Veil of Maya: 'Eclipse' roundtable review
With one of modern metal's most unique songwriters (Marc Okubo) teaming up with one of the leading lights of djent (Misha Mansoor), Veil Of Maya's 'Eclipse' is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated releases of this year. There was a lot of interest in reviewing this one among the got-djent.com moderation team, so instead of writing five individual reviews, we decided to sit down and talk about the good and the bad of the band's fourth full-length album. An interactive review, as it were.
This is the first time we do something like this, so feel free to leave some feedback in the comments!
Introductions, length and Bulb
blckravn01: So I'll have to admit I don't listen to Veil of Maya, so I don't know much.
Clarity: Me neither.
Klonere: You didn't hear much of their old stuff, did you?
blckravn01: I did when I tried to look into them, I just really never found them to my taste.
Klonere: That's good, we can get some first impressions, a fresh look at the band. For people who might have never listened to them before. We've all had the album here for at least a month now as well. It is only 28 minutes long.
blckravn01: That was the first thing I noticed, there is only one song over 4 minutes long.
Klonere: Standard Veil of Maya, Marc does not write long songs. In that department it's almost like a grindcore album really, it's so short.
blckravn01: That's what I like about it though, it was so short and concise. I'm not really into the style. I don't want to say it's too heavy, it's just a good length for this type of music.
Clarity: And it's not too long to be boring.
blckravn01: It was also quite melodic. Was it more so than usual for Veil of Maya?
Klonere: It's more melodic all around. I was actually listening to 'The Common Man's Collapse', which I still think is their best by a long way. That album is a lot more tech-oriented and probably more heavy, whereas this one is more melodic, dare I say "djenty"? Something along those lines.
blckravn01: I actually liked it.
MonstaH: Its quite "Bulby", for the lack of a better word.
blckravn01: Well, Misha produced this.
Klonere: I'm sure we've all heard the new version of 'Passenger' by now, right? I mean, its nearly indistinguishable. It could be off the same album in terms of production; they are almost exactly the same.
Clarity: The album reminds me a lot of Born of Osiris in a melodic sense. I feel that they were going for a Born of Osiris sound, unintentionally perhaps, but in any case I don't think they really got it. They have these melodic parts that build up and don't really go anywhere.
'Eclipse' album artwork.
Comparisons to older works and technicality
Klonere: So who else has listened to Veil of Maya before? blckravn01 and Clarity haven't, Meowzer, what about you?
Meowzer: I am a fan of '[id]'. It sounds a lot different from '[id]', I think it has more in common with their stuff from before '[id]'. It sounds like a compromise between the two styles. And I didn't really like it that much. I really liked the staccato, obviously syncopated '[id]'. On this record, nothing really jumped out as being too memorable. There's too much layering in it: for a 4 man band with one guitarist, it's very busy. I liked how stripped down '[id]' sounded, it was a lot more melodic and dense.
blckravn01: I can't actually remember the song name off the top of my head, but the intro to it reminded me of György Ligeti's 'Lux Aeterna', and that is one of the only songs that kinda sticks in my head from this album.
Meowzer: I definitely agree that it's impressive instrumentally, when the album leaked on Spotify my drummer was listening to it to and saying "Wow, this is some of the best drumming I've ever heard". They pull of some amazing riffing as well.
Klonere: That's what I've always liked about Veil of Maya, the crazy techy stuff. I just feel that this album isn't as 'tech' as 'The Common Man's Collapse'. Everyone is saying this album is a lot more melodic and all, but he (Marc Okubo) used to write these riffs that seemingly just shouldn't work; they sounded so wonky and chopped up but they really did work and were amazing. Meowzer, you mentioned that whole obviously syncopated, staccato aspect of '[id]'. It should be really generic but it isn't. I think this album isn't devoid of those riffs, they just aren't as prominent a part of the sound anymore. And that removes a good deal of that uniqueness that Veil of Maya have.
Meowzer: Exactly, that's what impressed me so much, that they took this typical generic sound, that I hadn't quite gotten into when I first started listening to '[id]', and they made it totally memorable.
Clarity: Nevertheless I think 'Eclipse' is still a really nice album, it grows on you after a few listens.
Klonere: I really didn't like this one on my first listen, but after a while it really, really grew on me. I'm glad we had so long with the material, I couldn't imagine how harsh I would have been on this album if I had reviewed it after 3 listens! That said, I don't feel that there are any tracks that stand out. 'Punisher' and 'The Glass Slide' are good I guess, but there's no equivalent of 'It's Not Safe to Swim Today' and 'We Bow in its Aura' from 'The Common Man's Collapse', or 'Codex and Resistance' from '[id]'.
Klonere: For whatever reason, they always had those minute long crazy syncopation breakdown tracks on their previous two albums, and with the production of 'Eclipse' it sounds very much like a slightly heavier Periphery. Leading on from that, there is the title track which is also instrumental, but instead it's this huge big melodic piano-backed track with a massive soaring lead. I think that's the biggest indicator of a change in sound, that the breakdown track was replaced with that.
MonstaH: It feels as if there are no climaxes anywhere to be honest.
Klonere: It really does feel as if they are missing on this album.
Marc Okubo and Misha Mansoor being interviewed together by Guitar Messenger in December 2010.
Vocals and keyboards
Meowzer: Brandon Butler's harsh vocals, his screams especially, seem to be a lot "cleaner". He improves a lot on each album and here he's really solid. They've always done a small bit of layering, highs and lows together, it's a fairly typical thing. But here, they do it a lot more. It harmonizes really well sometimes, but for a four man band it just seems they do it a bit too much.
