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So I guess this is what midlife crisis NYDM looks like? I can't really tell what else these guys are going for. First full length since the band's initial inception in the early/mid 90s, released on a major label with relatively little hoopla surrounding it, competent but pretty generic music...maybe these guys are just one of those weird bands that play a bunch of local shows but never actually release anything, who knows. Maybe Jason Bittner decided to give it one more good ol' college try with this band because Shadows Fall was declining in popularity. Whatever the real reason is that Resurrection Through Fire saw the light of day is, it will forever be obscured unless I actually track down the band members or something. Of course, I don't intend on doing that. I'm really not that concerned about unusual circumstances if they created music this unspectacular.
Have you heard Skinless before? Have you heard Corpsegrinder's throaty rasp-growl before? Good, swap in some slightly less capable musicians and more straightforward riffs you've got a pretty clear picture of Burning Human. Maybe I'm not giving the musicianship here enough credit with that caricature, though. I mean, there's no mindblowing guitar wizardry or anything, but the album's presentation is professionally done and there's a little bit more emphasis on the chunky, hardcore side of things anyways. Crazy "are they riffs or are they solos" guitar parts wouldn't really fit the music overall. Instead, Burning Human just focus on thick riffs with a chunky groove and try to get through all 38 minutes of this album just doing that. There's enough dissonance and blastbeats scattered about to appeal to more straight-up death metal fans, and any simplistic breakdowns in the music are used sparingly enough. The drumming is pretty solid overall, but the problem with solid drumming is that it doesn't really stand out unless the music is amazing or outright awful, and this album is pretty close to being right in the middle of that spectrum.
Any of these riffs, when removed from the music and left to stand alone, could easily fit on a hardcore album. However, when you listen to the entire album in one go, you're left with only the thought that this is some by-the-book death metal. You're waiting for the moment where everything pauses and a "BREAK THIS SHIT DOWN" introduces some single chugging, but it never happens. When you really get down to it, though, there isn't a whole lot that separates Burning Human from the deathcore scene of the mid-to-late-00s. This largely seems to be the fault of the slick, modern production values, which give the music a certain cleanliness that negates the emphasis on chaotic extremity. Apart from the changes in the tempo, there aren't many ways you can clearly distinguish the riffs from one another. Though I do moderately enjoy the shouty rasp in the tone delivered by the vocalist, I can imagine it would be a little more fitting in a band like Hatebreed. What I'm trying to get at here is that if you told me this was Job for a Cowboy's hardcore side project, I'd probably believe you, and not just because Job For a Cowboy seem to latch onto a new sound (read: trend) every album. Despite the more oldschool-styled origins of this album, it very much ends up sounding like a bunch of middle-aged dudes desperately trying to take a stab at this whole deathcore thing that all the kids seemed to be listening to in those days, even with the emphasis on the "death" part of that word. It's a bit too little too late, though.
I would have put this album back in the used CD stack, but it was the week after Christmas so the record store had a buy 3 get 1 free deal on and there were only three other albums I wanted to buy. If you can't get your fill of NYDM and just want it all to sound like Jungle Rot playing faster I'm not going to say I lost anything valuable by listening to this a couple times, but at the same time you're probably not going to gain anything significant if you also end up purchasing Resurrection Through Fire.
It must have been like 15 years ago that I stood outside the QE2 in Albany, NY waiting to be let into a Sam Black Church show. I remember seeing some guys skateboarding, one of them was the lead singer of Burning Human, though I didn't realize this until he got onstage a few minutes later. Burning Human was the first death metal band I ever saw live and they totally terrorized me. After the show, I bought a comp of upstate NY hardcore and metal called "We The People" just because Burning Human was on it. A few years later, they disappeared from the scene and I read somewhere that their drummer had joined Shadows Fall, a band I'd always felt was abyssmal. Other Albany area bands like Skinless managed to make it big but never in the intervening years did I expect to hear from Burning Human again. Now they're back and I couldn't be happier.
"Resurrection Through Fire" captures the classic Burning Human sound of early 90's Morrisound death metal tinged with broad hints of late 80's NYHC. Several of the songs here were previously recorded but the difference here is in the beefier production, a process overseen by James Murphy who has plenty of practical experience in this area. The sounds he captures for this record are massive, with Jason Bittner's drums way forward in the mix, as they should be since he gives a literal drum clinic. His fills, rolls, kicks, and blasts are all crystalline perfection. It was easy to forget, in the simplicity of Shadows Fall, how excellent a metal drummer he is.
If I have one issue with the sound it is with the lead guitar tone, a clear and ringing sound reminiscent of the lead-work on "Heartwork" but not as technically precise. It sounds the same on each track and is distracting. Most of these tunes would do better without leads at all -- or else they should've asked their producer to sit in more as the guest solos he delivers are far superior . In terms of riffage, the duel guitar attack is excellent, churning out bludgeoningly precise and catchy riffs that could get a circle pit started in seconds. The bass is audible, always nice for the genre. Jonah Radaelli's vocals are deep monotone abrasive. To break up the monotony, there are backing vocals from bassist Jay Van Dervoot, whose raspy voice is similar to that of Jeff Walker.
It is great to hear a bunch of their older songs re-recorded, particularly "The Final Conception," "Guilty of Insanity," and "Chemical Experimentation" since those have been my favorites forever and have worn their age nicely. New tracks like "Tormented Mind" blister as well.
I wish Burning Human could be a full-time band again but understand that their existence now is solely a concession to Jason Bittner's success with Shadows Fall. That said, they do occasionally play live and will hopefully one day record more material. Anyone with a fondness for old-school death metal should check this out.
New York's Burning Human represent to me exactly what NYDM should sound like. Brutal and entirely pit-friendly, with an almost hardcore aesthetic lurking below the chug and blast while still possessive of a technical edge to sate the death metal purist. This is no typical deathcore or metalcore act, but it's just as appealing to the street crowd. You might think of it as 'tough guy' death but the band isn't writing about anything quite so trite. That they open the album with such a strong track in "Tormented Mind" was enough to grasp my attention, but they don't stop at that. The rest of the album is also good.
After a dark ambient intro, the guitars churn forth over an ascending drum roll, then the riff transforms into a groove while a tasteful lead stretches across it. This is "Tormented Mind", and once those dual grunt/snarl vocals erupt over an intensely violent riff you know this is a band that will be responsible for MANY bruises and broken bones over the course of their live career. The song is quite simple, but has a few flourishes of mildly more tech death metal. As if this weren't enough, the real breakdown hasn't even arrived until about 3:40 in the track, when it clouts you over the head in true Earth Crisis fashion before transforming back into some nice death metal riffage. "As Good as Dead" continues the beating with a riff reminiscent of old Death and Obituary, a mid-paced flow with some nice slower shifts using creepy chords ala early Pestilence. It's another of the best on the album. "Chemical Experimentation" is all fists flying and sickness, and the rest of the album follows suit.
The sound here is quite good. Thick and brutal guitar work over a vibrant kit. The vocal styles are both executed well and despite all the simple mosh and groove of their approach the album never becomes boring and it puts to shame the vast majority of boring slam/death metal from this country. Burning Human are not quite original, but they take the very best elements of classic death metal cred, street core aesthetic and a penchant for brutal 'swing' to create a successful debut. I'll see you in the pit!