When Once Human came crashing on to the scene with their self-produced debut, the unforgettable ‘The Life I Remember’, there seemed to be no middle ground. Listeners and critics alike either loved or hated the band. Yet the divide made little impact in influencing the fierce onslaught Once Human were determined to unleash. With Logan Mader returning to live music for the first time in almost a decade, as well as newcomer Lauren Hart taking the reigns on vocals, the band was built around a sound that set out to take no prisoners. Once Human achieved just that, crafting their own brand of melodic death metal with a live show to match. Now the band are set to return with their highly anticipated follow up entitled ‘Evolution’ and what fans can expect is certainly not more of the same.
The word evolution conjures words like growth, progression, development, a sense of moving forward or maturity. In truth, ‘Evolution’ unfortunately does very little of the above. Album opener “Flock,” directly followed by teaser single, “Eye of Chaos,” lacks any evidence of anything remotely evolutionary. That versatility and dexterity that had come to be associated with the band are nowhere to be found, with ‘Evolution’ making no significant, initial impact. An instantaneous level of brutality is undeniable, as Hart goes all out vocally on tracks such as “Mass Murder” and “Killer”, yet the range and versatility she displayed on ‘The Life I Remember’ far outshines her performance here. Instead, a rather standard, run of the mill, death metal vocal styling settles in, which invokes a dull confusion and disappointment as Hart can, and has done, far more interesting and impressive work.
This is not to say that their heavier moments do not work. Brutal metal die-hards will find much here of what they hold dear. For those in search of a little something more, of evidence of an evolution if you will, the closest to finding that is in the Fear Factory influenced, “Drain” which comes at you like a bullet. A big, epic bullet! Not surprising as the band toured extensively with the nu-metal legends in 2015. A standout track not only for its marriage between Mader’s chaotic riffing and Hart‘s blending vocals styles, but also because, from start to finish, it may be the only track that deviates from the typical, safe metal template that smothers much of the albums potential.
To be fair, had Once Human gone and written ‘The Life I Remember Prt.2’ they would have faced a vicious backlash. A fond nostalgia paired with a comfortable, “Oh yes, I remember enjoying this on the last record” that might have been nice for a moment or two, but ultimately would have proved to be uninteresting. However, to deem ‘Evolution’ as a step forward for the band would be far from the truth. It feels like it ran for cover into the safety of a death metal comfort zone.
Consisting of great players, a hero of metal and one of the most dynamic female leads to enter the world of metal recently, a higher standard is expected from a band of this stature. ‘Evolution’ feels contrary to its title, as if taking two steps back. Die-hard metal heads might be unlikely to file any complaints, even if what comes across is a band retreating to their comfort zone. But safe sounding comfort zones soon become the playground of the all too soon forgotten. A solid enough, melodic death metal album by any standards, ‘Evolution’ falls short of the talent and potential of the artists behind it.