Sound: The fifth studio release from thrash/prog metal (not to mention a mash of other genres) band Believer is perhaps most intriguing because of the themes into which it delves. If you've never heard of the study of transhumanism, Believer is about to give you a crash course. The aptly titled album Transhuman revolves around as the title might suggest the concept, which affirms the possibilities of the human conditioning by eliminating such obstacles as aging via technological advances. These are pretty heavy topics that are bolstered by rather complex, multifaceted musical arrangements.
Except for a few tracks, listening to the material on Transhuman is often an exhausting process. It has more to do with the multitude of things happening within the course of the song. If you can appreciate a track that indulges in a variety of musical sections chugging in one moment, vocals that yell in one moment and get altered by effects in the next, and keyboards that give a larger-than-life orchestral quality then you'll likely embrace Multiverse and pretty much the majority of the 12 offerings on Transhuman. While the term thrash is often used with Believer, the band has a unique way of taking the most aggressive moments and making them seem a bit more airy through Kurt Bachman's slowly sung harmonies or Jeff King's keyboard work.
As in the past, tempos change frequently on Transhuman and chugging riffs rule the record. There are unexpected moments like on Transfection, which features an intro that almost sounds like a xylophone but could possibly be guitar harmonics. Clean Room integrates some intense, repeating lead guitar licks, while Currents is a more avant-garde/electronica piece that has the most cinematic feel to it. You could absolutely hear Currents at home in one of the sleeker scenes from the Blade series. Throughout the entire record, Bachman's harshly delivered vocals do inject an uneasiness even at the most symphonic moments, but that is undoubtedly the band's intention. // 8
Lyrics: As was mentioned earlier, Believer has dedicated its album to the theme of transhumanism, which for a good many of us will be a pretty new topic. It will take listening to Transhuman many times over to truly grasp the underlying meanings of each song, but it's certainly refreshing to hear an album that has committed to a fairly foreign subject. Much like the otherworldly arrangements, the lyrical content isn't confined to earthly themes, whether it's Traveler (which discusses accelerating/motion in space) or Being No One (Into oblivion, into space; Embrace my illusion). Don't expect to be a transhumanism expert after one listen, but if anything Believer gives you the inspiration to do some outside reading in the end. // 9
Overall Impression: Believer delivers intense material on both the musical and lyrical sides, making Transhuman not the easiest listen. That's not to say that Bachman and bandmates don't conjure up some extremely interesting arrangements that take a plethora of twists and turns. Just be prepared for plenty of rhythmic ups and downs, chugging, and symphonic-like moments (executed by the keyboards). Transhuman does contain novel ideas, and once again, kudos to Believer for tackling one mighty intriguing philosophical concept. // 8