Review Summary: An anthemic statement by a band that plays like a re-worked medley of their previous work while sticking close to a tried-and-true formula.
Veil of Maya, for the few who haven't been formally intro'd, are a Chicago-based progressive Deathcore quartet. Strangely, they have always been a band with wide familiarity amongst the metal community, but unfortunately with only a niche appreciation. Their 4th studio album, Eclipse, will do little to change that fact.
The easiest way to describe VoM's Eclipse is as a sonic bridge between the progressive extremes of Animals as Leaders and the brutal extremes of All Shall Perish. The album opener 20/200 begins with a synthesized aural display that quickly shifts to the signature Marc Okubo polyrhythmic breakdown that is instantly reminiscent to [iD]'s mosh erupting track "Martyrs."
Those not already converted to the VoM brand of metal will feel quite alienated by this album, as Marc throws in a cheeky lead riff nod to [iD] album favorite "Conquer" before breaking into a *ridiculous* hyper palm-muted, blast beat filled study in grind metal on Eclipse's 2nd track "Divided Paths."
In all honesty, the two tracks "Divided Paths" and "Punisher" can easily rival anything done by technical masters All Shall Perish. For those who may have found Veil of Maya's previous material too lacking in testosterone, I dare you to listen to album standout "Punisher" as it *fully* lives up to its name as one of the most original, yet catchy "deathcore" songs released in recent years.
Credit must be given to where credit is due, and Marc Okubo is definitely deserving of it. His ability to create such evocative songs, whether they err on the side of brutality or cosmic transcendence, is all the more amazing given the fact that he relies not on overtly dropped-tuned, extended range guitar chugging (he still rocks the Ibanez 6-string tuned to Drop B), but on ingenious chord voicings and composition.
Not to say that Veil of Maya's evolved sound is completely bereft of expected deathcore extravagance. Common criticism of previous album [iD] was mostly due to it's overall flat sound, although most would agree that VoM live performances were a completely different, and thankfully, much more dynamic affair. Recently acquired bass wunderkind Dan Hauser remedies this situation by allowing his intricate 7-string bass playing skills to give low-end depth and nuance to a band that was sorely lacking in previous recordings. (Check him out here: http://youtu.be/H8rsyeM_67Y)
A special award *must* be given to VoM drummer Sam Applebaum, as he is quickly becoming one of the most underrated but talented drummers in the game. His playing, while not as fast as Shannon Lucas (The Black Dahlia Murder) or Jon "The Charn" Rice (Job for a Cowboy) is none the less just as technically impressive. He actually may be VoM's saving grace along with Hauser when most listeners begin to tire of Okubo's prog melodic leanings.
Album centerpiece "The Glass Slide" will probably be the "make it or break it" point for most listeners. Similar to [iD]'s "Mowgli," it serenades the listener with an almost Prince of Persia-esque inspired guitar lead. By far the most ambitious song on the album, it definitely showcases the epic, multi-layered approach that VoM have taken on Eclipse.
Touring cohort and producer Misha Mansoor (Periphery) imprints a lush, almost video game soundtrack-like quality to Eclipse. I couldn't help but think of anime composers like Yoko Kanno (Macross) Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell) and Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy) when listening to many of the digitally enhanced tracks on Eclipse. I'm sure both Okubo and Mansoor would be pleased at the nerdy references to say the least.
Overall, it is Marc Okubo's style of guitar playing that will endear (or repel) most listeners to VoM's latest offerings. Ironically, due to his classical influences and high pedigree, his playing, while virtuosic, rarely surprises in the way a more self-taught, less-technically gifted player might.
I hesitate in calling Veil of Maya a "musician's band" because they could easily be enjoyed by a wide range of music listeners (quite similar to Metalcore influencers Between the Buried and Me) BUT . . . if the words "diminished 5th" and "diatonic scale" do little to get your attention, you may feel you missed the memo when all of the cool kids start raving about Veil of Maya's latest. Just be sure wear a nice pair of shades when you check out the "Eclipse" tour later this year.