The Porcelain Throne: The Human Abstract

1879
175
Share:

The throne is occupied again! This time around we have Hessian Hunter here with a great article about a band that was one of my introductions into the progressive side of things. 

You guys have been great with sending me articles, keep it up, and if you haven’t seen it, here are The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines for writing for the PT. Let’s keep building up this library of discographies! 

Back in the mid-2000’s, at the peak of the “scene” trend, two bands rose above the glut of melodic myspace-famous chuggaholics to create something special and destroy the mold for what was possible in the world of technical, melodic metalcore. These two bands were Ontario’s Protest The Hero and California’s The Human Abstract. Someday I’ll collect enough jizzrags to hand out to my readers so they can handle the masturbatory piece that any article I write about Protest The Hero would inevitably become, but that day has not yet come. Therefore, I’ll focus on the turbulent, all-too-short career of The Human Abstract.


Nocturne (2006)

The Human Abstract’s debut record Nocturne broke the “scene” in half. Well, maybe not in half so much as into one very small piece of nerds who like nuanced shredding more than breakdowns and the remaining 98% of scene kids who just want to karate dance to the gang vocal part. Most of the tonal ingredients and influences that are present on Nocturne are on, say, any given The Devil Wears Prada album; both bands use melodic guitar lines above syncopated chugs, china cymbals, and mixed harsh/clean vocals, but the final product from The Human Abstract is much more profound.

What makes The Human Abstract so much better? For one thing, they are a much more traditionally “metal” band than their peers. They were proud and overt about their progressive nature, never apologizing for odd time signatures and cathartic sweep pickings. There were also the charming, tasteful faux-classical modes in which they preferred to write. Above all, in my humble opinion, I think Nathan Ells’s vocals bring this record to the next level. The guy can seriously wail; his harsh and clean vocals feel like legitimate extensions of one another, not two separate modes of expression. Even when his melodies are mighty, his attitude is earnest. There’s not a stroke of machismo to be found, and I don’t miss it a bit.

Nocturne is full of bangers, but the indisputable crown jewel is the closing track “Vela, Together We Await The Storm”. The riffs, shreds, vocals, and structure are all in absolute peak form to create a sprawling and intense 5-minute tornado of a song.


Midheaven (2008)

The Human Abstract was put into quite the bind when guitarist and primary songwriter AJ Minette quit the band to pursue a traditional music education. They scooped up both another guitarist (Andrew Tapley) and a young keyboardist (Sean Leonard) to help original guitarist Dean Herrera and drummer Brett Powell with songwriting. With a new cast of writers, this record is VERY different from its predecessor, and as far as I can tell absolutely no one likes this album except me.

Midheaven is a full-on conceptual prog rock record, and metalcore hypershred is really only one element of the sound. Nathan Ells gets a lot of room to stretch out and flex his vocal chops over many different moods and textures. “Breathing Life Into Devices” is my favorite track because it’s the most structurally unique, has the catchiest chorus, and has the gnarliest solo on the whole record. Chaotic ubertech gives way for 90’s alt-rock, which eventually builds into the solo that constitutes Andrew Tapley’s greatest contribution in his too-short stint as a member of THA.


Digital Veil (2011)

The 3rd (and possibly final) album, Digital Veil, seemed to be a direct response to Midheaven and their fans’ general rejection of the new style. They brought back original guitarist AJ while he took a break from school, ditched the keyboard, and replaced Nathan Ells with Travis Richter of From First To Last fame. I have always been ambivalent about this album; I think it features their most mature compositions and even some of their best melodies, but it also feels like their least original effort. Not only is Richter a much more generic and less emotive vocalist than Ells, but all too often, deathcore clichés sabotage otherwise compelling pieces. I dream of an alternate universe where this album was written in a musical climate that didn’t include Oceano or any other band that sounds remotely like them.

