"Now we have a true unique identity that belongs to us.”
HAVING made waves with their 2015 debut, 'The Life I Remember', Once Human have dramatically progressed beyond the melodic death metal sound to create something more complex, emotionally distinct, and devastatingly heavy.
Evolution, to be released in January, is not just the title of Once Human's sophomore release, it's an armour-plated declaration.
With the line-up rounded out by drummer Dillon Trollope, bassist Damien Rainaud and guitarists Skyler Howren and recent recruit Max Karon, everything about Evolution makes it clear that this is a band pushing itself to deliver something that truly stands apart.
The first song "Eye Of Chaos" brings together all of the elements that make the album so compelling.
Armed with this track and the eight others Once Human intend to build on the groundwork laid down by the two tours they did in support of their debut.
With the intensity and range of Hart's roar having drastically increased, she unleashes it across complex and constantly shifting time signatures, and thick, contorted riffs that land with sledgehammer force.
"It's only been a little more than a year since we put out our first record, but we were so driven by the new sound that we forged that we needed to get back into the studio and capture it," Mader states.
"It was also important to prove to people that this is a real band.
"It's not just a project I felt like doing on a whim, this is a band that's going to have a full career, and now we're really getting started."
While every record Mader has produced is a labour of love, his passion was so inflamed by Evolution that he "ate, slept and breathed" the album every moment of the months spent working on it.
When it came to mastering, he elected to hand these duties off to the one and only Jens Bogren, who has left a profound mark on records from Amon Amarth, Fleshgod Apocalypse and Soilwork, to name but a few.
"I'm a huge fan of his work.
He's got this amazing studio with a lot of great analogue gear, and I wanted to have his stamp on it, and hopefully inject it with some of the analogue sound that I love."
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE:
Marc Stapelberg: The sound on the album is huge, especially on Eye of Chaos.
Logan Mader: That's the basic production sound of the entire album. It is pretty much consistent as far as sonically all the way across. I produced the album and mixed it and Jens Bogren did the mastering. Lauren Hart, the other guitar player Max Karon and myself wrote the record and recorded it in my studio.
MS: Did you do anything unique in terms of the production gear wise, sonically, mixing etc?
LM: I'm a producer and a mixer and I have worked on a lot of records for the last 10 or 15 years. It is one of my jobs that I do. With Once Human being my band I took the effort to make it as good as it could possibly be, possibly make it the best thing I have ever done. That's what I try to do. I mean it's not rocket science. I just have a lot of experience in recording and getting good source tones and a good understanding for how to mix it.
MS: Are you using eight string guitars?
LM: These are seven string guitars but the tuning is quiet unique. Like the top six are like a drop c tuning and the low string, the seventh string, is tuned down to G. So it goes GCGCFAD. It is a really cool tuning that gives it almost that low eight string standard. It's like a half step up from that. So when we want to we can get super low and heavy and then a lot of thematic motives can still go through all the songs.
MS: So tell me a bit more about the album.
LM: There nine songs on the album and it's going to be released on January 20th worldwide through Ear Music which is a German company which has been quiet good to us. They have various distribution partners around the world. I think it is now Sony in Australia which is cool. I think Australia is an important market. I love the country. And my singer Lauren Hart she lived there for most of her life. So this is an important market for us for personal reason. And I was in the band Machine Head for the first two albums and we have a gold record in Australia and I toured here and it was a really great time of my life. And I found that it was a really good metal market.
MS: Was there anything challenging about the production, recording or writing process?
LM: It was a challenging record to write because we set the standards super high. And put a lot of effort into every song. You know it's not like a cookie cutter type of arrangement. There some progressive elements to the arrangement and the average song is like five minutes, which means it is more of a journey. We added a new guitar player. We have three guitar players now. We added a guy named Max Karon, who collaborated with Lauren and I and we wrote all the music together. He is amazing. He is a really, really unique riff writer and a great player. Every song had its own kind of challenges. It took a lot of effort. Lauren wrote all her own melodies, and lyrics and patterns. She put a lot effort into it and it really came through. There are some meaningful, impressive, and deep lyrics as well as her performances in the sense that she has grown incredibly since the first album as a vocalist. Her main growling voice has got more guttural and more brutal and she has also discovered a tonal screaming voice. There is some clean singing and she has strengthened that as well. There is not a whole lot of clean singing but it just sort of happens in a few sparse moments where it really fits. And she delivers amazing performances on all of it. There are nine songs on the album and forty four minutes running time and there are no fillers. I can't pick a favourite because I love them all. I really can't tell you if there is a b-side on there. We really didn't settle for mediocre on any of it. It is all killer, no filler.
MS: Are there any more videos in the works?
LM: There is one video that is completed now, and there is a third video which is going to be shot on the 12th and the 13th in Los Angeles. So we are planning to release the second video in late November, maybe even December. And then a third video during the week of release in January. We even have shot a fourth video which is not edited yet which we plan to release in March or April. I would like to make even more videos for the album, but I am not sure if we will. I think it is important to put a lot of visual streaming up because it gives people more to grab onto. I think it is important to have more than just a static image or a lyric video but to have something that gets you pumped with storyline and content.
MS: There is a definite sense of vigour, passion and excitement not only in the album but also in the way you speak about it. Are you excited for the release?
