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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Album Review: Believer - Transhuman

Believer are that band with a 16-year hiatus slap-bang in the middle of their history. Expansive thrash albums in the late 80s and early 90s, a split to pursue separate projects (a shedload of scientific research into cancer genetics for Kurt Bachman, a move into sound production and the more progressive side of metal for Joey Daub), then a decision to reunite in 2005. Naturally, that all leads on to the stunning release of 2009's Gabriel - an album soaked in progressive and industrial elements, long in the chug and resplendent in the breakdown.

Their fifth album, Transhuman, sees the band toying with the subject of Transhumanist thought. For those amongst us who haven't quite grasped the concept, that would be the ramifications of embracing technologies that can overcome fundamental human limitations. In the process of getting their heads around such a vast subject they have, on top of investigating the works of Dr. Ginger Campbell and Dr. Thomas Metzinger, expanded their sound to match. It has led them to integrate more melody and dynamics by redirecting their focus "on songwriting rather than just showcasing speed and technicality".

That certainly comes through on tracks like 'G.U.T.' which features a heap of wallpaper vocals and sepulchral keyboards to supplement the jagged guitars. You'll also note the implementation of a few symphonic elements, conspicuously crashing through for 'Lie Awake', and the eloquent stop-gap of instrumental, pulsing electronica that 'Currents' provides. Where before Bachman's vocal was given some grunt with a tweaked, visceral, industrial edge, here he's mainly clean, although occasionally he still appears to drift in and out of the foreground on ebbing tides of distortion.

Their foundation of groove-riddled thrash is still here in the excellent 'Transfection', 'Clean Room', 'Being No One' and 'Entanglement' - tracks that blissfully chug themselves along - whilst we get a good dose of their signature razor-wire guitar strings amidst waves of compression for 'End Of Infinity' and 'Traveler'.

On the downside, a lot of Transhuman sounds a bit dated. 'Multiverse' and 'Mindsteps' are noticeable steps back in time, as the keyboards and pedal effects take over giving us an odd mish-mash of Whitesnake, Van Halen, Rainbow and Faith No More to mull over, but there is also a general heavy nod in the direction of classic 70s and 80s rock for the more flamboyant moments of so many of the tracks. In a way it creates this weird paradox where reflections on times past appear to narrate the story of a time yet to be. On the flip side, the remainder sounds wholly original and potentially revolutionary. Transhuman is certainly an enigma.

You'll spot, of course, the artwork of Eye Level Studio's Michael Rozner again who appears to have made a sanitary white sister cover to go with the modish blue face of Gabriel. It's a perfect accompaniment to the concept and it's exactly this, and Believer's adaptation of the Transhumanism concept, that makes the album. It's all helped out no end by their portentous, bookending intros and outros to each song and the crepuscular lyrics, all of which probe us to take a glimpse of a future yet to emerge. If you like your metal with attitude and a good dose of skittish prog, you could do a lot worse than make Transhuman a part of your future.

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/may11reviews/cdreviews-believer.htm

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