Review Summary: Veil of Maya sacrifice some of their original melodic identity to bring us a catchy yet derivative metalcore album with a few growing pains attached.
When Chicago based progressive deathcore band Veil of Maya released Eclipse
in 2012, it was the subject of one of my earliest music reviews, written for my school newspaper. I mention that because of the superficial similarities between us – both of us were more mature and more refined, ready to apply our newfound clarity to create something beautiful. We both didn’t quite get there, though – my music reviews were average at best (some would argue they aren’t much better now), and Eclipse
featured an improved structure but sometimes the riffs just weren’t all there. Three years after the fact, another comparison between us can be drawn: the sheer amount of change we’ve gone through. However, while most people could look at me and see the same face, you’d be hard-pressed to hear a track off of Veil’s new album Matriarch
and immediately recognize them as the same band. Not only has their sound undergone a massive metamorphosis, their vocalist has changed too, with his screams being higher-pitched. But the differences in his screams is nothing compared to the most important paradigm shift we’re offered: the addition of clean singing, something most people thought Veil of Maya would never introduce. Do all of these changes bring the band down, or has it allowed them to transcend the boundaries they had set before"
The band has always had melodic riffs and passages, but almost never had entire songs based around melodic ideas. One listen to “Aeris”, “Ellie”, or “Three-Fifty” will demonstrate just how far the vibe has taken them, with the new vocalist Lukas using his incredible singing voice through a majority of each of the songs. Most traditional death metal bands who use singing keep it subdued, with examples being Cynic’s soft vocoder/autotune and Feat Factory’s croony approach. It seems as if bands on the metalcore end of the spectrum have no such reservations - the closest vocalist I could compare Lukas to would be the explosive and soulful Jonny Craig from Dance Gavin Dance. If that sounds absolutely nuts, keep in mind that a lot of modern metalcore bands employ singers who use that style as well. They just usually lack the talent or insight needed to pull it off. The band’s sound has changed to suit the singing accordingly, and the songs I mentioned showcase his talents perfectly.
There’s plenty of songs that harken back to the older sound though. “Phoenix”, the earliest track released from the album, sounds like the older songs, albeit with no random stops for breakdowns and a bouncy feel instead of a blastbeat-filled death metal one. Opener “Nyu” is the first instance where Veil of Maya has started an album with a full song instead of a special breakdown that gets a track all to itself, but it’s so groovy and chug-filled that you won’t notice until the screaming kicks in. “Leeloo” and “Teleute” are also both more typical of the group, although a breakdown near the end of the latter track features some well-placed background singing that suits the moment well. Closer “Lisbeth” is probably the best use of the new approach yet: heavy, creative, melodic, and features a stunning chorus with huge vocals from Lukas. It works the old vibes into its riffs, so it sounds like a natural blend.
The most disappointing thing about Matriarch
stems from its near abandonment of their unique sound. If you were to play someone a Veil of Maya song from a past album, when the melodies kicked in you could usually tell exactly who the artist was – and that’s somewhat rare for metalcore bands. The guitar melodies in use here are also used by tons of other bands, and although Veil uses them well here, they don’t blend them with their own signature melodic stylings often enough to remain interesting all of the time. Eclipse
showed a band that was maturing and getting closer to achieving a truly great version of a sound they had been advancing for years. Matriarch drags enough of that sound to the sidelines to be disappointing in that respect
It’s good to focus on what we do have, though: Matriarch
is a more-than-competent album that takes the structural maturity Veil of Maya has been establishing over the years, outfits it with a largely new sound focused on melody and beauty, decorates it with powerful screams and gorgeous clean singing, and coats it with a fresh layer of breakdowns and grooves. Despite the fact that it borrows some of its melodic ideas from other contemporary bands, the sound it yields is still unique. I expect the album to be verbally destroyed by metal purists and some disappointed fans, but listening a few times with an open mind may yield something more than just hatred. It may yield…fun.