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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!