Veil of Maya have been long-regarded as a heavyweight in the ever-popular “Djent” movement. Since they have landed in the scene, the sound has become less of an oddity and more of a trend with an increasing number of bands occupying the idea in an effort to fit in (Papa Roach, anyone?). Veil of Maya have always been regarded as one of the more unique bands to play this sound however, with their odd time signatures, hard to follow song structures and creepy samples. Now 4 albums deep and undeniably well-regarded and known, all eyes are on VoM as they unveil their first and latest entry without vocalist Brandon Butler, dubbed Matriarch.
With this in mind, a number of changes are in store since Eclipse dropped in 2012. The most noticeable and primary change being the different vibe new vocalist Lukas Magyar brings to the band’s progressive death metal sound. Lukas isn’t a vocalist of absolute brutality as Brandon was. Instead, he is quite the balancing act, blending beauty and aggression, much how the vocalists of the metalcore bands of old did to get the concept on the map. Lukas’ delivery isn’t one-sided, he brings a nice amount of range and diversity along with him. Matriarch uses him as a center-piece and guiding voice for the music, which is a refreshing change for the band. Another notable change is the application of more melody, again thanks to the addition of Lukas and his ability to sing, very well. He has a good sense of emotion and range to offer to the band’s chaotic but somehow controlled sound. Catchy choruses may sound like an odd element to include in a heavy, ever-changing band like Veil but the band stream-lined their writing in a tasteful manner to allow the inclusion of singing and more structured songwriting to be sensible.
Don’t think that accessibility implies a stripped-down shadow of who the band once were though. Matriarch brings with it a nice sense of assortment throughout its 12 tracks. Meshuggah-esque opener “NYU” just might be the band’s heaviest track to date and “Lee-Loo” brings with it a distressed dissonant main riff that sets the tone for another heavy-hitter. It is 3rd track “Ellie” that turns that violent vibe the other direction entirely in what may be Veil’s most melodic track and in turn introduces Lukas’ clean singing in spectacular fashion with an extremely memorable chorus that smoothly slides in like butter dabbed onto a knife. Other tracks, such as “Teleute”, which is preluded by the ambient instrumental that is the title track, are fast and intense in death metal fashion but change things up with unpredictable yet well-timed bridge sections that incorporate eerie or foreboding clean melodies to indicate that an especially intense moment is coming up. This is one of Lukas’ most awesome skills that he brings to Veil’s already creepy sound. Being able to say that Veil of Maya have cleaned up their songwriting but still remain a band full of surprises is evidence enough that the band haven’t lost their identity whatsoever. And despite the wide array of sounds and idea represented on the album Matriarch has a fantastic flow that is never abrupted whatsoever. The clean choruses are immensely catchy and do not overstay their welcome. They add greatly to the vibe Veil of Maya have established over time.
Perhaps moreso than any other Veil album Matriarch is an album for musicians. The technical chops of lone guitarist Marc Okubo are absolutely baffling. He can shred death metal with the best of ’em and turn right around and chug the most head-turning rhythms ever put to disc. Sam Applebaum is an extremely tight drummer who weaves a nice pocket for bassist Danny Hauser to be heard quite clearly through. The mix showcases every instrument, textured sample, layer and vocal piece admirably. The quartet mentioned above are revealed to be nerdy (in the best way) once the concept of the album is revealed. Each track on Matriarch (sans the goofy inside joke that titled the track “Three-Fifty”) is named after a female character that a member of the band is a fan of. The concept carries over into the lyrics, making each song a unique experience conceptually. This is quite the bold move and something that should be paid attention to, as it only makes an interesting record that much more intriguing.
What is Matriarch? It’s a very feminine record, but only in its concept. More specifically, it is the beginning of a new era for Veil of Maya as a band with the inclusion of addictive choruses, straight-forward, more accessible songwriting that showcases every bit of talent in the band and more technicality that wasn’t thought of as being possible. The band risked a lot and underwent a surprisingly clean transition to something fresh. This is not only a great metal album, it’s a great musical experience. Many of these ideas aren’t new to any listeners’ ears but the way they are composed and timed allows them to be used to their fullest. Plentiful new fans shall be gained from the accessible approach and brilliant marketing that was used to promote this record and old fans may initially turn their heads but on their 3rd or 4th listen will understand why it took 3 years to follow up Eclipse and deliver a faithful, shiny and polished new incarnation of the band. There is much creativity and skill to be heard on Matriarch and is Veil of Maya’s definitive record to date.