Human Services “Animal Fires” (2014)

Human Services are a strange beast of a band, drawing all kinds of nebulous weirdness into their heavy orbit. While the oft-brutal churning of their guitars and cranky bass suggest kinship with sludge and drone metal, their musical exploration takes each song far afield: ambient guitar drifts, raucous blues, vaguely exotic chord progressions that suggest dusty shantytowns, clanging metallic percussion echoing the syncopated bombast of This Heat and mid-period Swans, eerie hellfire ranting that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Tom Waits record, obscured voices and samples, and noisy psychedelic doom.

When you first hear the album it seems very heavy and sludgy, almost intimidatingly so, but the more you listen to it the more subtleties that emerge and you begin to appreciate the scope and diversity of the material. The album has churning, claustrophobic ugliness and sprawling, wide open soundscapes. It has electronic drones, bits of country-inflected Americana and melodies redolent of yurts and sheep’s milk. Intense tribal (for lack of a better adjective) beats drive many of the heavier parts when a straightforward metal beat won’t do, and the music heaves, drones and shudders along on a the strength of the drums. Occasionally the band will veer into loopy sounds reminiscent of Faust, but these are unfortunately rare digressions.

The overall atmosphere of all this is by turns haunting, debauched, decadent, vaguely misanthropic and apocalyptic. The vocals come in two varieties: low and feral, and high and caustic. The lyrics are grim and suggest in their cryptic way a ruined, wasted planet. In its more aggressive moments, the music is tight, cagey and suffocating. In it’s more drifting and atmospheric mode, it’s ruminative and empty like a setting in a J.G. Ballard story. Occasionally, the band gets fast and the music tends to get lost in the mud, but this is the kind of album where getting lost in the mud isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it adds to the creaky, sun-cracked quality of the band’s sound.

Human Remains could probably have thrown together southern African percussion with Eyehategod riffs, slapped the “experimental” label on it, and called it a day. But this is the rare metal release (technically self-release) that pitches terms like “noise” and “experimental” and actually means it. The band throws out the rule book and use whatever sounds are at hand to generate a one-of-kind atmosphere, one that manages to be dark and eerie without synth chords and robed theatrics. They take disparate elements and, instead of just using them to create gimmicky breaks and digressions, actually make them their own. I look forward to hearing more from this promising band.

-James Slone


Release:  2014
Label:  Self-Released
Avantgenre:  Human Metal
Duration:  59:52
Origin:  United States
Official site:  http://
Review online since:  14.10.2014 / 03:33:24


01 – The Herd And The Musth
02 – Workhorse
03 – Down To Your Last Goat
04 – Predation
05 – The River Pig
06 – Bottomfeeding
07 – Rats Of A Feather
08 – Long Distance Beekeepers
09 – The Electro-Ape
10 – Rhinocide
11 – The Edge Of The Waterhole
12 – Onyedicini Yil Surusu
13 – No Structures In The Eye Of The Jungle (live)


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