REVIEW: ONCE HUMAN – “Scar Weaver”
Founded in 2014 as a passion project between guitarist Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head) and vocalist Lauren Hart, Once Human have since established itself as one of the most distinctive bands in extreme metal. Over the course of two full-length albums, 2015’s highly praised ‘The Life I Remember’, and its lesser revered conceptual follow up, ‘Evolution’, the LA-based quintet have demonstrated a tireless dedication to their craft. Four years on from their last offering, Once Human return with ‘Scar Weaver.’ The long-awaited new album that is likely to become a career-defining, momentous step forward for them.
Meticulously arranged over the course of two years, recurring lockdowns proved a blessing in disguise for Once Human when putting the finishing touches on ‘Scar Weaver.’ Leading single “Deadlock” is a testament to this. Having undergone a number of changes at the hand of the song’s co-producer, Robb Flynn (Machine Head), the final cut is a bouncy, groove-riddled standout that doesn’t coddle the listener. Nor do the back-and-forth deliveries from Hart and Flynn, who sound primed and ready in this imperial duet. Yet not all “duets” finish with flying colors. The better left unheard “We Ride”, features a mid-section that seems to find Hart conjuring her social media persona, the volatile yet hilarious Larry. While the rib-tickling Larry might be beloved on Once Human socials, in this context he offers an Easter egg long past its expiration date.
“Deadlock” also brings to light the two key components found across ‘Scar Weaver’ that raise the album to a whole other level. Exceptional arrangements and melodious vocal performances that captivate your imagination. With a line-up completed by long-time bassist Damien Rainaud and drummer Dillon Trollope, it is in their latest recruit, guitarist Max Karon, that the refined, redefining creative surge on ‘Scar Weaver’ seems to stem from. Cited as the band’s new chief riff-writer, Karon drops riffs like a witch with stock in gingerbread real estate does breadcrumbs, and it’s no less alluring. Opening track “Eidolon” boasts a djenty feel with serpentine structures as this brutal handshake leaves nothing on the table. Nor does, “Bottom Feeder”, which echoes the wonderfully versatile approach seen on ‘The Life I Remember, as it breaks the “melodeath” mold, working harmoniously with a range of styles, this time leaning into more progressive tendencies. All of which give Hart a wide range of territories to play with, and she leaves none of them uncharted.
Since their inception, Hart has rose to the occasion as a vocalist, performer, and indeed writer. On ‘Scar Weaver’ she gives a career-best vocal performance. Aside from the aforementioned “Larry duet”. From her raw emotiveness captured on ‘The Life I Remember’, to mountain cracking, guttural executions on ‘Evolution’, Hart realizes all on ‘Scar Weaver.’ Including a welcomed return of her clean vocals, honed during her time performing with Kamelot. Hart’s voice lives on the edge of the speakers, sounding close enough to touch. Heard on tracks such as the epic album closer, “Only in Death”, and the assault that is “Where the Bones Lie”, which see her merging melody with the monster within. No easy feat for even the most tenured vocalists, as anyone who has jumped that chasm will confirm.
“Scar Weaver” is a labor of love that harbors a sincere intensity and captures a band ready to dominate the year ahead. As the world begins to open its doors once more, listeners best be prepared. For Once Human sound like a band reborn. One with nothing to lose and everything to give.