Klonere: The vocalist has really improved a lot across the three albums for which he's been with the band. I really respect the fact he never used much layering at all on any of the albums despite the fact that it's extremely commonplace in deathcore to do so (Emmure et al.). I don't know if it was a production decision or a decision from the vocalist himself, it's always very straight up - this is what it's going to sound like live as well.
Meowzer: Layering is, as you said, trying to cover up shoddy vocal work. It works here and isn't too offensive though.
blckravn01: We are all hearing Misha on this, his trademark sound. He seems to be a very strong personality to have on your record because he always seems to change the sound of a band. Look at the difference between the two Animals As Leaders albums. The sound is definitely much evolved from what I remember of Veil of Maya and what I know of Periphery's sound.
Meowzer: There are just a few more ambient, electronic elements in this.
Klonere: On '[id]' you can definitely find them playing around with keyboards. Like on 'Resistance', we've got a big breakdown with keys into this synth melody, which was very cool. But on this album, there is a lot more of that stuff and I guess that's where all the Born of Osiris comparisons come from. What do you think about the use of keyboards on this album, do you think it's due to Misha's influence, or is it a growth from the last album?
blckravn01: There are keyboards on the album?
Klonere: Ok, so there aren't any Dream Theater style unison keyboards or keyboard solos.
Meowzer: There's a lot of synth on the album I guess, more so than "keyboards", at least in comparison to their older work.
Klonere: It was really minimalistic before, like, on two songs for 30 seconds or whatever. If you didn't notice it then as a first time listener, someone who wasn't a fan of Veil of Maya before, the keyboards aren't a big deal.
blckravn01: I remember lots of clean guitar, layered guitar and all. I don't remember going "Oh, keyboards!"
Album artwork for '[id]', Veil of Maya's previous full-length album.
Bass and production
Klonere: On '[id]' I was really impressed with a lot of the bass work, which was kind of shocking, since a lot of tech death just erases bass from the mix and no-one cares. On '[id]' there was a lot of counterpoint bass work going on, even parts where the bass was almost the dominant instrument, like 'Namaste' for instance. What did you guys think of the bass on 'Eclipse'?
Clarity: Was there bass on the album?
blckravn01: To me it sounded like typical djent bass, just following the guitar at perfect octaves.
Meowzer: Like I said, Bulby. If you wanna hear bass on Periphery you really have to listen. I don't think they reined back on it as much as layered the crap out of everything else. I just don't hear it.
Klonere: We've touched a lot on the "Bulby" production, do you think it's a good thing or a bad thing overall?
blckravn01: It depends on how much work Misha does, he might end up homogenising the whole scene.
Klonere: Misha, I love you, Periphery is awesome, I adore Racecar, but dude. Everything you produce sounds the same. I mean, Stray from the Path is the exception I guess, but you can definitely hear the signature drum production there. An Obscure Signal, this, the Born of Osiris demos for 'The Discovery', the new version of Passenger etc.
Meowzer: The first Animals As Leaders album sounds kind of different.
Klonere: But it doesn't sound... good.
blckravn01: Again, if you listen to Animals as Leaders' self-titled and 'Weightless', you can definitely hear Misha's influence on the former.
Songs and accessibility
Klonere: Are there any stand out songs for anybody? This is the problem I have with the album, I've already mentioned it, I think we all have, there aren't any 'wow moments'.
blckravn01: When I was listening to it, it felt like all the songs moved together, like a connected album. The short length of the songs added to that.
Clarity: I liked 'The Glass Slide' and the second track, 'Divide Paths'. But I think 'Numerical Scheme' is my favourite, it's more melodic than the others, I think it stands out more.
Meowzer: 'Punisher', because of the sample at the end.
Klonere: MonstaH and I think that the 'Glass Slide' is the best, there's the section in the middle with a breakdown and big vocals going across it, with the title of the song. It sounds very epic and is pretty memorable. It's something that sticks in my head anyway.
blckravn01: I'm going to say '20/200' because all I remember thinking was how much it sounds like Lux Aeterna. It was the only thing that sticks in my mind.
Klonere: To start wrapping up, I would have to say that this is really slickly produced and is quite accessible, compared to their older works, would everyone agree with that?
blckravn01: With Misha's touch on it and Periphery being one of the most popular bands in the scene, it kind of rubs off.
Veil of Maya's current lineup: Sam Applebaum (drums), Brandon Butler (vocals), Dan Hauser (bass) and Marc Okubo (guitar).
Clarity: It sounds too much like Born of Osiris to me, and not as good. At first I was not impressed at all, but it grew on me and now I would give it a 7/10.
blckravn01: Well produced, melodic, not too overbearing, not too much of an acquired taste. Kind of lacking in catchiness, and nothing really stands out. I'd give it an 8/10.
Meowzer: The words I'd have to use would be 'Bulby' and generic, but definitely accessible. it sounds more "djenty", if we aren't going to be afraid of the D-word. Instrumentally it's all very layered, it'd probably be pretty interesting to someone who has never heard Veil of Maya before. I'd give it a 7/10.
Klonere: As someone who has been a fan for a while, on this album they've tightened up their sound and matured from '[id]'. It seems like they have become slightly more generic in the process though, they've lost that identity that they had in the over-saturated world of tech metal and deathcore. Still, a very solid and listenable album with good moments. 7/10.
MonstaH Well produced, accessible, not as memorable as older albums, guitars very 'Bulby', a bit short. 7/10.
breakdown was unable to participate, but he also provided us with his remarks:
breakdown: It's quite good and enjoyable if you haven't heard the band before. It may be a bit disappointing for die-hard fans (mainly due to Misha's influence on it), but in general it's a pleasant album. Some tracks are good enough to make them stick in your head just after a couple of listens, like the underlying riffs of 'Punisher'. 7/10.
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