Veil of Maya will always be one of the original Sumeriancore bands, along with Born of Osiris, After the Burial, and to a lesser extent I, The Breather. Their brand of progressive metalcore/deathcore fused the djent goodness that had been originated by Meshuggah, and then popularized by then-labelmates (Sumerian Records) Periphery, with the more popular metalcore and deathcore trends of the time. Each of the abovementioned bands brought their own flavor to the progressive metalcore umbrella; Veil of Maya being the inclusion of complex chug patterns with odd-timed syncopated rhythms along with technically challenging riffs. Veil of Maya has always been a personal favorite in the metalcore subgenre, and I was chomping at the bit to take a crack at their newest record [m]other, a long-awaited record after 2017’s False Idol.
Records like All Things Set Aside, The Common Man’s Collapse, [id], and Eclipse were back-to-back hits and cemented VoM as one of the progressive metalcore greats. With the departure of vocalist Brandon Butler and the inclusion of new vocalist Lukas Magyar, Veil of Maya stepped into more melodic territory with 2015’s Matriarch though for many the inclusion of softer sections along with the addition of clean vocals came as an unwelcome surprise, and many accused VoM of losing some of their more aggressive tendencies. To be completely honest, while I enjoyed Matriarch and was open-minded enough to admit that the clean vocals on the record were handled with expert care, even a diehard VoM fan like me couldn’t help but draw parallels between the new direction of the band with fellow progressive metal juggernauts, Periphery. It is for this reason that I largely let their follow-up False Idols slip through the cracks and continued to have their earlier records on heavier rotation than their newer work.
Fortunately, their newest record [m]other does make great strides in fusing the older sound with their newer elements along with adding a couple of new twists and turns to give us a hefty slab of chonky progressive metalcore with electronic elements to give the record a little extra zing!
In classic fashion, this record kicks us off with an off-kilter chug fest with “Tokyo Chainsaw”. Expecting the track to be a prime VoM progressive instrumental opener like “Wounds”, “[id]”, “20/200”, “Nyu” etc. the inclusion of vocals on “Tokyo Chainsaw” makes the opening track caught somewhere between a full-length track and an intro snippet. This track brings plenty of heavies with the continued use of low-tuned extended-range guitar riffs as VoM sticks to its move to seven-stringed guitars from the six-stringed insanity that put them on the map on their first few records. Following the intro we are entreated to “Artificial Dose”, a track that is both an instant smackdown with its industrial-noise-laden intro chug and countered with probably the poppiest chorus and back again!
As a critique of popular music release trends, I wasn’t able to enjoy the singles “Godhead”, “RedFur”, and more importantly “Synthwave Vegan”, not because they are not winning tracks, but merely because I wore down their playtime so much in the lengthy wait between releases, that I tended to skip the track entirely while doing the legwork for this review. A further grievance was VoM’s decision to not include “Members Only”, “Outsider”, “Viscera” and “Outrun” on this record; a couple of amazing VoM tracks that will forever be lost in the limbo of single releases.
Back to [m]other, we are treated to more fusion of older riff-salad Veil of Maya and newer synthwave-y VoM on “[re]connect”, featuring classic Okubo noodle riffs and heavy “where’s one?” breakdowns along with synth-altered clean vocals rendering just the right amount of retro-futurism as is highlighted by the album art. The Synthwave boys over at Carpenter Brut and Kavinsky would be proud! In a similar vein, “Disco Kill Party” takes all of these elements and ramps all the trop knobs to eleven! While many will like this chaotic iteration of the songwriting process, I found it to be a little too jarring, with some of the intensity bordering on night core silliness. Thankfully, the kinda-sorta title track “Mother Pt. 4” eases up off our necks with at least a few seconds of more ambient wave vibes before kicking us right back into the sumeriancore insanity. However, much to my disappointment, many of the rhythms and drum arrangements have become a tad too overused at this point, and felt a wee bit lazy, which is antithetical because this overuse only occurs at the high-octane sections.
Fortunately, the title track is saved by the truly monstrous bridge breakdown featuring low-register gutturals that would make even deathcore vocalists blush. Speaking of deathcore, the final two tracks, “Lost Creator” (holy BlastBeats of Maya!) and “Death Runner” are immense throwbacks to older Butler-era progressive deathcore Veil of Maya at its finest and I sincerely wish they threw in at least one of these tracks earlier on the record rather than at the tail end when listener fatigue has already set in. The album closer “Death Runner” has enough spice in it to make an Indian blush, and letting you in on its surprises would be robbing you of the pleasure of self-discovery. It is proof, however, that Veil of Maya can still write nutty arrangements without compromising on grin-inducing groovy heaviness!
The title track exemplifies major critique with this new avatar of Veil of Maya. There is just too much going on at the same time! I levied similar criticism against the newest Periphery record, and I realize now that this is a recurring trend in the progressive metal scene, the inevitable feature creep! The race to include as many elements and influences into a single track/record causes some of these tracks to become unwieldy and oftentimes disconnected. While we can definitely celebrate the artists melding various often-contrasting genres and vibes, there is a point where the bloat overcomes listener usefulness and the tracks become too cumbersome and begin to crumble under their own weight. The result is that while the tracks are enjoyable at the time, very little of it is memorable even after several replays. The more stripped-back songwriting on older VoM records, were plenty complex with their polyrhythms and spider-finger riffs, but are still memorable even decades after their release. I fear that not many sections besides maybe “Synthwave Vegan” on [m]other will stand the test of time.
Even with my issues with the new VoM, there is no doubt in my mind that Veil of Maya is made up of four musicians who are absolutely crushing it at their chosen craft. Bassist Danny Hauser continues to wow us with his SEVEN STRING bass goodness. Unfortunately, his complete domination over the lower end is somewhat diminished on newer records with the guitars also dropping lower in tuning and increasing in strings. Drummer Sam Applebaum continues to hit as hard as physically possible while being perfectly locked in the pocket even in the most dizzyingly syncopated rhythm sections. Vocalist Lukas Magyar has probably had the most growth of all the members, and his vocal range on [m]other is truly awe-inspiring and he is giving Periphery’s Spencer Sotelo a run for his crown in the “throw everything at the wall” modern progressive metal scene. And Veil of Maya is nothing without guitarist and primary songwriter Mark Okubo. One of the most unique songwriters in the metal scene currently, he continues to dazzle us with versatility bordering on virtuosity, exploring every corner of his fretboard and getting every cent’s worth out of his extended-range guitar. His ability to dance between funky grooves, grandiose chords, and tech-death but not tech-death riffs is near unparalleled in the scene, for which he continues to be a major influence on this newbie reviewer’s own songwriting dalliances!
Veil of Maya’s [m]other is a dizzyingly dense package of electronically infused modern metal that expertly fuses old-school Sumeriancore with newer progressive metalcore trends, while still remaining distinctly unique in their near-unhinged intensity.
Overall Sound8/10 Very goodVeil of Maya’s [m]other is a dizzyingly dense package of electronically infused modern metal.
Songwriting & Lyrics8/10 Very goodIt expertly fuses old-school Sumeriancore with newer progressive metalcore trends, while still remaining distinctly unique in their near-unhinged intensity.