Death – Human (Reissue) Review

originally written by Jim Brandon

There is no denying the importance and influence that the body of work from the late Chuck Schuldiner has contributed to the lexicon of American death metal like no other artist, and Death was by far one of the most consistent and trailblazing bands in all of the genre’s history. He introduced elements of true progression that no other first-tier project dared to, ignoring trend after trend with each subsequent release, with 1991’s Human being widely regarded as the most impressive and surprising album in Chuck’s catalogue. A calculated and violent push against the previous heavily melodic pull of the restrained Spiritual Healing, there are few classic efforts that deserve the facelift and embellishment treatment the way this truly legendary high watermark does.

To actually review an album such as this is not within my very limited talents (and isn’t needed here), but there are a few points to be made concerning the refurbished production job, as well as the addition of unearthed demo tracks on the second disc. To hear the very raw early versions of these songs sans vocals reveals that there wasn’t a large amount of tweaking done between the initial stages of the tunes and the finished product. It seems as though the editing process was not a trial, but merely a simple fine-tuning of main riffs and certain harmonic phrases. So in that regard, while it’s very cool to hear the raw-form instrumental skeletons of this tremendous album, you won’t find many surprises, and only logical improvements of much of the material.

The new mix, however, is very advanced. While listening to this even on low volume, there’s a bright new clarity to Sean Reinert’s drums that was somewhat muted on the original pressing, revealing previously hidden crisp and clean nuances in the percussive elements of each song. The bluntness of the remaster is, of course, very noticeable right from the onset of the calamitous opening strikes “Flattening Of Emotions” and “Suicide Machine” provide, yet the smoothed-out edges of “Lack Of Comprehension” and “See Through Dreams” takes away slightly from the harsh effectiveness of the 1991 recording. But in this age where clearer is better, and with all those understated tasty bits being brought into new light, the more contemporary feel of this reissue does fair justice to the often intricate nature of Schuldiner’s beast.

What the music contained within on Human did to the metal scene when it was unleashed was stunning. Seeing how Chuck took a vastly more melodic route on Spiritual Healing, and taking into consideration the widespread desires of thrash bands to follow Metallica’s fortunate break into mainstream airwaves, along with the rocketing rise of Soundgarden and Nirvana, Human was not what many of us were expecting to hear. Incessant machine-gun chugs, those wildly melodic solos and harmony bridges, and Schuldiner’s feral vocal delivery was like waking up out of a dead fucking sleep and going straight to the cocaine tray to bang up a couple lines before your eyes are even fully open. It was so jarring, and so totally unexpected and uncommon at the time, I don’t think anyone knew the height of reverence this effort would eventually reach. It was the intelligent “anti-trend” release that death metal needed to spearhead within its own ranks, and it worked like a charm.

There’s not a single blastbeat to be heard. You won’t find any praises to Satan, nor lyrical content about nothing in particular. This is what it means to grow, to expand, and to push boundaries without ever needing to alter your aesthetic; the tools were always there, it’s just a matter of properly using them. Standout bands like Obscura, Anata, Stargazer and Akercocke would not exist in their present forms if not for Human, and this is not a fucking opinion. Some say this is Chuck’s crowning achievement (personally, I’d give that to Symbolic, by a hair), and twenty years down the line and with many added goodies, this has aged better than almost any other album from that time period. He would have been 44 years old this year, and even though he’s not here to see all this love, hopefully, somehow, he still knows how deeply he’s missed, and has the confidence of knowing his music will never be forgotten.

Long live Death.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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