I will always respect The Human Abstract for their ambition. I tend to find the greatest joy from artists that push their craft to the limit of what is possible, and THA taught me to expect more from metal musicians, most especially myself. Conversely, they also taught me to be humble. During their tour cycle for Midheaven they slept on my bandmate’s floor after playing for a confused, half-filled room of Dir En Grey fans in Minneapolis. Here they were, absolute gods in my eyes, a “famous” band who were wizards on their instruments in a way I could never hope to be, sleeping on hardwood floors and living off Goldfish cracker dinners.

That was the moment I realized that “making it” just doesn’t really happen anymore, and there’s no point in performing outsider art if you are seeking money or fame. Ever since then, my attitude about creating music has been to simply do what I love, without compromise, and hope it touches someone out there the way The Human Abstract touched me. They’ve quietly slipped off the map in the past few years, and given the disjointed nature of their entire career I’m not holding out hope they’ll ever make a proper “comeback”. Sleep well, fair princes, and may the Great Gleaming Toilet in the sky bless you and keep you, forever and ever. Amen.


Thanks to Hessian Hunter for this fine addition (even though I disagree with the Digital Veil critique)!

(Image Via)

Did you dig this? Take a second to support Toilet ov Hell on Patreon!
  • HessianHunter

    I should have clarified that although I’m ambivalent about Digital Veil, it’s generally highly regarded among their fanbase. If you are new to the band but suspect you would dig deathcore done really well with lots of classically-influenced shreds, you should probably listen for yourself and ignore my misgivings.

  • EsusMoose

    Left out best song off of the DIgital Veil https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lq4-q53Txyc

    • HessianHunter

      I agree it’s the best song for the same reason I didn’t feature it; it’s the oddball track of the album with no harsh vocals or breakdowns.

      • EsusMoose

        True but the mix between classical shred and djent like riffs makes it probably one of the best songs in djent

    • If this band only wrote songs like Antebellum, they’d easily be one of my favorites. Every breakdown is negative 8000 points for me though

      • EsusMoose

        Ha I’ve long since only listened to the songs I’ve liked of theirs so I avoid the breakdowns like power metal nerds avoid social interactions. They would be so much better if they didn’t follow the breakdown style

        • Did you ever get into the band Mortal Treason? I haven’t listened to them in years, but they’re a bit similar, although not nearly as talented in the neoclassical vein, but I have fond memories of them.

          • EsusMoose

            I have not but I shall throw them on to today’s list of stuff I want to listen to

          • Stockhausen

            Dude, nice Mortal Treason mention.

          • EsusMoose

            Been playing Sunrise Over a Sea of Blood and so far it’s great

        • Oooh taking passive aggressive shots at randall lololol

  • D. Lee

    I’ve only listened to digital veil. LOVED it. Guess it’s about time I backtracked

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      I was the same way before HH sent this along. They have had an interesting progression, that’s for sure.

  • The Human Abstract is one of the few metalcore bands I really love. One of my favorites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrQ37FE9o8E
    P.S. I’ll get around to writing my Porcelain Throne article at some point. I’ve been swamped with shit recently and haven’t had the time to listen through an entire discography.

    • EsusMoose

      Best metalcore song? Best metalcore song in my absolutely perfect opinion

    • I used the intro to this track as the music for a logo animation I did in college. Good shit.

  • This band would have been better than BTBAM if they were still going at this point.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      The rabid BTBAM fan in me says no, but I can actually see this as being true.

      • EsusMoose

        BTBAM would be amazing if they learned to cut down on some of the fluff they like to add to their songs. Parallax 2 was fantastic but fish people song sucked

        • Fish people song >>>>>>>>>>>>. lrn 2 avant garde

          • EsusMoose

            Fish people<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<clogged toilet
            Fish people songs<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<songs about clogged toilets

          • EsusMoose

            what the fuck did I just write

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Looks like some terrible html tags.

          • Hello, world

          • EsusMoose

            printf(“%s/n”,”Fuck the world #edge420″);

          • printf for the win!

            GL

          • <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>….!!!!!!!!!!

