Hear the name “Burning Human” and your brain likely cooks up some harsh, literal images: monks on fire, people leaping from blazing buildings—you get the idea. Where Troy, New York’s Burning Human is concerned, however, the name just as well suits the creative firestorm that lights the band’s on-again, off-again 14-year path. With its long-awaited full-length debut, appropriately titled Resurrection through Fire, Burning Human makes good on both points: The album’s mere existence is a testament to the band’s inner mounting flame, while the songs within are a veritable feast of napalm for the ears.
Produced and mixed by death-metal guitar legend James Murphy (Obituary, Death, Testament, Disincarnate), who also lays down a handful of solos, Resurrection through Fire is a master’s class in velocity, groove and blunt-force trauma. Certainly, having acclaimed Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner on the kit raises Burning Human’s penchant for rhythmic destruction, but having literally years to refine their craft (some of Resurrection’s tracks first germinated in the band’s early days) also has Burning Human collectively crushing all comers.
Opening with an ominous, mood-setting instrumental, “Throes of Dementia,” Resurrection through Fire quickly explodes into action and stays there. The album’s 10 songs range from dark tech-grind assaults (the Bittner-penned, Charles Manson-inspired 1:32 “Mass Murder”) to brutal old-school death metal (“Tormented Mind”) to complex metal/hardcore mind-melds (“Self-Inflicted Crucifixion,” “Resurrection through Fire”). Moreover, thanks to Murphy’s deft hand and death-attuned ear, the damage unfolds in ultra-vivid detail.
“It feels amazing to have these songs recorded—and recorded well—after all this time,” says Bittner, who co-founded Burning Human in 1995 with bassist Jay VanDervoort, guitarist J. Sunkes and vocalist Jonah Radaelli. (Second guitarist Mike Stack joined shortly after the February 2007 recording of Resurrection through Fire.) “We always regretted that we didn’t have our material documented on a ‘real’ recording, so as frustrating as it was to wait this long to do it, we’re all at such higher levels musically now that the songs sound even stronger.”
In addition to cutting a well-received demo, 1995’s Death is Mercy, and making a handful of compilation appearances, Burning Human’s original incarnation did some of its best work on the road. The band spent their salad days opening for icons such as Deicide, Dying Fetus, Malevolent Creation and Six Feet Under, and had fate not intervened, they likely would’ve been headliners soon afterward. When Bittner took a gig with NYC’s well-established Crisis in 1997, Burning Human went on indefinite hiatus. And when Bittner joined Shadows Fall as a permanent member—prior to recording the band's 2002 breakout, The Art of Balance—reforming Burning Human no longer seemed possible. The remaining members went their separate ways—Sunkes to his band Dead Rabbits; the rest to families, day jobs and other realities—and the unfinished songs went into the proverbial vaults.
“There was always this sense that we hadn’t finished things,” explains VanDervoort of the mood that led to Burning Human’s 2007 reformation. “So when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at it.” A limited window opened for Bittner before the April ’07 release of Shadows Fall’s fifth album, Threads of Life, at which point the longtime bandmates regrouped to close out some unfinished business. Enter producer Murphy (a longtime friend of Bittner’s who’d previously worked with the drummer on the Death tribute album Within The Mind—In Homage to the Musical Legacy of Chuck Schuldiner), and the process was complete.
“We never had any grandiose dreams for the band,” says Bittner, who’s been known to bust out Burning Human songs in his frequent drum clinics. “So, even if we’re limited in how much we can tour behind this record, I’m happy knowing it’s the best thing we’ve ever done.”
“I think these songs make it clear how much we’ve grown—not just as musicians, but as people,” adds VanDervoort, who, along with Bittner, personally revised nearly all of the original songs’ lyrics for Resurrection through Fire. “A lot of our songs started out focusing on the struggles and conflicts within people, and to some extent, that’s how they evolved, too. To me, that’s what the name ‘Burning Human’ means, anyway: the internal drive we all have to push ourselves into action.”
(Bio by Aaron Burgess)
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