2015 has already proven to be a big year for music and still has quite a bit in store as we near the halfway point of the calendar year. However, this album, in particular, Veil of Maya‘s fifth studio album, Matriarch, has quickly taken a spot as one of the best metal albums I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Sumerian Records is quite the musical powerhouse with signed talent such as Asking Alexandria, Periphery, Upon a Burning Body, and the talent of discussion here, Veil of Maya, amongst much more. With that being said, Matriarch has far surpassed any product that has come from Sumerian thus far, and that’s a lot to be said.
Chicago, Illinois metal band, Veil of Maya, has had quite the career since their forming in 2004. Adjusting through a variety of lineup changes, including the very recent departure of long-time vocalist, Brandon Butler, before the production of the album, Veil has managed to maintain a unique, syncopated sound. Largely thanks to the ridiculous, potentially legendary guitarist, Marc Okubo and the phenomenal drummer, Sam Applebaum, who have remained the bands’ constants since their inception. Matriarch brought a few things to the table that their previous albums have not. The introduction of vocalist, Lukas Magyar, brought along the inclusion of clean vocals for the first time in VoM’s history and, due to this, Matriarch sports a lighter sound in comparison to their previous efforts. I emphasize the ‘in comparison’ part because VoM has always sported an incredibly heavy sound, and this album does not change that; it just innovates it. As aforementioned, Matriarch is one of the finest metal albums I have ever listened to, and I stand firmly behind that statement. Veil has never been one to disappoint, but I consider 2012’s Eclipse to be probably their least enjoyable album (not to say I didn’t enjoy it). Eclipse just felt like a slight stray off the path of what made Veil so unique. The heavy sound was still intact, but it felt like it was flirting with the generic end of the spectrum, which their previous efforts, the marvelous [id] and Common Man’s Collapse albums, and even their debut, All Things Set Aside, did not do in the least. Matriarch offers everything that an album should be. It’s 12 tracks transition beautifully and contain enough of both heavy and melodic to make you want to punch babies and make babies at the same. Damn. Time.
Having listened to all of the singles released before the album, Phoenix, Teleute, and Mikasa, I was highly anticipating what was to come, but went into the experience with relatively high expectations, given I’ve grown to know what Veil is capable of. Having seen them live with Lukas Maygar before the release of the album was also enough to see that he was the perfect replacement for Butler. I loved the work Butler did with the band, but all great things must come to an end, and there was something even greater on the other side as they closed that door and opened this new one. VoM has already proven themselves as a respectable band in the ever-expanding world of Metal, but this album has displayed that their evolution as a band has reached an incredible peak, and I hope they stay there for whatever is next to come. Matriarch is a display of what makes an album perfect, and after countless playthroughs of the album, I still have not been able to dissect something that makes me second guess my initial and lasting impressions.
The transitioning of the album is one of its most noteworthy attributes. Opening with the ferocious Nyu was just confirmation that the pre-release tracks were not all hype, but they were just small parts of the incredible musical experience I was about to endure. Following up with Leeloo, we get a brief taste of Maygar’s vocal range, and we learn that this is probably going to be a consistent sound, initially suggested by the release of Mikasa. The way tracks 4 and 5, Lucy and Mikasa transition are a prime example of how well these songs are pieced together, like a puzzle comprised of the most metal things you can think of; kittens, barbed wire, and emo kids kicking and screaming in a mosh pit. Matriarch does that quite a few times, where the transition is so flawless, that the album sounds like a 32 minute, immersive musical experience rather than 12 individual tracks. Ellie is my personal favorite song off of the album, because to me it feels like it is a perfect blend of melody, vocalization, and just simply incredible song engineering that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Aeris, Three-Fifty, and the instrumental-only title track are amongst the rest of the musical beasts that comprise this album that will very likely be the bane of any other 2015 metal album’s existence.
As a band, Veil of Maya, feel more evolved and established than ever before. I realize that the only member I haven’t mentioned here is the bassist, Danny Houser (sorry, Danny!), but as a whole, VoM has clearly found their sound and reached a peak that many bands never find, or are incapable of reaching. The synchronization of them as a band both onstage and in the studio is incredible and is something that other bands should strive for. Marc Okubo is very clearly the heart and soul of Veil, gifting the band the unique sound that is as addictive as it is syncopated, but the band clearly shines as a unified group. Their newest member, Lukas Maygar, really steals the show on this album with the introduction of clean vocals to a band that has never ventured down that path at any point in time. His vocal range is crisp, expansive in both clean and heavy ranges, and a beautiful accent to the instrumentals that the seasoned members have engineered for Matriarch. Maygar has a lot of potential and despite my love for Butler‘s work with the band, I think Veil of Maya has found a sound that will take them much farther than they were previously capable of. I am the self-proclaimed Mike Portnoy of air drums, and Applebaum’s drums on this album are addictive, tricky, and very enjoyable to tap along to. The bass never gets enough credit, but Houser kept the rhythm rolling, with thunderous bass lines throughout the album. The synchronization, syncopation, and other ‘ation’ words are all well established on this fine-tuned masterpiece of an album, thanks to the four-piece powerhouse that made it.
One last thing about this album, is that it doesn’t sound like Periphery. There is an immense multitude of people sounding off about VoM being sell outs because they have clean vocals and this album sports a lighter sound than their previous work. Wrong. A band’s sound evolving does not make them a sellout, it makes you, the asshole complaining, a shallow minded douchebag who doesn’t have an appreciation for the creativity and amount of talent that goes into producing music of any genre, label, etc. And, yes, Spencer Sotelo of Periphery, had a lot to do with the decision of Maygar being VoM‘s new vocalist, but that does not make him Spencer. Their vocal styles and ranges are very different. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, so here’s mine. And if you’ve read other reviews where that was the case and stumbled across this one, please disregard what all the naysayers are ranting about and give this album a shot. I do not think you’ll regret it in the slightest.
Veil of Maya’s 2015 album, Matriarch, is a heavy hitting, fast paced, melody lathered marvel. VoM blew my mind with this album from start to finish with addictive vocalization, incredible riffs and basslines, and immersive drumming. This album functions just as well as a 32-minute composition as it does 12 individual tracks, and you’re making a huge mistake if you are both a fan of metal, and you overlook this album. Kudos to Lukas Maygar, Marc Okubo, Sam Applebaum, and Danny Houser for producing one of the finest displays of metal music I have ever had the privilege of listening to.