Released: 2011, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Sweet Christ on a stick, has it really been 20 years since this album was originally released? I mean, c’mon, I can remember buying this on cassette at my local Peaches Records. Dammit, if I didn’t feel old already, I sure as shit do now. But I digress. It is indeed the 20th anniversary of HUMAN, the fourth album from the one-and-only, Death, and Relapse Records has pulled out all the stops for a spectacular, special edition, reissue. Here’s all you need to know about it:
1) If you’ve never heard HUMAN before, you should buy this
2) If you’ve owned HUMAN for 20 years and think you know the album, you should buy this
3) It is indeed spectacular
HUMAN was the album that really was the catalyst for Death transitioning from being “just” a death metal band into the progressive, forward thinking, technically proficient juggernaut that it would eventually become recognized as. This was due to a perfect storm of sorts – a fresh supporting lineup featuring Paul Masvidal, Sean Reinert (the brain trust of a then up and coming Cynic) and Steve DiGiorgio (of Sadus-fame, later Control Denied, Testament, awesomeness), the return of producer Scott Burns, and 8 songs that would set a new benchmark for what could be musically achieved within the context of death metal. Hearing this album in 1991 up-ended everything I thought I knew about death metal. It was smart, it was heavy, it was nuanced, it was emotional, and it has remained one of my all-time favorite albums to this day. Listening to this 20th anniversary reissue not only reaffirms all those feelings, but makes me love it even more.
In addition to the original album’s tracks is the band’s cover of Kiss’ “God of Thunder” (from the 1993 Roadrunner Records comp AT DEATH’S DOOR II) and around 40 demos from the HUMAN sessions. Given some TLC from Jim Morris and Alan Douches, these recordings allow the listener a feeling of what it must have been like inside Morrisound Studios 20 years ago. Rehearsal tracks, full band demos, instrumental drum/bass tracking, they’re all here and they each add a different dimension to what would become the finished product.
As for the original 8 tracks, this is the heaviest that these tunes have ever been presented thanks to a full remix and remaster. Chuck’s voice is noticeably more pronounced and emphatic here, and the multitude of instrumental layers come across crisper, clear, all together better than ever. I listened to the album start to finish with a good set of headphones, and it was like discovering a brand new album.
Death is, was, and always will be one of my favorite bands – ever, and that’s entirely due to this album. HUMAN was a pivotal turning point for Chuck Schuldiner, for death, and for death metal as a genre. It’s hard to appreciate a concept like that now in 2011, but 20 years ago when the scene was just starting to grow legs, it was huge. Huge like this reissue, which by the way, is worth every penny of its sticker price. Find out why. The HUMAN 20th Anniversary Reissue is available now through Relapse Records.