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More of this stuff, please... - 81%

robotiq, September 11th, 2020

Human Remains expanded their unique death metal vision on this second demo, an upgrade on the previous demo in every way. There are four new songs here (which are a little more complex than the older songs), the production is clearer, the playing is tighter, the riffs are tougher. Anyone accustomed to modern metal productions might balk at how this demo sounds. The production here is rough and cheap, almost perfect for the band's approach. In my eyes there are two types of 'shitty' productions, the good kind and the bad kind. This demo is an example of the good kind. There are no off-putting drum sounds, the guitar is potent, and the loudness levels between the instruments is about right. Those are the most important things.

At this stage in their career, the Human Remains brand of death metal was an extraordinary mix of violence and experimentation. There is slightly more grindcore here than on the previous demo, but it is still about 75% in the death metal camp. Paul Miller's vocals are blood-curdling. They have improved since the first demo and are a definite highlight. Imagine a cross between John Tardy and Brett Hoffman; Miller is every bit as menacing as that sounds. Dave Witte's potential as an elite metal drummer was obvious from the beginning. His speed gives Human Remains a natural extremity and explosiveness which allows them to experiment without compromising brutality.

The guitar riffs are wild, vivid and sometimes over the top. Most of the time they resolve into some of the heaviest mid-paced grooves ever created. The song-writing relies on packing lots of short riffs together and moving through them quickly, using Witte's drumming as the base. The band are more fluid here than on later material (i.e., "Using Sickness as a Hero"). They had already begun to use guitar effects to mix things up. This adds a sense of randomness to proceedings, but these effects colour the songs rather than dictate them. The band were bringing jazzy and noisy elements into their music in a different way to any other death metal band of the time. The opening section of "Fictitiously Vivid" is a great example. The harmonics are used as part of the rhythm, but they also disorientate the listener a little. Good death metal should make you feel like you are under threat. Human Remains understood that principle, at least in the early part of their career.

The reason this stuff sounds so good is because everything flows without sounding forced. The music is chaotic and cathartic, but it still makes sense. I find that a lot of modern technical death metal sacrifices cohesion for complexity. I would always take the former over the latter, as Human Remains did here. This is because the band’s roots are in pure old school death metal. They did not let the avant-garde tendencies interrupt the swaggering, foreboding violence. Whilst this demo sounds somewhat like other bands’ albums from the time ("Dreaming with the Dead", "The Ten Commandments", "Dawn of Possession"), it never sounds derivative of anything. Human Remains were following their own path.

This demo is great. None of these songs appear anywhere else in the Human Remains discography, making it essential listening for those who like brute force death metal with a subtle, progressive twist. There might be a couple of occasions where the band's wackiness gets in the way of a groove. But there are many more occasions where the grooves hit the spot (such as the monster riff at the end of "Sight Beyond Sickness"). This demo is not quite as good as the "Admirations Most Deep and Foul" EP that followed, but it is much better than everything the band released after that EP. Essential.