burning-human-resurrection-through-fire-2009There are a few phrases that tweak the highly attuned sensors of professional music journalists. The one that frequently sets off the bullshit detectors is “highly anticipated debut.” Debuts, by their very nature, are seldom anticipated by anyone not in a band, working for a band or related to or fucking a member of the band. (And in the case of the latter, the anticipation is mainly along the lines of “Now maybe they’ll please just shut up about how the record’s coming out soon.”) The entire rest of the world is unlikely to be anticipating a debut because they don’t know anything about the band in the first place… because, after all, this is their debut we’re talking about.

In the case of Burning Human, however, a considerable amount of slack should be given to their describing their own studio debut album as “highly anticipated.” Why? Because after nearly a decade and a half of forming the band, these guys finally got around to releasing a full-length studio album. Burning Human was founded in upstate New York way back in 1995 and, based on the strength of a pretty rad demo tape (Death is Mercy), looked to be ready to take on the death metal world. As you may have realized, they did not (although drummer Jason Bittner hasn’t done too poorly for himself in Shadows Fall) and they split up in 1997, coming back together for the inevitable Reunion Nobody Asked For in 2007.

The result of that “highly anticipated” reunion is the “highly anticipated” studio debut of the band. Resurrection Through Fire sounds like the work of a late ‘90s death metal band, with fat, trigger-free drums, rhythmic and occasionally complex riffing, unhinged solos, growling vocals and a thrashy breakdown in every goddamned song. Bittner’s drum work on the album is amazingly straightforward and bruising, with little of the technical flash and flourish he lays out on Shadows Fall tracks, and the rest of the album falls in line behind that modus operandi. Even the production by James Murphy (naturally) leans heavily on death metal’s traditional notions of big, brash sonic attacks that are more about impact than intricacy.

Still, as everyone knows, there’s a difference between “classic” and “dated,” and Burning Human falls somewhere in between. Were this the work of a straight-up new band, Resurrection Through Fire would be rightly panned as being an unimaginative homage to 1993 Tampa (beginning with the terrible album cover), yet, there’s also enough of a modern edge to the disc that keeps it from sounding like retro-hipsterism. Aging metallians will find enough to love here so that they can feel remotely current, while younger fans looking for something less technical and extreme than current death metal can find plenty to chew on.

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(3 out of 5 horns)


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