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UbMG03DkJQ

          • Lacertilian

            Lizards and people don’t mix…oh shit, wait

          • JWG

            This *almost* qualifies as actually working today:

        • Stockhausen

          I deeply love the fluff.

          • EsusMoose

            Stay fluffy, I just wished they were more concise on the songs I like less than others. I do really enjoy some of their longer songs, Silent Night Parliament is amazing, has some fluff but still I think did a better job as a song than astral body (after making this comment I want to relisten to Parallax).

          • Stockhausen

            I feel you. I love all the winding loopiness, but I can definitely see when people aren’t as in to it. It’s odd that you say that, because I love it, but Silent Flight Parliament doesn’t grab me as much as the rest of the album. I think my favorite song on the album is Extremophile Elite, and my all time favorite song by them is Swim to the Moon.

          • EsusMoose

            Swim to the Moon is good, even though TGM was the album I heard first it’s the one I’ve heard the least of the post-colors material(Not a fan of the earlier stuff). On P2 I found the rather grandiose portions during the middle of Telos and the last half of SFP to be both most incredible parts and my favorite.
            It’s hard to quantify, I recently re-listened to Colors and found myself bored more often than I remembered. Skimming Parallax’s final half I do remember liking it a lot, I still don’t care much for the fish people part or the bright spacey opening of astral body but I think it was overall better than Colors. So my current mindset might be more oriented towards my lack of interest in colors which had times wandered too often, rather than P2’s more organized feeling.

      • I love BTBAM too but Human Abstract was just oozing potential.

    • Stockhausen

      False. I checked.

  • Man, this is great! I lost track of these guys after Nocturne. They were always in my “good” metalcore band category. Along the likes of Still Remains, with less widdledees. I will have to listen to the Digital Veil album soon.

    GL

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prcKWXLQhPg

    • I always got Still/Vital Remains confused growing up, and since I wouldn’t listen to satanic metal back then, I avoided Still Remains too, just to be safe.

      • Ha, I can see what you mean. Still Remains is solid man. Through and through! You should give them a shot. Their latest was tasty too

        GL

        • Not power metal, not care

        • Stockhausen

          Back in 2003 or so, I saw Still Remains with Haste the Day when they had only released their first EP. I’m not into that style now, but I followed them for quite a while and they had some great stuff. Nice dudes too.

    • Hey look, someone else knows this band exists!

  • Dagon

    Hessian Hunter showed me Oozing Wound and Humanfly, so I’m excited for this.

    • HessianHunter

      With THA you’re getting a peek into my formative years as a listener. Before I expanded my palate a bit, I was pretty obsessed with technical metalcore like this.

      • Dagon

        I can’t name a metalcore band I am a fan of. Never listened to the genre as a whole too much, except for some of the most math-y stuff and it never quite clicked with me. Still giving this a go.

        • HessianHunter

          Check Protest The Hero’s album Fortress. If these Human Abstract songs and that album don’t do it for you, nothing probably will within this subgenre.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhMfz4HrcEA

          • This album was the first album I bought when I started dating my wife. I remember being in my truck saying “Hey, I have to play this one song (Bloodmeat) real quick. Don’t mind the vocals!”

            #PTHLoveStories

            GL

  • Nordling Rites ov BDSM

    Midheaven sounds pretty alright to me.

    • Nordling Rites ov BDSM

      Actually very good.

      • Nordling Rites ov BDSM

        These are all actually worthy of my time.

        • #AllByYourself

          • Nordling Rites ov BDSM

            #JustLonelyGuyThings

        • Nordling Rites ov BDSM

          This midheaven song is gold though.

  • Dagon

    Why is every song they have 5 minutes long?

    • Said no opeth fan ever. Oh wait those are like 8 minutes.

      • Dagon

        Seriously, look on youtube and you’ll see almost every song is 5 minutes. All three featured here are as well.

  • VVayne Brady

    I saw this band on the back of touring for Midheaven and talked to them a bit between sets. Real nice guys.

