Review Summary: Well written, beautifully executed, serious Progressive Metal. A contender for "Best Metal Album of the Year".
A.J. Minette was the driving force behind THA's Nocturne. Original fans of this band were disappointed, nay, downright pissed off by their second release Midheaven which was sans Minette. Apparently their lead singer at the time (Nathan Ells) was the driving force behind Midheaven, and with his nonsensical pseudo-poetic lyrics, the backlash was to be expected. People in the (for lack of a better term) music appreciation community initially labeled them portentous, then wrote them off as pretentious. Digital Veil is pretentious to be sure. Just as everything intellectual runs the risk of being. But, with A.J. Minette returning to the lineup, and Travis Richter replacing Ells, at least it is good.
Here's just a small breakdown of the album in it's individual parts:
Vocals: Travis Richter sounds like a mad-man with his growls; which are excellent, by the way. Two seconds into the title track he screams “Pull me/from the gallows” with absolute ferocity. If you're looking to sample one of the vocal highlights of this album that's a good place to start. It really is a shame that he didn't use those growls more because his cleans can be slightly boring and whiny at times (see 1 minute 58 seconds into Antebellum where he sing/whines “Ignominy stained creed.”) Is it too much to ask that guys who sing in modern metal bands have some gravel in their voice boxes? Travis Richter's best growls with Brent Smith's (Shinedown) gritty delivery would be the ideal singer. Anyways, he does have a decent ear for melody, and his cleans don't try to dominate songs. Add the growls and screams, and the vocals part of this album get a 8.5 out of 10.
Instruments: First of all, the bass is nearly inaudible. Two minutes into Patterns the bass is given a small part; thrown a bone in a sense. But, that is the place in the album that the bass is most prominent. Next, you will be remiss if you do not realize the spectacular talent they have at guitar. A.J. Minette plays incredibly technical sweeps and arpeggios. Dean Herrera riffs solidly and even has a decent, yet short, solo toward the end of Complex Terms. I already feel you staring at you computer screen yelling, “Sweeps and arpeggios are only tricks to deceive the gullible listener into thinking that the band can actually write music!” To be honest, when arpeggios and sweeps are used to add flash to a cold song, I agree that they fall short. However, I don't believe the arpeggios and sweeping are intended to cover up lousy song writing in this album. It is obvious that Minette appreciates Bach's use of counterpoint and successfully exploits this technique by adding sweeps and arpeggios over the top of Herrera's chugging and riffing. The two instruments seem to be playing the same melody although the melodies they are playing are different. Listen to the opener, Elegiac. The keyboards also contribute well to the use of counterpoint. 9/10
Production: Clearly this was given a lot of thought, and was re-thought many times over in the studio. This is perhaps my biggest complaint with this album. A lot of modern music sounds overproduced which leads to a cold, impersonal feeling from the artists. This album is so well executed and put together that there isn't even a hint of imperfection with the musicians. 7.5/10
Overall Impression: Solid metal album. They have successfully left behind a lot of their earlier Metal-core sound for a more straightforward Progressive Metal sound. The addition of Travis Richter was the best move that they could have made. I will give this album an 85/100
(4/5 for sputnikmusic fans). This album should be in contention for Metal album of the year along with Devin Townsend's Deconstruction and Unexpect's Fables of the Sleepless Empire. I would even place it in the top ten overall albums of the year.