Death's 1991 masterpiece, Human, re-wrote the book of death metal. While still maintaining the relentless brutality that made Chuck Schuldiner and co. famous in the first place, the album took death metal into previously unexplored territories and resulted in the most innovative and impressive album Death had created to date. The addition of top-notch musicians into Death's lineup surely helped Chuck Schuldiner expand upon his innovative ideas for this album. The sheer technicality, brutality, and progressiveness of this release was groundbreaking back when Human came out. Even 20 years after its release, Human still remains a revolutionary and highly influential masterpiece - this timeless gem has lost none of its luster through the sands of time. To celebrate the album's twentieth anniversary, Relapse Records has reissued the album fully remastered and repackaged; surely nothing to miss if you're a Death fan. Human is a mandatory purchase for all fans of progressive death metal, and this reissue is the best way to go if you've been living under a rock and still haven't heard this legendary masterwork. I'd even venture to say that the Relapse reissue may be worth a re-purchase for fans of the original album; it really is that good.
With 1990's Spiritual Healing Death began experimenting with progressive song structures, but Human is when Chuck truly took the band to a new level. This album is filled with relentless technicality, complex time signature shifts, killer solos, and plenty of jazzy sections to top it all off. Although not as progressive as the modern interpretation of "prog death metal", in the context of time, this truly is a revolutionary piece of music. Just listen to the spacey atmosphere in the instrumental "Cosmic Sea" or the scale-filled solos in "Vacant Planets". Not to mention some of the jazzy rhythm sections in songs like "Suicide Machine", "Lack of Comprehension", or "Secret Face". But regardless of how original and innovative this album was (and still is), the most important part is that it's absolutely kick-ass throughout its entire original 34 minute duration. Expect some of the most well-composed, technically uncompromising death metal ever recorded here.
Human's greatness may be in part (or even mostly) due to the spectacular cast of musicians that Chuck Schuldiner acquired this time around. The lineup consists (obviously) of Chuck Schuldiner on vocals and guitars, Steve DiGiorgio (of Sadus fame) on bass, Paul Masvidal (from Cynic) on guitar, and Sean Reinert (from Cynic) on drums. If that doesn't sound like a legendary lineup, then I'm not sure what does! Schuldiner and Masvidal deliver some of the greatest guitar solos ever recorded here, Reinert's drumming is frantic and technically precise, and the fretless bass work from DiGiorgio is simply legendary. An all-star cast like this one surely deserves their throne at the top of the extreme metal heap.
The production of the original Human was a bit problematic for many listeners, and that's probably the key factor that will lead people to purchasing the Relapse reissue of the album. Steve DiGiorgio's bass playing is much more audible, the drums sound cleaner, and the overall mix is more powerful. I love the original sound of the album as well (I just love that old school production mixed with such insane technicality), but the remaster is clearly superior from a production standpoint. The Relapse reissue also features tons of instrumental bonus material, as well as previously unreleased demo tracks. I don't have a hard copy of the remaster (yet), but the bonus material alone is worthwhile for any fan of the album.
Human is often hailed as one of the finest extreme metal albums ever, and with good reason. Even 20 years after its release, the album remains one of the best and most important masterpieces in the genre. If you like your death metal to be brutal yet extremely technical, progressive, and even melodic, this is an essential purchase. Every self-respecting metal fan has a copy of Human around somewhere, and if not now's the best time to finally check it out. The Relapse Records reissue is truly the best version of this album ever released. With boatloads of bonus material and a sleek new remaster, longtime fans may want to shell out a few bucks to reinvest into this timeless classic. Of course, 5 stars are deserved here. No matter how you package it, Human is a masterpiece and one of the best albums in extreme metal history. Rest in peace, Evil Chuck - the metal world misses you!
1. Flattening of Emotions (4:29)
2. Suicide Machine (4:22)
3. Together as One (4:08)
4. Secret Face (4:35)
5. Lack of Comprehension (3:43)
6. See Through Dreams (4:24)
7. Cosmic Sea (4:27)
8. Vacant Planets (3:48)
(Original Album Tracklist)