Death - Human (1991), 9/10

Aggressive, technical, existential. What more could you want from metal? Certainly progressive for a metal release in 1991, but still brutal and unrelentingly emotional. This set of tracks works better than anything else Death created, for me personally, due to the culmination of technical prowess, songwriting, and melodic hooks that come together perfectly and result in a very holistic death metal recording. The band would continue to explore these themes, but never again reached this height of technicality mixed with philosophically effective, yet surreal themes. Death's catalogue before Human leans on specific tropes like gore or political statements; this begins a new era for the group that explores more interesting, complex and thought-provoking material. Just as its predecessor, Human could be viewed as a transitional album between the band's origins and its more progressive releases later in their discography, but rather than simply lying somewhere between, it harnesses the brutality of the former and the complexity of the latter. If there is a death metal album that transcends the genre’s labels and created something altogether new and wonderful it would be Human along with the similarly groundbreaking and genre-bending Symbolic. What makes this one stand apart is its intimate, philosophical approach to not only lyricism but of the music itself, contorting the excessive, brutal nature of the genre in its favor to enhance already emotionally impactful metal. Gut punching guitar solos and brutal percussive explosions layered on top of complex, layered melodies make this a masterwork that always satisfies. “Flattening of Emotions” is the perfect opener down to the percussive crescendo, “Suicide Machine” prepares you for the existential meandering to come, “Secret Face” contains some of the greatest guitar work Chuck would record along with a river of instrumental channels sweeping in all different directions just in time for “Lack of Comprehension” to guide you gently by the hand before throwing you even deeper into a chasm of sadistic, battering pleasure just as “Cosmic Sea” sends you floating into the heavenly abyss. For me, after searching for years for metal meaning something beyond self-serving ‘heavy’ sounds, Human finally scratched that itch. It has that indescribable factor that affects you and realigns your disposition no matter the time, place or mood. The original mastering is done well enough and has its own subjective strengths, but the remaster provides a heavier brutalizing sound for modern ears. An essential album and a forward-thinking, genre defining statement for death metal.