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The best way to break down modernity in metal, particularly as it pertains to the so-called NWOAHM, is as an inter-sectional movement. It tends to function more as a sponge that absorbs just about every aspect of the post-80s hardcore and extreme metal mode of musical expression and then spits them out in various mixtures. Admittedly this isn't something that is unique to bands that derive from said tradition, as similar tendencies tend to manifest throughout the metal world, but there is something particularly blunt about how it occurs in what could be dubbed the post-Pantera metal scene. Veil Of Maya, an early pioneer of the so-called deathcore manifestation of this phenomenon provides something of an interesting case study in the ongoing evolution of this sound, as from their early offerings they were throwing a lot of differing ideas up against the wall to see what would stick, and consequently got out a little ahead of the rest of the pack.
In particular, this outfit's second LP offering The Common Man's Collapse sees the gradual introduction of what would become the next big thing on the American metal front, namely djent. The poly-rhythmic noodling that was largely pioneered by Meshuggah finds a fairly welcome home among deathcore's obligatory breakdown sections, making for a more intricate alternative to the single or two-chord slams that were more a staple of mainline deathcore. The only real downside that comes with it is that given the fairly thin guitar production and uneven leveling of the drums (the toms and kick drum are a bit too high and drown out the snare), the resulting spots of uniform rhythmic stomping are a bit weak and more clunky rather than chugging in character at times. Usually the more elaborate and noodling the riff work is, the less limp it sounds as the guitar tone tends to lend itself a bit more to that frenzied technical approach where leads occur intermittently among the rhythm work, namely what graces a typical Arsis or Revocation album.
Apart from the occasional isolated moments of quasi-progressive rhythmic quirkiness, the vast majority of the musical content of this album is the usual smattering of hardcore, melodeath, modern thrash and groove metal that was typical of the mid to late 2000s, albeit dressed up with a fairly impressive technical gloss. The one who really steals the show here is guitarist Marc Okubo, who proves himself to be about as versatile as they come in this style, making frequent and often out of nowhere technical passages a hallmark of his riffs and even has his multiple guitar tracks have veritable conversations with each other. The drum and bass work tends to be moderately intricate, but largely functions as support for the guitars and tend not to break out of the arrangement very much. Vocalist Brandon Butler is similarly geared to more of a getting the job done role, providing some rock solid deep end grunts reminiscent of Chris Barnes and occasionally employing a higher pitched Gothenburg shriek that is competent enough, but tends to come off as fairly mundane and predictable next to all the guitar wizardry.
Speaking as someone who is not a terribly big fan of deathcore and most of the other offshoots of modern American metal (or the NWOAHM if one prefers), this isn't a bad representation of what the style can do when technical adventurism is allowed yet doesn't cause the songs to turn into sonic mush. It suffers a bit in the production department and could do to have a meatier guitar tone to really bring out the percussive quality of the djent elements, yet it excels when the guitars go off on those little technical spurts that occur about every 5-7 seconds. If nothing else, Marc Okubo provides an interesting current foil to Jeff Loomis' brand of technical craziness that could result in an impressive solo instrumental metal career should this band ever have to hang it up.
Veil of Maya is a mysterious band in some ways yet a band you can also feel very close to in another sense. Each of its four members kind of have their own look, their own personality and differences and treat their fans as if they're real friends. Their lyrics are intentionally not written deeply to give the listener their own meaning to each song upon hearing and the music itself falls along with not only being heavy but full of passion at the same time. On this record, we see the band drop a guitarist (four piece from here on out unlike their debut record) and acquire a new vocalist; Brandon Butler. It is as well their first to be released through Sumerian Records.
