It's amazing the drubbing that this sophomore release from The Human Abstract has been getting across the board from fans & critics alike. The band's debut Nocturne was a scorcher of technical progressive metal and hardcore, throwing the band right in the same league with acts like Between the Buried and Me, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Protest the Hero. Since then, they've had some line-up changes, mainly lead guitarist A.J. Minette leaving the band, and you can feel his absence here on Midheaven, as lead vocalist Nathan Ells and drummer Brett Powell seem to have taken over the sound on this one. Sure, there's plenty of six string heroics from Andrew Tapley & Dean Herrera, just check out the progressive metal-meets-alternative arrangements of "A Violent Strike" and "Procession of the Fates", two strong tracks that kick off the CD with lots of interplay between guitars & Sean Leonard's keyboards, Powell laying down some intricate stick work underneath it all. Though the guitar duo rip into some impressive sweep picking on "Breathing Life Into Devices", Ells' crooning seems out of place on this one, as he mixes some Incubus styled vocals with hip-hop and screams, making for an odd variety of a delivery from him. The sappy ballad "This World Is A Tomb" would have sounded more at home on a Staind or Red Hot Chile Pepper album (though there is some nice Mellotron on this piece), but the band rampages back on the DEP inspired "Metanoia", a complex & heavy little ditty that would have benefitted from some added crunch to the guitar riffs. The catchy "The Path" is a nice melodic pop song, and would seem to have radio potential with its soaring melodies, clean guitar riffs, and majestic piano & Mellotron, but it's a song that is sure to piss off loyal fans of the band who are expecting heavier & more complex material. Ells does his best to throw out clean vocals and screams on the busy "Echoes Of The Spirit", but instead he just drowns out the guitars and bass, Powell's acrobatic drum work the only thing that really stands out in the mix. After the brief combination of acoustic rock and prog on "Calm In The Chaos", the band dips into atmospheric pop, metal, & prog on "Counting Down The Days", a real catchy tune with some adventurous playing from the whole band, including some ripping guitar solos that again, should have been more upfront in the mix. The keyboard drenched "A Dead World At Sunrise" finishes things off, Nathan trying to be passionate but he's slightly straining in what could have been his high point of the CD, but he simply misses the mark.
Overall, despite some strong tunes, this has to be seen as a major misfire for The Human Abstract. While some of the songs here might have potential for more commercial markets, there's not enough firepower to hold onto many of the extreme or progressive metal fans they might have collected with their debut. It looks like we have here a band at the crossroads, so let's see where they go next.
1. A Violent Strike 6:41
2. Procession Of The Fates 4:12
3. Breathing Life Into Devices 5:11
4. This World Is A Tomb 3:57
5. Metanoia 3:18
6. The Path 3:03
7. Echoes Of The Spirit 4:31
8. Calm In The Chaos 2:46
9. Counting Down The Days 5:48
10. A Dead World At Sunrise 4:18