Friday, September 9, 2016

Death - Human (1991)

Released through Relativity Records in October 1991, Human is the fouth L.P. from the legendary Death. Much had happened since the previous album, with Chuck backing out of a planned European tour and putting the remaining members in a tough spot. They went on to tour without him, and some other controversies arose from this that, ultimately, led to him kicking everyone out of the band and starting fresh. Unfortunately, he turned to his progressive/technical friends, Steve DiGiorgio and the two nancy boys from Cynic. The end result is a rather mediocre album that gets more praise than it deserves.  

Chuck had already been distancing himself from his musical past, even as early as the Spiritual Healing tour, playing only one song from the classic Scream Bloody Gore album. He was very vocal in interviews around this time, trying to dispel rumours (many of which turned out to be true). It was said that he wasn't really into Death Metal anymore, which is quite obvious by the changes that one can witness with Human. Musically and lyrically, Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy were just pure Death Metal in its truest form. What followed was a total 'wimp-out', with Chuck choosing to write about "real life issues that people can identify with". Right, because that's what Death Metal is supposed to be about... He even kept pushing the fact that Death was just a name and had no meaning, citing that he was just a young kid when he chose it. This effeminate and weak creature cared way too much regarding what people thought of him, going out of his way to make sure no one thought he was evil because he played in a band with such a name. Gone were the days of zombie rituals, unholy graves and open caskets. With song titles like "Flattening of Emotions" and "Lack of Comprehension", one has to think this is a prime example of what Euronymous was talking about when referring to "life metal". 

Human was a statement against those that claimed that Schuldiner no longer wanted anything to do with Death Metal. The thing is though, if the aggression found here is merely a response to critics, is it still genuine or is this yet another way to corrode the artistic integrity of a band? Doing something just because it is expected or to prove that he could doesn't give the impression that he had a passion for this style, more that he had a reputation to try to clean up. But moving beyond that, what does this record have to offer, musically? 

There are absolutely some great Death Metal riffs, here and there. Whatever his motivation in writing them, the more intense parts are quite good. The songwriting is quite solid, yet this doesn't do enough to combat the many flaws with this outing. Firstly, Human was recorded at Morrisound, meaning that it has that same bland and non-threatening production that was the trademark of scumbag Scott Burns. The guitars have a rather dull tone, too modern and slick for my tastes. Then, of course, a Morrisound production job wouldn't be complete without the annoying, clicky bass drums. The raw and primal vibe of Scream Bloody Gore was long a thing of the past by this point. The primitive feeling is completely gone, exemplified by Reinert's overactive drumming. Chuck described in interviews how he wanted the album to reflect their developing skills, in order to display what they were capable of as musicians. 

No. No, no, no. Making an album is not about everyone having a wank and patting themselves on the back. The purpose is to create, not to show off how technical one can play. Only if it serves the music should one do such a thing. If the atmosphere of the album requires someone to hold back from demonstrating everything that they can possibly do, then that is a sacrifice that must be made for the purity of the music. Just look at Fenriz's performances after Soulside Journey; he could clearly play just as technically sound as the next drummer, but he realized that the style of music he was playing demanded a different approach. Personally, I am not a fan of so-called progressive or technical Death Metal, as I feel that the raw and primitive vibe is an integral part of what makes it Death Metal in the first place, along with the lyrics and the imagery. Human is lacking in all regards. That is not to say that it doesn't have its moments. Again, there are many good riffs and the solos are well done and even Chuck's vocals sound better than the effect-laden performance of Spiritual Healing. It's just too bad that he's whining about personal issues and not exploring darker themes. 

If looked at with less scrutiny, Human isn't a terrible album. In fact, most fans of Death will probably find little or no fault in it. In that respect, it can be enjoyable. The thing is, it's not what it could have been. A gritty production, toned-down drumming and lyrical themes that actually were suited to this kind of music would have made all the difference in the world. Death Metal is not supposed to be so slick and professional and modern, and it certainly should not be polluted with these weak and pathetic lyrics. If "Evil Chuck" was so afraid of being associated with anything dark and had lost the passion for Death Metal, he should have put the band in the grave and gone on to do whatever progressive, melodic garbage he wanted, just under a different name. In my book, Scream Bloody Gore and Leprosy are the only essential releases from Death. The rest is negligible.