  • #banrandall Jim

    Midheaven is doing it for me, honestly. The prog is significantly better than the metalcore.

    • HessianHunter

      Cool, that makes 2 of us out of everyone I have ever spoken to about this band.

      • Nordling Rites ov BDSM

        3.

      • #banrandall Jim

        I can see why people who liked their sound would hate that album though. It’s a serious departure. But having never listened to them before, it appeals to me a lot more than their metalcore stuff (which is good as well, just not my thing).

  • MoshOff

    @yourlogicsucks:disqus I eagerly await the piece on Protest the Hero. I recently rediscovered Kezia and am totally in love with the damn thing.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      I am not sure if I will let that one happen… everyone knows PTH.

      • Why did you have to Spoil(s) it for us???

        GL

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqL_JnnOo9k

        • HessianHunter

          Favorite lyrics of all time. Srsly.

          • Guest

            “Language is the heart’s lament; a weak attempt to circumvent the loneliness inherent in the search for permanence, like all the fiture ghosts who scratch their names in wet cement, demeaning meaning as they shout out at the emptiness.”

            img.pandawhale.com/81968-lie-down-try-not-to-cry-cry-a-4qke.png

          • HessianHunter

            “Language is the heart’s lament; a weak attempt to circumvent the loneliness inherent in the search for permanence, like all the fiture ghosts who scratch their names in wet cement, demeaning meaning as they shout out at the emptiness.”

          • “Stepped off a building to find concrete evidence, concrete evidence that he’d ever make an impact
            Fiction splattered into fact
            And his fiction splattered into another sidewalk painting on display
            Stepped off a bridge so he could make a splash,
            to make a splash he had to flounder like a fish out of water”

          • YourLogicIsFlushed

            Always loved that intro

    • EsusMoose

      Only ever liked Volition. Come at me nerds

      • Go Listen to Fortress.

        • EsusMoose

          I may have tried it, but I don’t remember so I probably should so I can increase my defense stats against nerds

      • HessianHunter

        lol dood u suk

        nerd

        • EsusMoose

          #gotrektbypumpkinbaby

      • I, GL, as a responsible power user, decline the invitation.

        However, Volition is their best.

        GL

      • Wut. Fortress > Kezia > Scurillous > Volition IMHO

        • YourLogicIsFlushed

          I’d switch the last two.

          • I’ll admit I actually disliked Scurillous when it first came out. But I kept listening and kept listening. It grew a ton on me and now I actually really love it. Volition just doesn’t hit those sweet spots for me. Still PTH though, so it’s still good.

      • Stanley

        I like them all but Volition is best.

    • HessianHunter

      Kezia legitimately changed me. I had never been so obsessed with music before that album and it singlehandedly caused me to raise my standards and not settle for anything less than greatness. Why waste time listening to mediocre music when I could absorb yet another detail from a stellar album like Kezia?

      • MoshOff

        Exactly. I like all their stuff (even Scurrilous which is kinda meh) and Fortress is a close second, but Kezia is just…

        It’s funny how their overall change in sound correlates to the fact that Arif progressively had less and less to do with writing, to the point where he had 0 songs to his credit on Volition and actually didn’t even play some of the stuff. I’m really interested to hear whatever comes next, but it really sucks that both Arif and Moe are no longer in the band, The drums and bass on Kezia are almost the best part of the album.

        • I get butterflies just thinking about a new PTH album. Almost as much as a new Gojira album. Almost…

          GL

  • Dagon
  • Tyree
  • tertius_decimus

    Every tech-nerd knows that The Human Abstract is an album of Hieronymus Bosch.

