Formed in 2014, Once Human have steadily established themselves as one of the most distinctive and destructive metal bands of the modern era. Founded by guitarist Logan Mader (ex-Machine Head) and vocalist Lauren Hart, the LA-based quintet have had noses to the grindstone throughout their existence, exhibiting a tireless dedication to live performance and a meticulous approach to capturing their crushing anthems for posterity.
Over the course of two full-length albums – 2015’s widely hailed debut The Life I Remember, and 2017’s conceptual tour-de-force Evolution – Once Human have pursued a militantly individual path, eschewing contemporary cliché in favour of a versatile and sinewy new strain of brutal but accessible metal, with Lauren’s coruscating vocals providing an endlessly emotive and humane focal point.
Four years on from their last album, Once Human are primed and ready to launch a fresh assault on hearts and ears. With a line-up completed by long-time bassist Damien Rainaud, drummer Dillon Trollope and second guitarist (and now chief riff-writer) Max Karon, the band have mutated into an even more devastating beast, as demonstrated with face-ripping aplomb on new album Scar Weaver.
“It was not an easy path to reach this point, I’ll tell you that,” says Logan Mader. “The original masterplan for the band was really passion-project driven. The first two albums, we were still finding our way. Where we’re at now is with a really strong posture and by far the best album we’ve done. Over the years we’ve done a lot of groundwork and some smaller tours, just grinding things out, sometimes even in a DIY fashion. But now we have legit team around us, the band is firing on all cylinders and everything seems to be lining up this time.”
Pieced together over the last two years, Scar Weaver represents a massive step forward for Once Human. Blessed (or perhaps cursed) with plenty of additional time during the last year’s lockdown situation, the band have been able to refine and redefine their sound, inspired by a sudden creative surge from latest recruit, Max Karon. The result is an gloriously idiosyncratic modern metal record, with Lauren Hart’s career-best vocal performance just one of its dazzling revelations. With Once Human’s most intense and explosive music to work with, the singer has pushed herself to new heights, showcasing a vastly expanded vocal range in the process.
“I always had a tremendous amount of belief in Lauren’s ability to be a legit frontwoman, but when this began she was new, and so there was a lot of development to happen over time,” says Logan. “She’s really blossomed. She’s grown a lot as a vocalist, a performer and a lyricist through all of this.”
“Vocally, I’ve changed a lot since the last record,” Lauren notes. “My screams got lower and the cleans became stronger. I’ve become much more comfortable with clean singing through touring with (US power metal legends) Kamelot, because they really pushed me to do that. I’ve learned a lot about my voice since then. But a lot of this starts with Max’s melodies, and sometimes I felt like it would be cheating to just growl over these amazing pieces of music, and it’d be so much better to do something that complements it. So sometimes the growls have melody too!”
As its title suggests, Scar Weaver is an album that brims and bulges with notions of pain, trauma and darkness. Lauren has once again penned a stunning collection of emotionally raw diatribes, but in contrast to Evolution’s overriding concept, the new record takes a more scattershot approach, reflecting the chaos of the modern world along the way. From visceral opener “Eidolon” to the corrosive claustrophobia of the closing “Only In Death,” all human life is alive and screaming on Scar Weaver.
“The songs are all really individual,” Lauren explains. “One of them is about blood diamonds. ‘Deadlock’ is about the politics of everything that’s going on. A lot of them toy with my philosophy of death and all of that. But in comparison to Evolution, because of the energy of the world, these lyrics have a much more dire tone. Evolution was more triumphant, because I wanted people to feel uplifted. I really tried with this album to be positive, but then I’d look at what I’d written and it was a downer! I guess the energy of the world right now helped me to write those lyrics.”
One instant highlight of the new Once Human record is preview single “Deadlock,” featuring a typically imperious vocal cameo from Machine Head’s Robb Flynn. Logan Mader’s history with Machine Head is well documented, not least in recent times when he toured the globe with Robb for the Bay Area band’s Burn My Eyes 25th Anniversary Tour. As a result, this new collaboration needs no explanation, but Lauren remains thrilled by the whole experience.
“It was absolutely amazing, are you kidding?” she grins. “I didn’t believe it was happening until he sent something back and I heard his voice on our song. I was like, ‘Holy crap! This is real!’ He came back with a new chorus and it was so much better than mine, so my chorus was gone! [Laughs] But then performing with him in the video, that was insane. The energy he brings on stage, he brings in person too. It was a great experience and his energy is so powerful. The video came out amazing!”
As the world begins to open back up, Once Human, fresh off the Cradle of Filth tour, are in the strongest position of their careers so far. Scar Weaver is a manifestly superior piece of work, with countless unforgettable hooks, riffs and moments of warped savagery (if the riff at the end of “Deserted” doesn’t make you want to run through a brick wall, check your pulse!) colliding to create a record of true originality and rare intensity.
“We’ve gotten through so many things along the way, we’re in a really strong place,” Logan avows. “Nothing can fuck us up now. That’s an important factor in this band – that internal energy.”
The perfect, invigorating antidote to the state of stasis that we’ve all endured over the last two years, Scar Weaver is the sound of a great band becoming greater, hitting their stride and discovering new levels of power, passion and punch in the process. As the world begins to open its doors once more, Once Human are fully equipped to launch their biggest and most life-affirming assault on the world’s senses.
“We have an amazing record, we’re ready to crush it, we have a really good chemistry between all of us,” says Logan. “We’re really good friends, and that’s really important. I think you can feel that when you see us onstage, like, ‘These guys are actually happy to be here and they like each other!’ That’s a bonus. It doesn’t have to be like that. But luckily we have a really cool, strong bond. It’s so important for us to get out there and connect with people in a real life environment.”
– Dom Lawson, writer
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