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(Century Media Records)

After a somewhat disappointing third album with "Spiritual Healing", and many, and I mean many hard situations Chuck Schuldiner was facing, so far as to get to the point where the rest of the band with a session vocalist decided to tour Europe without him, well, things were supposed to change. Already there was the rumour of Chuck being a somewhat difficult person to deal with. What was a fact is that he was a musical genius, and those kinds of persons have a somewhat different approach to things than normal people do. I would like to think it was all the later. Anyway, "Human" has a strong statement, where Chuck states to 'Let the metal flow, support music, not rumours' and that this album is his personal victory, his revenge. He now assembled an impressive assortment of musicians, thus now DEATH is no more than Chuck and some people he will invite to play with him. So, in retrospective, it has always being the same since probably day one, but never more than in this album it can be truly defined as that. Now, to the musicians here, no one but Gene 'Big' Hoglan from the mighty DARK ANGEL is now the drummer. In my book, he is among the top 5 drummers ever. For the bass player, Steve Di'Giorgio from SADUS was hired, a gifted musician, who uses a fretless bass and has one of the most incredible senses of doing rhythm sections. By coincidence or maybe fate, Steve also once played with Chris Reifert (DEATH's drummer in the debut album) in AUTOPSY. And then, to round things up, Paul Masvidal from CYNIC, as the other guitar player. With this impressive set of musicians, a couple of things were to happen: 1) the album was going to be a virtuoso fest and 2) the album was going to be less brutal. The weird cover art, the first one away from Ed Repka's hand was the first indication that there was a change in here. Well, it is true that the musicians showed their quality in here, but for the good sake of Metal, it was more about the songs than just playing by millimetric precision. Again recorded in Morrisound (which now was the standard for Death Metal sound, and every band / label in that style wanted to record there) it does possess in fact a heavy guitar tone, which is more high trebled that the previous albums, and also has more bass sound in it. At first, for the die hard fans, this was a bit hard to swallow; the arrangements are a lot more complex, and although we were used to some subtle melody here and there, this is now more prominent, and the deep low end of the music, is now almost completely gone. On the other hand, the speed went up, way up, with the new drummer, so what we lost on heaviness we gain in speed. Still, there are way too many stops, breaks and rhythm changes that some songs sound more like a collection of rhythms than a song itself. Chuck vocals still continue to be a trademark of the band. Whereas on "Leprosy" he went for a lower, deeper voice most of the time, now he sounds more similar to the way he did on the debut, although leaning more to higher pitched growls. Lyrics are also completely different; it now deals more with psychological conflicts, betrayal and strong emotion. The dynamics of each song are quite different, yes, but I sense that they all have in common that weird composition style that Chuck was very good at. For the first time, we have an instrumental song, and the inclusion of few acoustic parts, somewhat totally new for the band. This one needs more than one listen to really appreciate the great songs. Although some miss the more straightforward approach of the early material, they seemed to gain a lot more fans and respect as musicians (something Evil Chuck was always after) with this album. In my personal point of view, probably a name change would have been a good choice, as the style was drifting away from what the name exactly implies; also, I think this was subtly present in the way the logo was changing (like dropping the inverted cross, the spider, the ghoul, for a clearer logo). But, maybe it was due to the fact that the name was supposed to follow Chuck through his career that he decided to go on with it. This new re-edition comes in a digipak presentation, with remastered sound, and a completely new layout for the booklet which includes all the lyrics. From the second 'era' of DEATH this is not my favourite one, but nonetheless, it is a great piece of extreme Metal, and lurking in there, the spirit of the early releases can be found if you listen closely, with such killer tunes as 'Flattening Of Emotions' and 'Together As One'. For those into more technical, yet extreme Metal, that sweeps the floor of most modern technical Death Metal bands, this is the reason why DEATH is heralded so high, and a statement of what Chuck was capable of.

Julián Núńez

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