April 23, 2010

Album Review: "[id]" by Veil of Maya

Veil of Maya is one of the only deathcore bands out right now that has a good grasp of how to play their genre. The Illinois-based quartet understands that technicality plays a greater role in proper deathcore than brutality, and their 2008 album, The Common Man's Collapse, displayed the technical side of the band much more than most deathcore records are willing to display. Having Michael Keene produce the album helped tremendously towards that goal, since Keene is better known as a guitar wizard in technical metal's biggest rising stars, The Faceless. For the follow-up to The Common Man's Collapse, Veil of Maya teamed up with Keene once again for their third overall album and second for Sumerian Records. The resulting product, [id], is a strong template for how deathcore ought to be written and performed.

The technical metal influence on this album is undeniable. Many of the riffs have the same structures that one might hear from Meshuggah, The Faceless, or Blood Has Been Shed. Sam Applebaum's drumming is just as good as it was on The Common Man's Collapse, and while the music may not have the multi-layered intricacy found on a Meshuggah album, [id] is still a very technically-focused record. Complex polyrhythms are found on almost every song, and abrupt tempo and style changes provide excellent color and variety. The synth outro on "Resistance" is a nice touch that comes unexpectedly but works well for the song. What will really convince skeptics, though, is not what the record contains, but rather what it lacks. There are far fewer traditional or popular deathcore elements on the album than you'd expect to hear. Breakdowns are few and far between, and Brandon Butler uses virtually zero pig squeals on the course of the entire record. Those two factors alone should be enough to separate Veil of Maya from the rest of the pack.

Admittedly, the record does have some flaws. The few breakdowns that do occur on the record are harsh interruptions to what is otherwise an excellent flow, and only serve to remind listeners of what Veil of Maya could potentially sound like if they chose a different compositional path. And while Butler doesn't perform with pig squeals, his vocal performance lacks the depth of some of his contemporaries. He alternates between his high scream and his low growl without expanding to other vocal techniques for the entire record. Although both his styles are good, adding other styles of vocals could make the record more engaging for listeners.

In the end, though, the positives far outweigh the negatives on [id], giving this album a decent chance of attracting a larger audience outside the usual deathcore crowd. Technical metal fans waiting for new albums from Meshuggah and The Faceless should check out Veil of Maya so they'll have something to tide them over until 2011 rolls around. Similarly, technical death metal fans that enjoy Suffocation, Neuraxis, and Psycroptic will find things to appreciate about Veil of Maya. With [id], this young band finally breaks out of their shell and shows the metal world what they're really capable of.

Score: 6 out of 10

Track Listing

1. [id]
2. Unbreakable
3. Dark Passenger
4. The Higler
5. Martyrs
6. Resistance
7. Circle
8. Mowgli
9. Namaste
10. Conquer
11. Codex

Album Personnel

Brandon Butler – Vocals
Marc Okubo – Guitar
Matt Pantelis – Bass guitar
Sam Applebaum – Drums

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