Veilburner – A Sire To The Ghouls Of Lunacy

Band: Veilburner
Title: A Sire To The Ghouls Of Lunacy
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Release Date: 28 December 2018
Country: US
Format Reviewed: Digital download

I once saw a quote to the effect that people sometimes use the term “experimental” music to imply something haphazard, thrown at the wall to see what sticks, when really a better description is “creative”. VEILBURNER’s own press release includes “experimental” among several descriptors to try to pin down what their style is. And that’s fine, but echoing the assertion above, and before any further attempt at pigeonholing this pretty incredible release into any category (a fool’s errand), let me say this to you, if you want to revel in exquisitely broad bounds of creative metal music, please do step forward. Come in, take off your shoes if you like, but that won’t be necessary. You may dance, you may groove, you may even thrill, you should though also be prepared to have your entrails ripped out of your chest and eaten in front of you, so… you know… you might as well keep your shoes on.

Leading in with an ominous ambience that could go almost anywhere, the opening track ‘Introvertovoid’ seems to have Duane Denison’s (JESUS LIZARD, TOMAHAWK) grubby paws on it, with its sickly twisted surf guitar. It’s a reference point that runs through the album, with tips of the hat to Mike Patton and Denison throughout. Don’t get the wrong idea though, barely a minute in you’re kicked head first into a black metal furnace of venomous blastbeats. If the opening feels like drinking a nice glass of wine on a transatlantic flight, it’s one interrupted by a giant reaching out from the clouds and violently shaking the plane for two minutes. It’s a great introduction to the album and a signal of the range of sounds and ideas to come.

There are many things to admire about VEILBURNER on this release, and one aspect definitely not to be overlooked is the vocals. As well as recognisable Death Metal and Black Metal tones there are passages of expressive emotive howls, none more evident than on album highlight ‘Panoramic Phantoms’. Not only, to my ears, the peak of this release, but one of the best metal tracks I’ve heard in ages. The descending riff is solid gold and regularly pushes to the front of my mind wherever I may be. Add to this the dynamics of the vocals and the operatic touches; the track has a presence and a catchy, heavy, epic feel to it that really grabs you by the gut.

And the hits keep on coming. The Black and Death Metal vocal interplay on ‘Agony On Repeat’ comes off like a troll and a demon dancing over a rotting carcass. There are some great, insistent guitar lines over relentless, hammering drums and the energy never lets up. Throw in the off-kilter, whammy laden guitar soloing and you’ve got the sounds of a mental patient in a gown, staggering down a hospital corridor with a bleeding head injury. In contrast, the strange waltz of ‘Abattoir Noir’ comes off like two charred hobos dancing around a burning rubbish tip at night in an abandoned train station. Nowhere are the MR BUNGLE and FAITH NO MORE influences more evident. Take away the death metal growling and heavy distortion and you could slot this into ‘King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime’ as one of the later operatic numbers.

Despite the many high points, my enthusiasm does dip in the middle. The title track is unquestionably propulsive, but there is a point when furious double bass drumming becomes too much for my ears. Breakneck percussion can be exhilarating, but mechanised super speed drumming doesn’t rip my nightie. If I’m going to point to any general negatives on this release, the drum tone, particularly the bass drum, is pretty flat and after a while feels kind of like getting slapped over the head, not like the brutal metal battery I might look for, but more like some aural Chinese water torture.

The transition into ‘Glory Glory Grotesque’ with what sounds like a creepy child’s music box played over ominous drones and hums is an interesting change of pace and tone. The track moves on to doomy crashing chords with an overlay of rapid fire drum fills. There’s a descending guitar motif that rises back up into a crescendo and a surprising bubbling electronic break reminiscent of the intro/outro to MUDVAYNE’s ‘Dig’. There’s something of an ‘Aenema’ era TOOL vibe to one of the later parts and the track ends with an ethereal fadeout reminiscent of Jesu’s choral transitions in ‘Heartache’. While the track feels a little weaker than the first four tracks, it’s hardly dull, or uninventive by any stretch, so it’s a mark of how high the peaks of the album are overall, that this section of the album should feel like something of a let down. And even though ‘Glory…’ and the previous track do mark a dip in my interest levels, they aren’t a rehash of anything else on the album. The creative flame does not dim at any stage.

Thankfully, the album revs back up for the final tracks ‘Upstream to Parallel’ a pedal to the metal, horse riding thrasher (where your horse is on fire and has a jet engine rammed up its arse) and the surprising spaced out stoner rock of ‘Where Torment Has Danced Before’, which lulls the listener into a pretty appealing, head bopping groove, before blasting into a head-spinning arpeggio with violent drum fills and vocals that reach up from under the table and grab you round the throat. A fitting way to end the album and a reminder of the caterwauling furry that’s been hammering you for the past 50+ minutes.

There’s just so much about this album to love, the incredible dynamics and textures and tones, the varied, powerful and expressive vocals, the inventive, ripping guitar lines, the furious, battering rhythmic power, and as a full listening experience the album holds together extremely well. Even when it dips a little, it’s never dull and not only do the band never repeat themselves from track to track, within each track too there are always several interesting shifts and transitions. Some of the very best, most engaging (and creative!) heavy music I have heard for a long long time. 9/10. Tom

 

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