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Remains, buried deep underground - 70%

robotiq, September 11th, 2020

Human Remains were unlike other death/grind bands. The differences were obvious back on their first demo. Even here, there were a lot of different noises feeding into their unholy racket. Human Remains were beginning to reshape death/grind into another type of sound. This would eventually lead to a new sub-style of metal/hardcore/grind at the turn of the century. Their future label, Relapse Records, would be at the epicentre, specialising in noisy, ugly, heavy, well-produced post-death/grind with jazzy influences. I am not particularly interested in most of those bands that ended up on Relapse, but I do like old school death metal and grindcore. If we rewind to the beginning, the first Human Remains demo (way back in 1990) was one of the earliest examples of this style.

This demo was released six years before the band's cult classic "Using Sickness as a Hero". I much prefer this early Human Remains stuff to that later record. There are already significant hints of the direction they would take. That means there are lots of scratchy, noisy guitar parts and experimental weirdness, for want of a better description. These innovations would have sparked curiosity around the death metal scene, at least in their native New Jersey. There was not much (or anything) like Human Remains back then. The main precursor was clearly Ripping Corpse (their New Jersey neighbours), but they themselves were only at the demo stage too. In terms of other influences, Deadhorse had a similar violent eccentricity in their riffing. Then there are the more obvious ones; "Seven Churches", "Scream Bloody Gore", "Altars of Madness", "Horrified", which surface occasionally. Human Remains were primarily a death metal band with grindcore elements at this point, and with their own twist.

The five songs on this demo are some of the most wrenching, ugly, and noisy death metal available in 1990 (almost up there with Dr. Shrinker's "The Eponym"). The band's eagerness to progress and experiment beyond the confines of their genre are obvious. You can already hear Dave Witte's jazzy, muscular drumming. I think this demo was his first recorded appearance of any kind, long before he became the 'all-star' drummer of countless bands that he is today. The guitar riffs and transitions have a violent, lurching motion about them. They also have the heaviness of a dead-weight, almost like a wrecking ball swinging from one place to the next. The band's ambition gets the better of them occasionally. They are not quite tight enough to maximise their desired effect. There is little to differentiate the individual songs from one another, so it is better to listen to the whole recording in one sitting. That said, the best song might be "Malignance", where the transition from a spiralling death metal riff into grindcore blasting, to simple punk riffing, and back again, is particularly impressive.

This first demo is a preparatory sketch, nothing more but nothing less. Human Remains had talent and potential from the beginning and their line-up would stay relatively stable until they split. The production is as raw as you might expect for a debut demo of the time. It is listenable and powerful despite the inconsistencies. Human Remains would improve in time for their second demo, and then improve again for the masterful "Admirations Most Deep and Foul" seven-inch. Both of those recordings are stronger than this demo here, but this one still has primal intensity and genuine musical quality. This is historically and musically interesting enough to warrant repeated listens.