Review Summary: Total Ascendancy
The carefully controlled, subversively gothic indie-rock emotional core of Total Depravity was always going to be tough to follow. Harmonious, heartwrenching, daring and deep, the album managed to not only finely distil a sublime cocktail of potent reverence and edgy form, but also serve as a creative zenith for the band's signature thoughtful, atmospheric aesthetic. ...And Out Of The Void Came Love is an extremely likeable double record seven years in the making, with the same sense of minimalism that was able to accentuate the emotional weight on Total Depravity with such striking clarity. Yet, it is also more animated, with less heavy production and a generally lighter hue to the overall experience. The difference between the two albums can perhaps be summarised as the difference between the use of flowery, lyrical language to express an emotion, and a blunter, more to-the-point relaying of the emotion as a statement. Where Total Depravity dressed its statements up in beautifully tactile production, ....And Out Of The Void achieves the same end by being more pointed and upfront in its tone, and feels just as serious, but all the more acerbic in its eventual outcome. An interesting result, especially considering the resolutely compelling feel of Total Depravity when contrasted with the band's prior output. The music lacks none of the earnestness of its forebears, but exhibits a genial, poetic character in its sound, more akin to the outfit's earlier work and with frequent callbacks to this era. It feels less intense, but more expressively sincere; a straightforward, moseying pace replacing the confident stride of Total Depravity.
The sincerity of the content here is beyond reproach, and Finn Andrews pens the lyrics with the verve of a premier poet. The relative simplicity of the musicality finely oils a remarkably smooth machine that is able to propel the necessary emotional weight throughout the body of the songs, and all elements, from the tonality of the vocal to the distortion of the strings, feels exceedingly well-judged. The band have dispensed with a large amount of the light industrial influence found on their previous record, such as the heavier tone and the tolling drums, and replaced it with a somewhat crisper production that draws attention to the more forthright lyrical content. The only remaining aspects are simple instrumental motifs, such as the scraping strings of 'Made from Love with Far To Go'. Elsewhere, the release channels the energy of The Veils' more established sound; less abrasive, more straightforward and heartfelt. Not a criticism per se, but in demonstrating what the band were capable of when possessed by the spirit of Depravity, they were able to deftly tap into a sharper, darker incarnation of their aesthetic, and develop it in a way that was at times almost sublime. To lose that memorable touch is lamentable, to say the least, and even though the final result here is a far cry from subpar, it can't help but feel less impactful. Despite this, it spins a sonic web in a manner more triumphant than its predecessor, making its mark with bold decrees rather than snarling asides, and forms a cohesive and distinct album that once again converges modernity with traditionalism in a way almost nostalgic for Nux Vomica. 'Bullfighter', for instance, recalls the feel of Nora Tanega's folksy country, and its lyrics present a similarly vibrant slap-on-the-back; excitable and satisfyingly rousing. 'Epoch' personifies this production too, nullifying subtlety this time around in favour of a stirring bass and a thumping main hook; it sits around the album's midpoint and declares its intentions with careless abandon, almost chittering with glee in the process.
The calming and genuine tone that envelopes the entire record asserts a sense of likeable goodwill that is consistently hard to shake, even when the sentimentality teeters into slightly overbearing territory. 'Cradle Song', for instance, with its sparkling guitars and lullaby melody is a moment of reserved wonderment, feeling tranquil and spiritual, but also cathartic. 'No Limit of Stars', explores the tranquillity of its theme in a different way, with a driving rhythm and tinkling, almost cosmic cymbals set alongside a stuttering simple bass line. It yearns at its interstellar preoccupations, becoming grander in scope as the chorus pontificates upon the infinite nature of the universe. It's stirring, uplifting, and sincere in its excitement and aspirations. Following this is 'Undertow', which expresses a similar sense of interstellar tonality through trilling guitars and a muffled bass drum, as though the instruments are being played in a vacuum. The vocal melody is wilting, vulnerable, transcendent against the underwater throb of the production as it cycles in levels of clarity. This is perhaps the closest to an offcut from Total Depravity that ....And Out Of The Void has to offer, but even this moment is clouded by the dreamier sheen of this release, the lyrical content more positive, more overt. The musicality is simple, unhurried, but demonstrating that signature muddiness that Total Depravity used to offset its bleaker conceits. With this release, though, the effect accentuates the optimism of tone, hinting at a journey up and out of the relative grimness into something more optimistic, with the more uplifting lyricism already raising the vibe an impressive amount in this respect.
'The World of Invisible Things' has a sense of straddling the line between themes both spiritual and fantastical, keeping the tone floaty with a trilling reverb throughout and an intermittent vocal that feels like a stilted prayer. It's simple but evocative of great ideas, and the simple musicianship aids the atmosphere without ever severely slipping into pretentiousness. The same cannot be said for 'Diamonds and Coal', which opts for a spoken word aside as an opening, eventually descending into a rapturous and dynamic low-ebb monologue that is flanked by neon guitars and sensory, alien whining. The experience is ethereal yet grounded, and the storytelling aspect is lent extra verve by the aural storytelling, which thunders like a form of dreamy punctuation. The choral ides of 'Rings of Saturn' seem to continue this motif; with keys and cello the backdrop, the foreground is occupied by gentle vocal harmonies that seem to merge into a honeyed concoction within their emotional refrains and warbling lows. The low hum of the cello vibrates against the arc of the musical tirade, an admonishment of the tone of elegiac simplicity.
Tracks such as the sinister yet playful 'The Day I Meet My Murderer', with its biblical allusions, squealing violins and rattling keys is a wonderfully subdued exercise in wicked energy, managing to embody a countrified rough-and-tumble aesthetic whilst remaining spirited and controlled. The eerie energy continues with the funeral march of 'I've Been Waiting', which contrasts with its bleakly plodding piano and guitar harmonies, albeit with a vaguely optimistic lyrical conceit. The interplay between the two creates a mournful ode that manages to harness the inherent energy and spur itself on; an impressively intuitive songwriting feat for such a simplistic ditty. Similarly, opener 'Time', with it's decree of
'Time is a devil.
Time is a rock.
Time is a riddle,
none of us can unlock.'
feels as though it is presented as a fable or a folkloric yarn. The music seems to frame the statements, with a pattering, slightly muffled musical landscape and later, the ringing of an alarm clock and clanging of heavily distorted, shrill strings. It all escalates to a busy crescendo that evokes the bustle of a fantasy setting, with many things unfolding and a talented storyteller at the core, spinning the tales.
The Veils have one of the most appropriate band names I have ever come across. The connotations of love, spirituality, conservativeness, modesty et al. are all embodied by the sophisticated simplicity of the music; always deep and wistful, always serious. ...And Out Of The Void Came Love has the gentle grace that would understandably go along with its namesake, and pensively explores its ideas with confidence and thoughtfulness. The tasteful and dignified music, along with Andrews' gorgeously evocative lyricism create a wellspring of expressive prowess that is able to tap into emotionality in a manner that feels organic and natural. That prosaic language often falters when addressing matters of the heart is undeniable, but in melding the music with the vocal tone and lyricism, much like on previous releases, the group is able to transmit the emotive energy as a manifestation of all the composite elements. The incredibly intuitive sense of depth transmits the weighty emotionality with a stark, earnest clarity and gives the record a iridescent glow, imbuing every moment with a genuine, albeit airier, impact. It's a startling display of fine musicianship, articulate songwriting and tactful production woven into one harmoniously crafted experience, and although it may not be quite as visionary or as daring as Total Depravity, it certainly equals it for depth and grace. ...And Out Of The Void Came Love is refined, simple and elegant- deep and rich, with distinctly human stories to tell.