LM: I am very excited about it. I can't wait to release it. It is really light years ahead of our first album. To me it's like our first album. But now we have a true unique identity that belongs to us and I believe it is getting a really good reaction from people. The response for our first video has been amazing. It has been up for six and a half weeks and it has 850000 views, which is way more than expected or hope for. I think we are going to have a legitimate shot at bringing this record to the people around the world and do a real good touring cycle in 2017.
MS: You said you are now using three guitars. Tell me how you are working that. Is it rhythm and then a lead, and then another guitar an octave up?
LM: Exactly that for the most part. Max Karon, he plays all the leads, and I play plays most of rhythms. There will be the main riff, and then a riff an octave up from it or an octave down from it, and a lead part. We could get away with two guitar players and just sort of make it work. But we wanted to go this route and do it organically. Bringing Max in is a big asset for us and we just love him as a person and a collaborator. He is a really great player and really reasonable and I didn't have any reason to fire another guy in the band. They are all good players and they are good people and they are dedicated. So we decided to have all three going and it is working well.
FEMALE VOCALS IN METAL
MS: Having a female front woman can pigeon hole a metal band quiet quickly. You have always stated how inspirational Lauren has been. Was there something exciting about working in a female front metal band?
LM: I am not one of those metal fans that thinks it is all a man's world. Especially in 2016/2017 there are just so many good female fronted metal bands out there. And it is widely accepted among metal fans and elitists alike. But it is still relatively new which kind of sets us apart from the one million other metal bands that are out there. It is almost like there is less to compare us to so maybe it is easier to stand out. I don't know. I just love Lauren and her voice and the way it all works. I don't see it as a female/male kind of a thing. It is just what it is.
MS: Has Lauren been showing you the sights in Australia?
LM: When I toured here we didn't have time. We were flying every day. I mean I had one day off in Sydney and I walked around Kings Cross and stuff and I had a nice hotel right on the harbour when I was touring here. But then I came back here for a press tour and it was like the same thing with 500 interviews all day, and then dinner, and sleep and then fly. Now I have several days. Today we went to Featherdale Wildlife Park and looked at all the animals there and that was amazing. I love it and we walked round the beach and we are going to go hiking in the Blue Mountains tomorrow and I am going to go sport fishing out of Sydney Harbour somewhere offshore with a friend of mine. This is like a vacation that we turned into a bit of promo. So it is really nice for me. I love Australia and I love the weather, the people and the wildlife.
LYRIC WRITING AND THEMES
MS: Hi Lauren, tell me about the lyric writing process for the new album?
Lauren Hart: Lyrically for me it was a lot more challenging because usually we do all the music first and then the words come later. Sometimes the words are inspired by the music. So when all the songs were done and arranged and they were ready for words I found it quiet intimidating because it came out a lot more intelligent than I thought. But to be honest I didn't think after the last album, not to down play what we did lyrically on the last album, but I just felt like I wasn't up to par with the music. I was intimidated by the music and I told myself that 'Maybe I can't do it'. I got inspired by an event in the world and that was for 'Eye of Chaos' and I just started writing vigorously. It was not type on my phone. I think it really helped putting pen to paper. And I just started doing a lot more reading. I kind of had turned a blind eye to the world and never really watched the news because it depressed me and made me angry. And I never really read what was going on because I thought ignorance was bliss. But ignorance is just ignorance. And I felt like no good would come from just hiding under a rock. As a result I spent a lot of time just being hermit grab, investigating and reading and I think that is why the lyrics have progressed greatly.
MS: You mentioned an event that inspired you to write. What was that event?
LH: I don't want to be too specific because I want people to take from the words what they want. I kind of write it in a way that is not on the nose and people can read it and I want them to think about what they are feeling, or see what they see. Kind of like what an actor does for a script. They make it real for themselves and the words become their words, and it sparks memories and all that stuff. But the words are about a child who is born into learning how to become a soldier and a killer. That is pretty much the just of it. But I won't get into details.
MS: Does the album continue with a look at humanity and where we are headed?
LH: Yes, but there are also a couple of songs which are just sort of about my own past. Like Drain is one of them. So Drain is about running from events from my past and trying to bury it all and worrying about who is going to find out what. A lot of the lyrics come from a personal story as well. So there are some songs about what is happening to humanity and there are some songs that are really philosophical that ponder the meaning of life and why we are here. There is a song called Gravity which is a bit like that and Passengers is another one. They are all about different things that were sparked in the moment and things that hit me emotionally.
MS: You don't use a pedal?
LH: A pedal? What's that?
MS: Sometimes vocalist will use a distortion pedal to enhance their vocals?
LH: Really? Isn't that cheating?
MS: What went through your head when you heard the music for the first time?
LH: Definitely bigger, and more intelligent. Max and Logan are brilliant writers and with their backgrounds together they made this perfect mesh of beauty and brutality. And it reminded me of a lot of the feelings I used to get when I listened to Opeth's Blackwater Park. And I don't want to put us up that level. I am just telling you how it made me feel. And I am not saying that we are like Opeth but I felt a lot of similar feelings. And that is part of what intimidated me so much. And that's why a lot of the things I brought to the table were crossed out, and redone. I just want to be the best I could be and vocally as well.