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    eeh..
    george lynch is too lovable to want to argue with

    also the world loves particle board—-it is strange–that after a tornado—you really get the vision that modern humans live in a particle board /circuitboard flimsy reality—like how the japanese live in beautiful houses—but were just made of paper

    people that have a genuine “music interest”–are showing a side effect–of extra psychic awareness—that is usually a sign of some “great” character attribute—-

    thus it is with george lynch— a psychic triclops—3rd eye laser—green skin—
    god of suburbia—yet chose to abandon it—cuz he knew “better”

    a particle board utopia—he mocks on the hill—-yet created himself

    deepest apologies—-and a toast to the gr,eat beyond-
    fuck “socially accept”labels/mores–in a murderous,hypocrisy based reality
    non emotional unbalanced cannibalistic “nourishers”society

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
  • Stockhausen

    Very early in my band’s days, we got a local opening spot for As Blood Runs Black, The Human Abstract, Darkest Hour, and Born of Osiris (we were not picky on shows). It was a horrible experience and they were all monstrous douchebags except for The Human Abstract. Nice dudes.

    • Scrimm

      Sounds like a gaggle of dicks.

      • Stockhausen

        Just tons of penises walking around. It was weird.

        • Scrimm

          Mental image I just got was great.

    • i refuse to believe that Born of Orisis were db’s.

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        You like them?

        • nah, twas but a joke

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            You’re lying.

          • hey, check out The Human Abstract’s “Patterns” against that one band’s song “Here Is the News” off Time (just don’t mention any band names, k?)

          • VVayne Brady

            I see what you’re doing.

        • Kuukupööpötin Tapir

          Yeah, he’s a huge fan.

      • Stockhausen

        The biggest. Their hair swoops were actually sentient, and were also huge tools.

    • Stanley

      Darkest Hour? Really?

      • Stockhausen

        To be honest, I don’t remember specific members of each band, I just remember everyone having a really pompous vibe except for The Human Abstract dudes I talked to.

  • Edward/Breegrodamus

    Hessian this a great article. I’m gonna totally bite your format for a piece I am working on, lol.

    I swear I heard of this band from Metalsucks because one of these dudes did a project afterwards that they blogged about.

    • YourLogicIsFlushed

      I am the Porcelain Throne man, send to me!

      • Edward/Breegrodamus

        Logic it is a piece I have started (“started” being somewhat loose and questionable here) for my Form and Void series. Given the time and motivation it might be cool for me to try one of these, though!

        • YourLogicIsFlushed

          Ah, gotcha. Just trying to spread the word about my Porcelain Throne services! haha.

  • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

    Speaking of The Devil Wears Prada they’re coming to my area in May. I might go.

    • VVayne Brady

      I don’t think they’re very good live.

      • more beer

        I think you put live at the end of that by mistake.

        • #banrandall Jim

          HA!

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          I prefer them over most shitty metalcore bands but they’re not one of my favorites like they once were.

        • VVayne Brady

          lul, I don’t like them on record either, but I thought my opinion of their live show was more relevant to whether or not he should spend the money.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            Dubya your opinions are always relevant.

          • VVayne Brady

            Neh, not always. I have strong opinions regarding Nutella, but that isn’t relevant at the moment.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus

            Nutella is pretty bomb though.

          • Featured comment

          • KJM

            Actually it’s kind of relevant since the inventor of Nutella just passed away.

          • more beer

            But his legacy will live on.

          • KimJongUn’s Dingleberry Smoke
          • KJM

            I prefer peanut butter.

          • Lacertilian

            I also dislike nutella which is weird because I love chocolate, hazelnuts and other combos of chocolate+hazelnut but nutella just makes me gag.

          • KimJongUn’s Dingleberry Smoke

            Almost as bad as that one spread you guys have over there. I forget the name of it, but from what I’ve heard it tastes like eating tires. Vegemite I think is the name of it.

          • Lacertilian

            Vegemite = Black.
            Black = Metal.

          • more beer

            Fair enough.I don`t think anyone’s opinion matters with him since he likes almost anything and everything.

      • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

        My sister said they were good when she saw them. Plus, they’re performing their best album in full.

        • Kuukupööpötin Tapir

          The have an album that can be called their best album?

          • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

            Yes. It’s called Zombie and it’s a classic of metalcore.

          • more beer

            You can not use metalcore and classic in the same sentence.

          • Stanley

            Maybe and that’s just a maybe, Alive Or Just Breathing. When I heard that back in 2002/2003 it was a big shake up. It’s still sounds pretty good but doesn’t have as much impact listening to it today as so many other bands have copied them and that sound is now so overplayed.

          • more beer

            I`m old by the time all this metalcore came out.I was not impressed with any of these bands. I considered it a step down from what I was already listening to. So for me none of it is classic.

          • Stanley

            I’m probably older at a pair of 4s but for the most part you are absolutely correct.

          • more beer

            I have 5 years on on you. When all of this stuff was coming out i was saying, I feel bad for the kids now. I still kind of do. When we were coming up there was so much going on. That was new and fresh. Not that there isn`t a lot of good stuff coming out now. Because there is. Not to mention it`s a whole lot easier to find new music now. I am still very active and go to a lot of shows.

          • KJM

            Damn, you’re older than me!? I thought I was the old man of The Toilet. ^_^ I also do my best to stay current with music. That’s why I’m here.

          • more beer

            I told you I was old. I`m here for the same reason. If you don`t keep up with it you get left behind.

          • Scrimm

            No

      • They are great live! I have seen them b4.

        GL

        • Eddie Trunk Jr., Floor Tech

          Are they nice people?

        • VVayne Brady

          I have too, and I disagree.

          • Kuukupööpötin Tapir

            Fight, fight, fight, fight!

          • I’ve seen them live a couple times, and they’ve been on point each time. Not really my cup of tea anymore, but their live shows are gewd.

          • VVayne Brady

            I’ll never punch a woman, but I am certainly going to spread all sorts of nasty gossip about you.

          • I don’t think either of us could say something about the other that hasn’t already been said on the internet. That was a fingerful to type.

          • VVayne Brady

            This is true. And like, opinions and all.

          • Their shit is bananas. I have them all.

            GL

          • Interesting. Were you a fan before you saw them though?

            GL

          • VVayne Brady

            I was not.

          • Gotcha. I guess fans overlook the small things. Which might add up more if you were not a fan.

            On the flip side…. I have never been completely satisfied with Triviums live show and each time I was a huge fan. I couldn’t overlook the imperfections.

            GL

          • VVayne Brady

            Very interesting. I wasn’t trying to take a jab at JJD for liking them, just stating my opinion on their live performance.

    • We met most of the guys at a bar in Dayton one night. They are cool dudes

      GL

  • zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    someone made a joke about “lizard people”—which are bullshit

    but many “intelligence”/brainwashing people are really into it—as a mind control “mechanism”—and apparantly this is kind of an “old trick” to play on people—since ancient times

    —recently david icke has got known–for spreading “fear” about lizard people—-as a trick to manipulate people–a commie bbc employed disinfo guy

    —–

    anyways—remember that show -‘land of the lost”–the people that had “authority” were sleestak lizard people—also the show narrated a “broken family” by the second season—using pylons to create massive divorce rates–libtardian social dream–fantasy enhanced tv hippie 70 “witchcraft”/underground commie psyops

    here’s the album by emerson lake and palmer —that also introduce “lizard authority” metaphor–to hippies—-through mesmerizing album hypnosis/music–that was allied with pro vietnam war “authority”-check out the album cover–which was designed to be stared at–on weed–for hours at a time–by millions—-and was heavily promoted by “mainstream”world record companies–during the vietnam war era

    http://youtu.be/WKNOlDtZluU

    • KJM

      Dude, Spencer Mulligan(The Dad) left ‘Land Of The Lost’ because of merchandising rights. There were all kinds of toys, lunchboxes and crap with their likeness that they weren’t getting paid a dime for. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  • I’ve been putting off listening to PtH, now I can put off listening to these guys, too!

  • JamesGrimm

    kinda responsible for swoopcore. unforgivable.