German/Korean trio, Human Traces, released one of the most curious pieces of experimental metal this year with their first of three EPs over the next twelve months. They pulsate with the tunings and incursions of Meshuggah but approach their metal like Gorguts – unpredictable, discordant, violent, sociopathic. As we said in our review of Akt 1: Life to Die For: ‘Those of you that despaired at the last Vildhjarta album will find the record you wanted here.’
“At first, we wanted to release the three EPs as one full length album,” explains guitarist, Tom Haberland. “But we decided to go the EP way just so that we have three releases over a bigger period of time. Because people forget things so fast if you don’t feed them new stuff frequently.”
The music of Human Traces is so unhinged and obtuse that you feel compelled to see it through to the end. Like many experimental artists in metal, the duo at the heart of the band – Haberland and drummer, Johannes Löffler – have a background in jazz. “Music theory plays a big role while writing our stuff,” says Haberland. “All our music is notated as sheet music, especially when it comes to the leitmotifs and the polyrhythmic stuff – it’s super helpful to have music theory as a toolkit. That’s how I see it – as a toolkit and not as fixed rules.”
For vocalist, Kyuho Lee, this can be more challenging than his national service in the South Korean army. “I almost never have vocals in mind while writing guitar parts,” admits Haberland. “Kyuho hates me for that and complains a lot of times, but we always get some awesome vocal lines done in the end! Even when I write a chord progression with no dissonant riffage, he says it’s too much influenced by jazz.”
So, what can we expect in terms of continuation of the EP series in Akt II and Akt III? “We have some synth stuff in the next EP, here and there,” says Haberland. “But no piano or saxophone like in our debut EP, Chastise Mankind. We have different leitmotifs which were introduced in the first EP and will appear again in the next two EPs as variations shifting through different registers. So, sometimes, it will appear as a lead melody, clean, or a riff. Just keep your ears open,” enthuses the guitarist.
The staff at Scream Blast Repeat will be sure to have our ears peeled for the next record. These are the top seven influences that shaped the band’s current musical output…
7. Black metal
Kyuho Lee (Vocals): I honestly can’t say that much about it because I was not involved in the songwriting process. With Human Traces, how I sing is very different from how I’ve been singing in my life. I never listened that much to metalcore/deathcore/djent/thall kind of music.
I was always more into black metal or completely different kinds of music. But lyrically, and also musically, I think there is a common ground between me and what the music of Human Traces is expressing. A certain kind of pessimism and anger, which seems maybe a bit paradoxical.
So, I communicate a lot with the band members when I write the text/vocal lines and try to deliver the best music.
6. Karnivool – Asymmetry (2013)
Johannes Löffler (Drums): I can’t really pinpoint the grooves or fills I took from the album. But the whole approach to drumming for me changed. It went from a straight and linear to a more accompanying style.
5. Kurt Rosenwinkel – The Next Step
Tom Haberland (Guitar): While I wrote the main riffs and the leitmotifs for the EP, I was in music university and had to listen to a lot of jazz and also played a lot of jazz. I think Jazz in general was a really big influence while I wrote the EP. Harmonic wise as well as rhythmically. And this album by Kurt Rosenwinkel was one of my favourites at the time. I also transcribed a lot of his solo, which probably influenced my writing a lot.
4. Ulcerate – Vermis (2013)
Tom: First time I heard this, I think it was 2014? I was like, “Okay, this is just noise – I don’t get it”. Two years later, this is also one of my favourite albums ever. I just wasn’t ready at the time. The dissonances are so lovely. I also love the interplay between the heavy fast parts and the dissonant landscapes.
3. Deftones – White Pony (2000)
Tom: One of my all-time albums ever. Through all the dissonance on our EP, I also wanted to have some catchy parts, almost a chorus. Since I love the harmonies and the vocal lines on this Deftones record so much, I wanted to create something similar. I think you can hear it in the first half of ‘Interior Monologue’, which is a more uncommon chord progression with enough space for the vocals to get creative.
2. Vildhjarta – Måsstaden (2011)
Tom: I have heard this masterpiece probably over a hundred times, and I never get tired of it. I think this album is not just music, it’s a piece of art. Everything just fits perfectly together; the artwork, the music, the production – just everything. That’s something I wanted to achieve also with our next three EPs. I think you will hear the Vildhjarta influence in the next EP a lot more.
1. Coma Cluster Void – Mind Cemeteries (2016)
Tom: I discovered the band back in 2016 when I saw a picture of a 10-string guitar in a Facebook group, and I just thought, “yeah sure you need ten strings to chug the lowest note in a generic djent rhythm, lol”. But after I gave this album a shot, I was blown away. I instantly fell in love with its extreme dissonance and uncompromising brutality, and the way they really used the full range of the 10-stringed instrument. Then I incorporated more complex dissonances in our music and tried to use more of my 8-string guitar.
*** Human Traces self-released their first of three EPs called Akt 1: A Life to Die For on 28 October 2022. Read the original SBR review here. You can stream it on Deezer, Spotify and YouTube.