Let’s get one thing out of the way: how you regard Veil of Maya and their Sumerian brethren likely runs parallel to your impressions of Meshuggah. Of course it wasn’t until a few years ago that anyone bothered to stamp this brand of arrhythmic metal with a name as monosyllabically demeaning as ‘djent.’
But as the outer rims of metal took the genre to new depths of speed, volume, and atonality, it was only a matter of time before bands went back to the vintage brewed up by the spastic Swedes in the 90’s and decided they liked the Kool-Aid. And much like the debut of Stravinsky’s ‘Le Sacre du Printemps,’ it was only a matter of a time before the public palate developed a thirst for it.
While it only took a year for Stravinsky to go from being chased out of concert halls by a mob to being carried out upon their lauding shoulders, Veil of Maya have been tinkering with their modern take on metal for a little under a decade now.
With the recent release of their fourth album Eclipse and their subsequent tour with modern metal stalwarts In Flames and Trivium, they’re ready for the main stage. Simply put, Eclipse is the cutting edge of modern metal: abrasive, punishing, relentless, and yet so smooth.
Nonstop touring after 2010’s [id] has greased the quartet into a well-oiled machine. Brandon Butler has split his pipes into a yin and yang yell, capable of leaping from spitfire scream to guttural bellow at will. Beneath such vocal dexterity on ‘Divide Paths,’ Sam Applebaum pounds out frantic meter changes with brutal conviction. ‘Punisher’ is just as abusive as its name implies, up until it employs one of the slyest samples on this side of hip-hop. A sophomoric youtube criticism of Periphery inspires a breakdown that would make Dimebag Darrell smile a black-tooth grin.
The greatest departure from their past work lies in the slick production. This should be of no detriment to any old-time VoM fans as the hand at the board belongs to none other than Periphery’s Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor. Mansoor acts here like a fifth member, whetting each instrument to cut through the mix like a surgeon’s scalpel and judiciously anesthetizing with a dose of pads and synths to sooth. Lest purists decry this added dimension as a feeble attempt to go prog, rest assured the samples are subtle and grant the furious pace a sense of breath as in ‘Winter is Coming Soon.’ Here a feigned release lulls the listener before a parry of blast beats reminds you just what kind of business these guys mean.
Marc Okubo’s compositions remain ruthlessly efficient, never toeing the tides of indulgence (only the final song stretches past the four minute mark). His tenacious guitar lines skitter over the frets like a steel-toed spider, while his siren solos remain a humble homage to the stylings of Meshuggah.
If there’s one gripe to be had with Eclipse, it’s the overuse of synths on the back half of the album. While never egregiously cheesy, it still undermines the aggressive aesthetic laid out in the front end. If the first half is like being overrun by a brood of Lovecraft nightmares, then the last half is like getting kicked in the shin by a band of leprechauns. It’s a shame, because the synths don’t do much more than play lines that could easily be done with guitar (‘Vicious Cycles’) or double existing guitar lines (‘Numerical Scheme’). In no way does this detract from the album’s merits. Rather it suggests Veil of Maya may be best experienced as a live band than as a studio project. But Eclipse remains a portent of what’s still to come from this talented young band. Be sure to keep these guys on your radar, because they’re sure to only get bigger and badder.
Marc Okubo’s Track-By-Track Commentary on Eclipse
During our meeting on February 29th, 2012, Marc Okubo agreed to finish off his interview for Guitar Messenger with an exclusive track-by-track commentary of Eclipse:
“It’s like an intro. We’ve been playing ‘Martyrs’ off of [id] for our intro live and we wanted to have a new aggressive heavy intro to start our set with and ‘20/200’ is just that.”
2. Divide Paths
“That’s the demo song we did with Misha before we actually started recording the CD. We were really happy with it, so that’s why we wanted to continue with Misha.”
“‘Punisher’ was a song that I had pretty much completely finished aside from the ending part, which was inspired by a certain YouTube video.”
4. Winter Is Coming Soon
“That song was actually a B-side from The Common Man’s Collapse. We ended up taking the groovy parts out of that song and making ‘Pillars.’ Misha heard me jamming on it, because it was just stuff that I had unrecorded.
So we tracked the parts that we had remaining from that song. I think there’s another part of that song in a different track, too. And then we added some new parts and made it an actual song. It doesn’t have any breakdowns, so djent that!”
5. The Glass Slide
“‘The Glass Slide’ has a bit of a ‘Mowgli,’ ‘Uprising’ kind of vibe to it. It’s not the same riff by any means, but a lot of people will compare it to that. That sound is just a Veil of Maya trademark. Honestly, I don’t know what the title refers to. We were going through all of our songs and they all had fake names before and we took lyric segments for names. I think the fake name for this one was ‘The Third Uprising,’ because ‘Mowgli’ was the ‘Second Uprising.’”
6. Enter My Dreams
“I wrote a lot of death metal riffs and lot of them didn’t even get used on the CD. It was just what was naturally coming out of my brain I guess, and that’s definitely one of the more death metal sounding ones. Misha did a guitar solo on that one. See if you can guess which one is him and which one’s me.”
7. Numerical Scheme
“‘Numerical Scheme’ was a song that I had mostly written already, but then when we went in there and started tracking it, we were just like ‘we need something else. We need like a super-crazy melody!’ I just wrote the super-melodic technical parts on the spot with that. Misha was super into it, so we wrote that one really quickly, almost starting with nothing. We just put it together and it came out really awesome.”
8. Vicious Circles
“That was a song that I had all the essential riffs written for, but I just didn’t have them all put together. Misha helped me organize the parts, and made it all one song. That was the song that has the Spiderman part!”
“This is the Final Fantasy reference. I actually didn’t intend on putting that song on the CD, it was just something I was just kind of jamming on and Misha heard it and was like ‘you have to put that on the CD. I’m making you!’ He was very passionate about that. It came out really awesome, so I’m glad he did make me go through with it and helped put it together.”
10. With Passion and Power
It’s like the super-technical death metal song on the CD for me. That’s one of our favorite songs to play. We’re working on playing it live right now. It’s one of our favorite songs to practice to, at least. That’s just like the future of what we’re going for. It’s not like it’s super-aggressive, it’s not really super-groovy the whole time, it’s more just technical and in-your-face. That one’s secret name was ‘The Last Song’ ‘cause of the fadeout at the end. We always intended on that being the last song of the CD.” (April 17, 2012)