The Human Abstract

Digital Veil

01. Elegiac
02. Complex Terms
03. Digital Veil
04. Faust
05. Antebellum
06. Holographic Sight
07. Horizon to Zenith
08. Patterns

[03/08/11]
[E1 Music]

You’ve heard about this record for months.  They’ve teased you for so long.  Now you finally have it.  You crack on the record and are greeted by the beautiful acoustic intro.  But wait.  This isn’t your average acoustic intro.  A hint of classically-inspired music is painted upon it.  Then you realize:

AJ Minette is back in The Human Abstract.

As if you didn’t know already, but imagine if you didn’t know.  You’re fucking going crazy.  BUT WAIT!  They have a new voice as well (as if you didn’t know that either.).  Travis Richter of The Color of Violence and formerly (thank fuck) of From First to Last.  This album has been a long time coming.  Their first full-length, Nocturne,  was a perfect display of how classical can be metal and not be power metal.  Then AJ left, and consequently, Midheaven, their second full-length, was undisciplined, unrefined, and just flat-out bad.  But here we are, Prog-Metal March, and The Human Abstract have come out with Digital Veil, their third release, and first under E1 Music – and it’s the best record I’ve heard since Son of Aurelius’ The Farthest Reaches, my number one record of 2010.

So how does Travis hold up as the vocalist?  Pretty damn well.  Travis brings to the mix his absolutely visceral screams, which sound like a more powerful Ronnie Canizaro of Born of Osiris, and his great singing voice, which was developed in his youth as he sung in a southern Baptist choir.  Both are used a fair bit in the record, and immediately make that passage more memorable.  The melodies he uses while singing are beautiful at times, and his screams make the music so much heavier.  You tell me that the title track doesn’t have one of the most thunderous openings to a track ever.

And of course, AJ makes his triumphant return to metal.  Taking time off from USC’s music school (cause he’s good enough to go there) to write and tour (and apparently get mega buff in the process),  he wrote and co-produced most of this record — and it shows. This album is universes above Midheaven in terms of quality and memorability. AJ busts out some quality solos, especially the one in “Holographic Sights“, where he comes out with a jazz fusion-esque solo over some rhythmic chugging that just fits so well, and the melodic arpeggios over Travis’s singing and violent declarations is like peanut butter and chocolate: delicious. Also, the songs are so damn catchy.  Seriously; hooks everywhere. Whether it be the simple chugging from the title track or the aforementioned vocal melodies Travis gives you in “Complex Terms” and “Horizon to Zenith“, everything is meant to get you into the music – and it does that job so well.

Production wise, this album is perfect.  Everything is heard.  Even with a passive listen, it just sounds GOOD.  Guitar tones are excellent (something that Midheaven seemed to be lacking), and the drums are produced in the best way possible, with one of the best snare tones I’ve heard in a while.  William Putney and AJ Minette did a great job with the production.

However, as much as it pains me to say this, there is a drawback.  The length of the album disappoints.  The album lasts close to 37 minutes.  While this is good from a non-filler end, they’ve had 3 years to write material.  I just feel more could’ve been written, especially with AJ back.  And to make it seem even shorter, 4 of the songs have been released before the album drops, and if you don’t include the intro, 3 new songs totaling just over 16 minutes in length.  While these tracks are the stuff legends are made out of, more would have been much appreciated.  That said, the length can be construed as another positive about this album; it leaves you wanting more.  Good god, does it leave you wanting more…

This album has successfully blown my mind in ways only a few albums have.  Not once have I heard the marriage of classical music and metal fused so well, even surpassing Nocturne‘s brilliance.  While the album’s length is a disappointment at first, one listen to the album will make you not give a damn.  Think of it in NBA terms:  AJ Minette is like Lebron James.  Without him, they are just your average group erring on the mediocre side of things (i.e: Midheaven), and with him, you have championships (i.e: Nocturne and Digital Veil).  Then think of Travis Richter as Dwyane Wade, making the group that much better. Sweet.

The Human Abstract’s Digital Veil gets:

5/5

– GR