Now compared to the rest of the Veil of Maya collection in comparison to this record is we have a much more experimental sound. I guess it was just them leaving behind their original basis that they did on All Things Set Aside and trying something new, yet didn't take until [id] to finally unlock that potential and ear for themselves. However, this album actually does well with their experimentations because it leaves fans with a Veil of Maya record in a state of musical style that we may never hear again. Now let's get onto actually talking about the music: the album is packed with the whole basis for deathcore, you know; combining good ol' metalcore with shredding death metal and that's exactly what you're getting here in a non-tedious fashion. Okubo's playing style on here is typically much slower than the rest you'd hear from most of Veil of Maya, but he unleashes a bit more metalcore melodies and not as much hints at the whole palm muted "djent" trend that has been in lately. You do hear some djent every now and then, but never insists upon itself as if this band is dying to be the next Meshuggah clone. As for the band's drummer, he also has some interesting techniques you hear on here that you don't hear on other records. While he does keep with the usual blast beat he unleashes during the right moments on a typical Veil of Maya song, on this record he uses a wood block on a few of this album's songs (most notably "It's Not Safe to Swim Today" and "Sever the Voices") giving these songs a very unique sound during their quiet moments.
Butler's vocals are much more hoarse and powerful than Veil of Maya's previous lead vocalist, Adam Clemans and for every good reason imaginable. Clemans was just an okay singer, he was not terrible but not exactly very good either. Butler uses the false chord screaming style while Clemans uses the fry scream technique which is pretty much the entire explanation of why Butler's vocals are superior. Speaking of the first album, this record on the other hand includes two re-recorded songs from the 2006 (and totally out of print) debut All Thing's Set Aside and surprisingly they come off really well even with one guitarist and especially vocal wise. "Entry Level Exit Wounds" has a few of its lyrics changed, but still retains its theme as an excruciatingly sad tale of a heroin-addicted mother. As for the other re-recorded track "Sever the Voices", I in some cases, prefer the original version of that song more only because Okubo's riffs and Applebaum's blast beats sounded much sweeter over the colder production.
If I would have any complaints about this album, however it would mainly be small things such as how those boring middle parts of the records were you're just starting to get the feeling in your throat like "this is okay" drag out to long in some cases and it's mainly due upon the band's more experimental style that they had during the time of this record. But this album definitely does not get as boring as a usual Sumerian metal album would be so within mid-listening. Regardless, this record is very good, the melodic moments take you by the heart strings, the heavy parts are headbang worthy and the band's breakdowns are never overdone and no two every sound the same. More deathcore should really take a look into how Veil of Maya do things and the fact that they're doing it this well just as a four piece is pretty much a "in your face" to every other band in the genre.
Veil of Maya are one of the new "technical deathcore" bands. They utilize far more melodic riffing than standard deathcore bands, and are not beyond writing pseudo-intellectual lyrics so people will be "impressed" by their ability to vent such a high-minded theme through such aggressive music. As people are getting tired of the slow-paced, boring deathcore which covers up most of the genre, bands like Veil of Maya are becoming more and more prevalent. It's certainly not "offensive", in the sense that whenever this band is mentioned I feel the need to jump into a hate-filled tirade, explaining why this is the bane of everything metal stands for. It's certainly not "terrible", in the sense that I would rather slam a brick against my head in order to not remember anything about the genre. However, Veil of Maya, somewhere along the road, missed this point, and are subsequently a really fucking stupid band.
For the majority of the album, the guitarist is utilizing a mixture of At the Gates-esque riffs, Neurosis-esque leads, and Meshuggah-esque polyrhythms fashioned into breakdowns. The drummer is mostly inaudible other than his toms and his retarded double-bass, which is literally the loudest thing on the whole album. The singer performs the standard "barked" vocal style usually used in deathcore, exept these are a bit deeper and "wetter". He alternates this with high pitched shreiks which sound, "oddly", like every other band in this style. Fortunatly, the superior bark is used more than the scream, and the scream appears more for variety than for anything else.
I think it's safe to say that this could very well be a joke album and no one would ever know, it's masked so well. Making fun of the overly populated deathcore trend and the sometimes tedious and equally overly populated technical death metal trend as well as making fun of Meshuggah seems fairly entertaining, or at least entertaining enough to keep back the tears for several minutes. After a little intro track, "Wounds", the band jumps into a drum-fill and some lovely melodic riffage while the singer alternates predictably between death growls and higher ranged screams. It takes the band a total of 0:59 to get to the album's first breakdown, which is no less trendy and boring like most other breakdowns. The band then cycles around between some melodic riffage and another breakdown before they finally settle on another melodic riff, this time around far more technical and actually memorable. Actually, I dare say that this riff is pretty cool. While the singer's moderatly annoying shouts and screams don't really help matters, they manage to hold things up until the band adds in another breakdown. This is one of those breakdowns where they add a cheesy little build up, as if to say that this breakdown is a "big fucking deal". Oh, and guess what happens next? Perhaps, a cheesy polyrhythm breakdown? Yes. Then, there's ANOTHER breakdown, which is similarly boring and fucking stupid.
