Death – Human Reissue (Relapse Records)

Friday, 22nd March 2013
Rating: 8.5/10

I choked on a piece of steak and nearly died the day I bought Death’s Human.

How’s that for an intro? Thanks to the fast-actions of one Jim Gehlke (my older brother, who performed the Heimlich), yours truly is able to spew his mindless thoughts on the world of heavy metal. And because of my inability to chew on steak properly at the age of 15, every time Human is played, it’s the recurring thought. With that in mind, let’s move onto the reissue of Death’s seminal 1991 album, shall we? (And no, I’m not thinking about steak at the moment)

The first Death to take a full stride into the progressive death metal realm,Human was a tremendous leap from the meat and potatoes brand of death metal the band had just churned out on Spiritual Healing. With Cynic dudes Paul Masvidal (guitar) and Sein Reinart (drums) joining bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus) and Chuck Schuldiner, Human was nimble, catchy, and brutal. Lots of credit should go to producer/engineer Scott Burns for creating such a punishing in sound. In fact, it’s probably Burns’ finest hour, The Bleeding notwithstanding.

Lots of gems down the line, starting with “Flattening of Emotions” (0:44 – 0:53 is brutality at its finest) to the grinding “Suicide Machine.” Melody started to creep in on “Together As One,” as Schuldiner’s memorable (and discernible) bark really started to take form. “Lack of Comprehension” is a bona-fide classic, while “See Through Dreams” and the instrumental “Cosmic Sea” took Death down totally new paths.

Bonus tracks are a plenty here, including demo versions of all eight original tracks (vocal-less versions included, and a cover version of Kiss’s “God of Thunder.” In terms of how the demo tracks sound, they’re awfully powerful, a testament to the combined talents of this particular lineup, which in terms of sheer musical prowess, is probably Death’s most awe-inspiring incarnation.

An absolute game-changer in the American death metal scene, Human remains one of the genre’s most crucial albums. Twenty years since its release, it’s still every bit as challenging, pummeling, and captivating. And it’s good enough to distract adolescents from chewing their food properly…

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