Review Summary: Maybe a solid reason not to hate deathcore.
I remember quite clearly the initial commercial outbreak of the deathcore genre in 2007, gaining popularity as it evolved from the Gothenburg influenced sound it originated with. An important year for the genre, Suicide Silence released the genre landmark “The Cleansing”, Whitechapel with their second release “This Is Exile”; Christian death metal act Impending Doom set loose “Nailed. Dead. Risen” and a personal favorite of mine being the Born of Osiris debut EP “The New Reign”. Deathcore bands, good or not, were being signed straight off MySpace it seemed and not too much critical acclaim for reasons we all know by now. But amongst the bombardment of breakdowns and Mitch Lucker imitators there were Veil of Maya and their debut “All Things Set Aside” which came first being released a year prior in 2006.
Veil of Maya can be described as a band for people who like to play metal or aspire to do so. Each member has put their raw emotion into this record (except the bassist who you shockingly can’t hear). Shrouded in this brutality is well thought out musicianship. Blending lo-fi production, wailing tremolo metalcore riffs (that are in no way stale on this record), a punkish feel to the tempo changes and drumming, a vocalist who doesn’t sound like Mitch Lucker (too many vocalist sound similar to Mitch and at this point it sounds unoriginal) and of course breakdowns.
Most deathcore is either produced very clean of is very gritty. Veil of Maya self produced this record and yes this is VERY gritty and me being a fan of black metal I enjoy it as it gives a real feeling to the music and an authentic heaviness. The guitarists drive the album forward while the drumming follows in close second. The vocals sound stuck in the middle of the chaos which allows you to focus on them or ignore them, though I don’t see why you would because the lyrics are insightful rather than childish. But enough about the production, you’ll love it or hate it just like the genre itself.
This is the only album featuring Adam Clemans on vocals and I prefer him over their next vocalist Brandon Butler. He puts a lot of emotion in to his high pitch screams and his lows are very assertive. Not sure which of the members wrote the lyrics but kudos to them for not writing about rape, murder and mutilation every three seconds. Some topics I’ve deciphered are deceit, suffering, misanthropy and more common everyday issues like liars and of course what is metal without at least touching on the subject of death. The closing track "The Session" was a surprise to me as it is a hip-hop song. Don’t be turned off by it, it is actually pretty interesting. The Chicago rappers featured on it do a good job of not being overly predictable in their verses and the driving beat isn’t by any means bad. We live in the age of hip-hop, so give it a listen.
The guitarists, Marc Okubo (lead), Bryan Ruppell (rhythm) and Kris Higler (bass) are influenced heavily by Meshuggah and by modern metalcore acts. The leads are both original and interesting to the point that I constantly replay the album to hear them be played again. This is deathcore so yes there is chugging. But don’t be fooled as it is not mindless; it is coordinated and pays respectable homage to Meshuggah unlike Oceano who overuse the single note open chord. The bassist is lost in the mix somewhere and never shines; he just gives a heavy feel to the album by following the other guitarists. I don’t recall a single lick, lead or groove climbing out of the mix. As for the drumming, Sammy Applebaum handles the sticks here and he gives a powerful show. A punk influenced death metal style that uses a surprising amount of fills that never go stale; he blasts only occasionally and pounds the double bass like he should. His beats are original and full of polyrhythmic ideas. He is technically proficient and most definitely a highlight of the album.
Overall a very enjoyable album for fans of deathcore, technical metal, melodic metalcore, Meshuggah and heavy intense music in general. An interesting listen if you want to understand how this band progressed into the band that released “[id]” in 2010 and “Eclipse” in 2012. The precursor to their more technical albums and a heavy and melodic album that predates the 2007 wave of deathcore.
Side note: I don’t know if they named themselves after the Cynic song or not but they aspire to be more technical than other deathcore acts so I believe they may have chosen that name for the sake of paying tribute to one of the esteemed forerunners in technical metal.