Unfortunatly, pretty much every song goes like this. The band is either playing "technical" melodic riffs and blasting along, playing "poly-downs", or just playing standard breakdowns and chugging to their little heart's contempt. Often, the first breakdown comes around a minute in, and the band basically just recycles these same few ideas in every single song. While the riffs are usually distinguishable, they are all in the same vein and there is absolutly no variety here. The band only gets their shit together in one of the album's tracks, "It's Not Safe to Swim Today", which is one of the few deathcore songs that is actually musical and not just a trendy little chug track. So yes, this song is awesome. The album's closer, "It's Torn Away", is okay, but the breakdowns become tedious after awhile and the length of the track (5:01) doesn't help things at all when there is a total of three ideas utilized period.
As far as I'm concerned, Veil of Maya have lots of potential but they are too concerned with pleasing scene kids and smoking weed to really use it. This is sad, but in the end there is no need to fuss because, honestly, what did you expect? This is a very bad album, and I don't really think this is a necessary listen at all.
Albums like this make me proud. Why? Well, for starters this band and I are from the same hometown(Chicago, IL). There are a number of new bands emerging everyday so it's nice to see that some of them are from my own stomping ground and are also a good listen.
I must first say that the playing style of Veil of Maya may really have to grow on you due to the fact that they really do not sound like your usual deathcore band(or your usual band to begin with). Yes, they are deathcore(*gasps*) but they have a little more progressive playing style then most other bands in their respected genre. Like I said before, they really do not sound like your typical deathcore, though. One thing you may immediately notice about this album(and their 1st album as well) is they don't try to "DOOM" and "BREAKDOWN" and "BREE" you to death like most deathcore bands. Breakdowns are still present, just not overly predictable like one would expect from this genre. The music here sounds like kinda like this:
DEATHCORE - BAD STEREOTYPES + PROGRESSIVE x RANDOMIZATION + GOOD LYRICS = THE COMMON MAN'S COLLAPSE
These guys are indeed very technical and only after 6 or 7 listens would you possibly realize just how intricate they make their music. Guitars are very heavy and guttural yet clean. The shifts from each segment in the songs are usually quick, somewhat unpredictable and even a little odd sometimes. However, it is not without reward. Listening to this album can be like looking for hidden treasure sometimes because a fair portion of the songs sound decent(yet somewhat expected), and then turn around and throw in a guitar riff/solo or a quick number from the drummer(i.e.: the last song - "It's Torn Away") that just puts a smile on your face every time it plays.
If I could give a breakdown of every element I would say the following:
Vocals: Good. The vocalist uses a fair amount of variations in his tone and fits well with the music at every turn.
Lyrics: Very Good. Other bands in the genre should honestly take notes. I prefer not to spoil anything with samples, however, and just leave you to listen for yourself.
Guitars: Strong. Technical, interesting and well placed. Whether it's a hard "chugging" riff to give the "heavy" or a higher pitched shred it's pretty much all good.
Bass Guitar: Satisfactory. Like the reviewer before me mentioned, the bass just follows the guitar and doesn't stand out. Not much else to be said.
Drums: Strong. Possibly one of the album's major highlights if anything. The drummer is more technical and precise than pretty much everything else going on and really helps piece it all together very well. I would have to say that some of the most memorable parts of the album are drum related.
Breakdowns: Good/Very Good. Why? Well it is "core" so breakdowns are somewhat expected here. Conducting From The Grave is a band very good at breakdown placement. Now, while Veil of Maya is not quite as good at it as CFTG, I would still say they can compete with a little work if they really try in the future.
Like I said, this album may really have to grow on you. It's challenging and different and very much a little awkward sometimes. But, if you give it a few listens(and maybe a few more afterward), I am sure you will appreciate the masterful work these guys have put out.
One last note I will add is for anyone who enjoys the album to make it a point to see them live. While the production on the album is good it does not really show just how heavy these guys are in reality.