, encompassing the common core of the band, i.e. the tech-death and djenty ride you just went on, with all its progressive abrasiveness, driven hard by Hart. Understandably so, she was out to prove how well she has developed, and though there was no sign of losing control, her use of vocals seemed over-exerted. Whether heavily relied upon or working harder than she needed to, overwhelmingly steering the the overall haphazard feel of the song writing – she is absolutely slaying it in the process.

‘Evolution’ is one of those albums that caters to a wide spectrum of metal fans. While it cannot be said it is a full fledge death metal band or album, it does hold a heavy hand thanks to the card dealt by Hart and with the tech and Djent infused songwriting progressing throughout, it will please the metal geeks, while choke-holding mainstream metal fans.

Rating: 8.5/10

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Record Label: earMusic
Release Date: February 17th 2017

Track Listing:
1. Flock Of Flesh (4:50)
2. Eye Of Chaos (4:47)
3. Mass Murder Frenzy (4:18)
4. Gravity (4:51)
5. Dark Matter (4:23)
6. Paragon (5:14)
7. Drain (5:53)
8. Killers For The Cure (4:46)
9. Passenger (4:51)

Total Duration: 43:33

Once Human links: facebook | instagram