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Believer - "Transhuman" (CD)

Believer - "Transhuman" CD cover image

"Transhuman" track listing:

1. Lie Awake (5:04)
2. G.U.T (3:39)
3. Multiverse (4:44)
4. End of Infinity (4:13)
5. Transfection (3:56)
6. Clean Room (4:50)
7. Currents (2:50)
8. Traveler (4:23)
9. Ego Machine (4:30)
10. Being No One (4:47)
11. Entanglement (4:16)
12. Mindsteps (6:53)

Reviewed by on April 17, 2011

"...the band couldn’t find a hook even if it was trapped in a meat locker."

The four gents in Believer are pretty heady folk. The lyrical theme for “Transhuman” is taken from definitions of that word by The World Transhumanist Association, which is stuff like this chunk: “The intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally improving the human condition through applied reason, especially by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.” After reading that a few dozen times, it seems reasonable at the outset - I’d love to use technology to solve multi-variate calculus while dunking on a twelve-foot basket and intrinsically knowing what emotional needs my wife has at 95-years-old. But without that technology I’m am reduced to the following: Believer matched the effort spent on lyrics and philosophy with the effort spent on the actual music, but the extra musical dongles fall well short of the heady lyrics and makes “Transhuman” a pretty tepid affair.

According to the press materials, the band “experimented with the integration of more melody and dynamics into the Believer sound. They also incorporated melodic vocals and layered vocal harmonies.” They certainly did those things, but they didn’t do them right. Album opener “Lie Awake” moves along as a decent mid-tempo metal song, but then a guitar fill flies in from nowhere and it sounds awful. Not bad in the a-tonal black metal sense, but in the “six-cherry-martinis-on-a-Tuesday” bad. It is dissonant, it is jarring, and the guitar tone is horrible. Challenging? Sure. Enjoyable? Nah.

This is the story of “Transhuman” – various instrumental elements that just don’t fit. Another example: “End of Infinity” has a keyboard interlude that slowly meanders about without getting us from the beginning to end. It’s like watching a canoe float down a stream, and when it is around the next bend we ask “why did I take the time to watch that? Nothing happened!” All over the album there are some bits that work fairly well, like the layered riffs and leads in “Clean Room,” that are ruined by oddball sections that simply fail, like the short atmospheric “Currents” that directly follows. “Currents” is the introduction to a middle school science video, not an expansive and introspective layered atmospheric piece, as it was undoubtedly intended.

Now credit is due in the appropriate places, and Believer does deserve some credit. Again from the press materials, “we are still very interested in growing as musicians, songwriters and producers. With ‘Transhuman,’ our focus was on songwriting rather than just showcasing speed and technicality.” Believer certainly pushed itself and tried all sorts of new stuff on “Transhuman,” and I certainly appreciate metal musicians that continually strive to improve and try new things, as it is easy to get very stale when playing heavy metal.

I also appreciate a progressive and technical metal band not cramming in notes because they can; Believer is having none of that, preferring to focus on sound combinations and layers to create unique end products. But the problem is that the songwriting doesn’t keep pace with the innovation – Believer traded note machine guns and shredding showcases for layered music and atmospherics that let all the air out, and the band couldn’t find a hook even if it was trapped in a meat locker.

Just like that middle school science video, “Transhuman” is somewhat interesting on an intellectual level, as the album plays as a test lab of sorts. But also like the middle school science video, “Transhuman” is still pretty boring, and I’m just not going to watch it again.

Highs: “Clean Room” has some cool layers and is a good prog metal song.

Lows: The guitar and keyboard fills tend to be so experimental that they don’t fit at all.

Bottom line: Technical and progressive metal that forgot about songwriting.

Rated 2.0 out of 5 skulls
2.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)