Following the release of their debut album ‘The Life I Remember’, LA-based tech metal outfit ONCE HUMAN have made their stamp on modern metal and it’s understandable why – they have some serious pedigree among them in ex-Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader. He may have left the metal giants early in their career but went on to produce some of the most impressive metal records in recent memory, so it makes sense that both their debut record and follow-up ‘Evolution’ benefitted from some incredible production quality. It also provides at least a slight explanation as to why on earth a band who, after 4 years and two albums, have decided to release a live album.
When you look back through all memorable live albums that have been released by various bands over the years, it’s been to mark some form of landmark moment in their career – usually a mammoth set to a sold-out stadium or at least an arena audience which, if nothing else, provides die-hard fans with a greatest hits album of sorts to add to their collection. So, for a band to release a live album which is essentially just a live version of the album ‘Evolution’, recorded whilst playing a support slot to Dragonforce and with 9 tracks on the record, it just doesn’t make sense. I understand that thanks to incredible advances in recording equipment and technology, these things are far easier to produce than they used to be. But still, I personally would rather see 4 or 5 live tracks as bonus tracks on the album, not a live album as an entity in its own right.
Either way, I’m listening to this album with a completely open mind with my fingers crossed that I’ve completely missed something, and my perspective will be changed forever…
From the outset, the set list is looking strong. With limited time available they’ve got a great blend of heavy, technical and mellowed songs in all the right places. The charm with some live albums is the fact that it’s a window into seeing just how human some of our favourite musicians really are (everyone remembers Kurt Cobain’s solo in ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ from MTV Unplugged) but owing to how tight both records have been it’s clear from the get-go that nothing like that will be on display on this album. If it wasn’t for the cheers from the audience, the sound quality of this, certainly for a live album, is so good it’s difficult to discern from most studio releases. Which is great, but it just continues to beg the question, why release a live album that’s so similar to the studio album? The only answer I personally can think of is that the musicianship on display is incredible, Lauren Hart’s vocals are absolutely on point and the drums, bass and guitar don’t seem to miss a beat.
The crowd interaction is a bit limp but that’s to be expected when playing as a support band, most people in attendance had probably never even heard of Once Human until seeing them announced as the support act for tonight. However, Lauren makes the most of the situation trying to joke with the audience and showing their appreciation for the support. The biggest reception of night though seems to come from their cover of Machine Head’s first big hit ‘Davidian’ which is most likely the only song of the set some people in attendance know. And it’s great - except, instead of sticking to her guns and giving the song her own treatment, Lauren Hart seems to try and imitate Rob Flynn’s signature growl/sing style vocal which really doesn’t work well and is a shame because playing a cover is a chance to re-create the song, show everyone how different it can be but this feels like a tribute to Machine Head which is a shame. Guest vocals on the track come from Dragonforce bassist Fred Leclercq which is a guest spot I would understand, were he a famous vocalist…
All in all, I think fans of the band will see this as a welcome release and a great insight into the band’s live performances for both those who see the band on every tour and those who have never been able to get to a gig. Unfortunately, for everyone else, especially with the release of a studio version of ‘Davidian’ recently, there’s absolutely nothing on display here, except some awkward crowd joking, that isn’t available on the studio recordings.
1. Eyes of Chaos
2. Killer for the Cure
3. Mass Murder Frenzy
6. Pick Your Poison
9. Flock of Flesh
Once Human are:
Logan Mader – Guitars
Lauren Hart – Vocals
Dillon Trollope – Drums
Damien Rainaud – Bass
Max Karon - Guitars
You can find them at: