Evolution is not just the title of Once Human’s sophomore release, it’s an armor-plated declaration. Having made waves with their 2015 debut, The Life I Remember, the band have dramatically progressed beyond the melodic death metal sound of that release into something more complex, emotional, distinct, and devastatingly heavy.
“Having been focused on recording, producing and developing bands, I had not picked up the guitar out of passion for twelve years but as soon as I started writing with Lauren (Hart, vocals) I fell in love with what we were making, and I wanted to play in the band and get back on stage,”
states guitarist Logan Mader, whose name will be familiar to metalheads not only for his production and/or mixing work on records from the likes of Gojira, Fear Factory and Devildriver, but also as the original guitarist in Machine Head, and his late 90s stint in Soulfly.
“Our first record was getting the ball rolling, but now it’s as if we’re a totally different band. We really found our sound and our identity, it’s quite unique and I think what we’re doing is really on fire.”
With the lineup rounded out by drummer Dillon Trollope, bassist Damien Rainaud and guitarists Skyler Howren and recent recruit Max Karon, everything about Evolution makes it clear that this is a band pushing itself to deliver something that truly stands apart. With the intensity and range of Hart’s roar having drastically increased, she unleashes it across complex and constantly shifting time signatures, and thick, contorted riffs that land with sledgehammer force. However, this is not only about bludgeoning the listener into submission, the violence often juxtaposed with eerie atmospherics and dark melodies to create something with great depth. “Paragon”, for instance, is equally destructive and unsettling without having to attack at 300bpm, while “Dark Matter” is built to intimidate, unnerve and destroy, and the intense closer “Passenger” has an urgency to it that is riveting.
“It was a challenging record to write,”
“We spent a lot of time writing and rewriting and rearranging, the content itself is strenuous to perform, and I had to push myself to the limits to get it to where it is. I think the result is that all of the parts of all of the songs really make you feel something.”
Dealing with music that carries so much emotional weight, Hart had to raise herself to a standard she had never previously worked at when it came to penning the lyrics, and she openly admits to being intimidated.
“The music is so intelligent, and initially I felt like I could not possibly come up with something sufficiently intelligent to do it justice."
Frankly stating that she deliberately "Turned off the world" and avoided the constant turmoil by not reading about current affairs, this blunted the emotional impact of the lyrics she penned for the band’s debut.
“I did not want to see the world for what it was or let it in. I did not want to feel that anger and anxiety. I always thought ignorance was bliss.. but ignorance is just ignorance, and no good writer will come from that. So, I dug deep to induce a huge reality check in order to face myself and the world.”
With every track Hart earnestly tackles her chosen subject matter without flinching. Though she elects to not go into too much detail so that listeners may interpret her lyrics as they wish, she still covers a lot of ground. She not only looks at the very real problems in the world but also events from her personal life, and in the case of “Gravity” and “Passenger” she delves into more philosophical territory, pondering the meaning of life.
“Now, I want to use my voice and my mind in the best way I can. I really challenged myself, and hopefully what I have written will challenge peoples’ minds in return.”
With Mader handling production and mixing duties, tracking the record ran smoothly, though again Hart had to dig so much deeper when it came time for her to step into the vocal booth. Knowing her weaknesses performance-wise from their debut album, she worked very hard to develop her voice, and held nothing back when it came time to deliver.
“I was really inspired by Randy Blythe on Lamb of God’s VII: Sturm Und Drang (2015). He was so real and raw, and from that seemed to find new voices for his album. Screaming with tone, the highs and the lows, the cleans, you truly feel each line from him, and I wanted to do that too. I wanted to make people feel what he made me feel. In order to do that, I had to be honest and truly believe what I was signing. It had to come from a real place in my soul. Whatever the song was about, I would find that place emotionally and then I’d get into the booth and sing.”
While every record Mader has produced is a labor of love, his passion was so inflamed by Evolution that he “ate, slept and breathed” the album every moment of the months spent working on it. When it came to mastering, he elected to hand these duties off to the one and only Jens Bogren, who has left a profound mark on records from Amon Amarth, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Soilwork, to name but a few.
“I’m a huge fan of his work. He’s got this amazing studio with a lot of great analog gear, and I wanted to have his stamp on it, and hopefully inject it with some of the analog sound that I love.”
The first song most will encounter will be lead off single “Eye Of Chaos”, which is a hell of a way to grab the attention of both those new to the band and their followers. Bringing together all of the elements that make the album so compelling, it has an immediacy that is undeniable.
“Even as an instrumental piece of music it gave off that ‘holy-shit-this-is-amazing-and-giving-me-goosebumps’ feeling!”
“It’s also one of the more straightforward arrangements, so it’s a little easier to wrap your head around, and we felt it was a really good reintroduction, showing people where we’re going with this record.”
Thematically, it tackles a very dark and sober issue, that of children raised to be soldiers, a story that moved Hart upon encountering it.
“These are children born and taught to kill at a very young age, the loss of innocence after the first kill, and the numbness to the concept of death that follows, something unimaginable to most of us. For them, life has no value, and their eyes completely lose their light.”
Armed with this track and the eight others comprising Evolution, Once Human intend to build on the groundwork laid down by the two tours they did in support of their debut, and make it damn clear that this is a band to be taken seriously.
“It’s only been a little more than a year since we put out our first record, but we were so driven by the new sound that we forged that we needed to get back into the studio and capture it,”
“It was also important to prove to people that this is a real band. It’s not just a project I felt like doing on a whim, this is a band that’s going to have a full career, and now we’re really getting started.”