Picture the scene: an eager-eyed young greenhorn approaches a grizzled, retired veteran for advice on how to take on the world, and before they know it, the vet is gearing up to join them and take one last shot at glory. It’s the overarching narrative for a million Hollywood movies, but also how Australian singer Lauren Hart ended up forming Once Human with ex-Machine Head and Soulfly guitarist Logan Mader in 2014.
He might not have quite been Old Man Logan when Once Human formed, but at that point Logan had spent 15 years away from the stage, working in production, collaborating with everyone from Five Finger Death Punch on their debut album to Gojira for The Way Of All Flesh. Approached by former Roadrunner and current Nuclear Blast A&R legend Monte Conner to work with an up-and-coming singer, Logan soon found himself pulled away from the comforts of the mixing desk.
“I’d sit in with a singer, work on some demos and maybe help them shop it around,” he says. “But when I met Lauren, we hit it off right away and there was some good creative chemistry and pretty soon I realised that I really missed playing in a band.”
“He re-attached his dreadlocks for me!” Lauren adds with a smile.
“I did! I wasn’t stage-ready at the time; I was a dad, you know? I’d cut my dreads off when I stopped touring but never got rid of them. I sealed them up in a bag and put them in my garage for some reason. So when Once Human evolved beyond being just a studio project, I got them woven back into my short hair so I could headbang again, at least until my hair grew back out.”
While Logan’s past in groove metal titans like Machine Head and Soulfly was apparent in the sound of Once Human, the band augmented it with elements of melodeath to forge a sonic identity of their own. Early tours with bands like Fear Factory and Dragonforce helped them establish a global fanbase (“Talk about being thrown in at the deep end!” Lauren jokes), but throughout it all the band still strived for more, hoping to truly find their voice. With their third album, Scar Weaver, they think they might have done just that.
“Once Human are still a young band and we sort of work as a human does,” Lauren explains. “We’ve grown past the awkward teenage years of trying to discover who we are and what we’re about.”
“Scar Weaver is Once Human’s potential fully realised,” Logan says confidently. “Lauren has reached an apex as a vocalist and that’s really summed up on this album.”
Even at a cursory glance, Scar Weaver does feel like a whole new beast for Once Human. While the mixture of melodeath and groove metal is still prevalent, there is an inclusion of progressive and tech metal elements that has allowed the band to build ever-grander and more impressive sonic structures.
Guitarist Max Karon wrote the majority of the album’s instrumentals, allowing the other members a chance to flex their own talents. For Logan, this was production work that could truly capture not only the live spirit of the band, but the sheer technical prowess of their playing. For Lauren, this meant refining and reworking her lyrics and vocal melodies – though it proved to be something of both a blessing and a curse.
“The extra time we got with the album [because of the pandemic] wasn’t great for a perfectionist like me because I’m writing and rewriting everything again and again,” she admits. “I work the best under deadlines. It didn’t help that I was struggling a lot creatively during the pandemic. The last album [2017’s Evolution], I love the fact that it was a really triumphant feeling in the vocal melodies and the lyrics. I really tried to make Scar Weaver the same because I like when people listen to music and it makes them feel good and empowered, but this time it was a lot more dire with everything going on. I just couldn’t fake it.”
Disappointed as Lauren might be in the album’s comparative lack of PMA, Scar Weaver feels all the more poignant for its lyrical honesty, addressing tough subjects like grief and emotional distress head-on. The song Cold Arrival deals with the sudden death of a close friend, while Deadlock sees the band contending with the perils of modern life, ranging from social media to political divisions. It also allowed Logan to his past and present lives when Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn agreed to guest on the song.
The pair had long since reconciled following Logan’s departure from Machine Head in 1996, but Robb’s appearance still came as a surprise.
“You don’t see Robb appearing on many other people’s songs, so I was really happy when he said yes,” Logan admits. “He got really involved creatively – he took the reins and changed the arrangements around and we really liked how it came out.”
But what about Lauren – was it a challenge handing over the spotlight?
“Oh no, I love Robb!” she enthuses. “I really look up to him, so I was completely honoured. He joined us in San Francisco on this tour to play it live, so I got to be onstage with him and that was insanely fun. Singing Davidian with Robb Flynn is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Scar Weaver is out February 11 via EarMusic