The Human Abstract

There are three ‘core’ records I was really looking forward to this year; Ligeia’s Bad News, the new All Shall Perish and this follow up to the excellent Nocturne. Well, with Bad News being a huge disappointment and the jury still out on Awaken the Dreamers (which I’m still trying to figure out), where does Midheaven fall? A slight disappointment but an expected progression.

Firstly, Midheaven while softer and more expansive than Nocturne, is ambitious-there’s lots of synths (courtesy of new keyboardist Sean Leonard), female vocals, longer songs, and a deep conceptual backdrop and even with the loss of founding member AJ Minette, Midheaven sounds like The Human Abstract. But it is, as expected, a slightly less metal record delving more into prog rock, glam rock and even alternative rock with more of Nathan Ellis love ‘em or hate ’em croons and less chaotic stammering.

Admittedly, there are still light strains of Between The Buried and Me and Protest the Hero running through the tracks with plenty of sweep arpeggios, but they are never as singled out, dominant or effective as on say tracks like “Crossing the Rubicon”, “Channel Detritus”, “Vela”, or “Mea Culpa”, but rather relegated to background solos or part of the whole, more experimental affair. Still, for the most part the music is pretty epic if pretentious and less classically inspired rock, an commercially so, and written with a sense of ambition and confidence. Look no further than the solid duo of 7-minute opener “A Violent Strike” and “Procession of the Fates” for the bands epic, slightly more rock based development. “Metatonia” is the most Nocturne sounding burst and personal favorite “Counting Down the Days” has a brief blast beat. However there are some eyebrow raising oddities such as “Breathing Life Into Devices” which initially starts as the albums most chaotic, Nocturne sounding track but turns into a weird jazz/lounge track with a formulaic chorus (what exactly are “Cruel Sauces”?), the bland rock of “Echoes of the Spirit” and large number of ballads.

Yup, Midheaven is ballad heavy (“The World is a Tomb”, “The Path”, “Calm in the Chaos”, “A Dead World At Sunrise”-featuring legendary Indian violinist, vocalist and composer Lakshminarayanan Shankar) and I can’t help feel that fans of Nocturne might disappointed, as I was, and most readers of this site more than likely will turn their nose up at this album, but I have to admit, while its not as good as Nocturne, it’s a different beast and gives me a little respite from growls and grunts.

A major label hop in the future? I would not be surprised.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 8th, 2008


  1. Commented by: Staylow

    Complete disappointment. The two tracks they debuted on their myspace prior to the album sounded solid, but the nearly rap like vocals on “Breathing Life Into Devices” killed it for me. After that track, I couldn’t focus on anything afterward, and immediately tossed it aside.

    Nocturne wasn’t an album that blew me away, but it was solid and held alot of promise – promise that has now been completely swept away. I’ll pass.

  2. Commented by: swampthang

    the cover is at least cool looking. but really the bad thing about these ballads is chicks ain’t dig em so eh no thanx.

  3. Commented by: PizzaClaus

    What about Fortress?

  4. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    What about it?

  5. Commented by: AARONIUS

    I picked this one a couple of weeks ago and I’m kind of confused by it as well.

    I don’t think this is one you crank in your car or even really one you play when you want something brutal and noodle-y.

    I think it may be brilliant though. I haven’t really been able to sit down and listen through it without any distractions and I think that may be the key.

    I can say without any hesitation this is a prog-rock record. Not really metalcore at all.

    Here’s a fun-fact, I read that the guy who played bass on the album is now John Mayer’s live bass player (Sean Hurley, who also played in the band Vertical Horizon).

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved in a more commercial direction, but it’s funny cause I heard A.J. left because he wasn’t sure he could keep playing metal.

  6. Commented by: Dan

    Hey Erik
    When can we expect your report on the new All Shall Perish?

  7. Commented by: Thane

    I bought “Midheaven” before “Nocturne” (which is to say only a couple of weeks ago), and perhaps that’s why thus far I prefer “Midheaven”.

    Aaronius mentioned that perhaps it’s a record in which you need to sit down and listen through it without any distractions. That’s the only way I’ve listened to it, about fifteen times now. I got very caught up in it and to me that’s always a fantastic plus in an album. It hasn’t lost any of its interest to me yet, though I admit to having something of an eternal attention span.

    I was surprised to hear from various sites and sources that this album is getting a poor reception. It doesn’t sound THAT different to me than “Nocturne”, but perhaps as I hear both albums more I’ll change my mind. The bottom line is that I love the melodies and while there are elements of the band which I might normally find annoying, I can live with it because I like the songwriting so damn much.

    This is my favourite release of the year thus far, which I’d be mildly embarrassed to admit except I’m that excited by this album and I’m a daft prick with horrible taste anyway.

  8. Commented by: ABC44

    I was never really much of a fan of theirs, but I still plan to check this out…

    Just to see if they can change my mind.

  9. Commented by: PizzaClaus

    I should of asked… Why wasn’t Fortress in the opening paragraph. But… I did forget that was supposed to come out in November last year. So now I just feel sort of stupid. And I forgot to mention this, great review.

  10. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    ASP review prolly coming late this week or early next week

    And Yeah Pizza Claus I was looking forward to Fortess, just forgot cos it was so early in the year-its still on my year end list

  11. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    New one is much better than this-much more harsh musically and vocally- even more so than the debut. more akin to periphery and The Contortionist but with more sweeps

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