Veil of Maya – Karova Lounge, Ballarat, 11 April 2012

Veil of Maya

It must be hard being a young metal band trying to make your way in the world today.

For starters, you need to fork out hundreds of dollars for tats that cover both of your arms, not to mention the requisite outlay on hair product. Then you have the added difficulty of trying to walk around the stage with your jeans hanging halfway between your arse and your knees.

Ha ha ha!  Aren’t I an old smug ex-hipster wanker.

Seriously, I think I may have become the thing I always hated.  “Things were better in my day”.  “These kids are just ripping off old bands”.  “We used to mosh much better than this when I was young”.  More like “Help me mummy, I’m a creepy old man and my hair is falling out and when I go to gigs girls run away from me.”

But seriously though, I do think it would be tough being a young metal band.  The biggest problem, I think, apart from the old hipsters looking down their noses at you, is that just about every boundary has been pushed as far as it can go.  In fact, that probably happened about twenty years ago.  Drums couldn’t get any faster, guitars couldn’t be tuned any lower, vocals couldn’t sound any more demonic, album covers couldn’t get any more grotesque and lyrics couldn’t get any more offensive.  Or, at the other extreme, doom metal songs couldn’t get any slower or any longer.

Every taboo has been broken.  Every combination of styles has been tried.  Every time you come up with something you think is new, you google it and realise it’s already been done.  It’s just so damned hard to be original these days.

So what options do you have as a young band wanting to carve your own path and create something new? Well, you can just say “Stuff it!”, and rip off other bands or songs shamelessly and mercilessly.  The really tempting thing about this is that these bands are often the most successful.  Think Jet, Wolfmother and The Sword (although I quite like Wolfmother, but that’s a story for another day).

Another option is to just take some of that really extreme metal stuff that you really dig and just, well, do it better than it’s been done before.  You know, write better riffs and scarier, darker lyrics, and just generally take the whole thing to a new level of awesomeness, like Pig Destroyer did a few years ago:

Another option is to ramp up the weirdness and difficulty levels by getting really proggy or mathy in your music.  You know, that stuff that’s hard to tap your feet to, like Meshuggah or Gojira (who I saw for the first time here).  Only you have to be careful that ‘mathy’ just doesn’t end up sounding ‘random’, because that’s not a whole lot of fun to listen to (or play, I imagine).

Or you can take the final option and grab any metal subgenre, chuck the word “-core” on the end of it, and substitute screaming for whatever the old vocal style was.

Oh, please, that was a joke.  I really don’t want this blog to degenerate into some ‘my old music is better than your -core’ debate.

Deathcore bands do seem to cop a lot of criticism, most from older metal fans who think music from their day will never be beaten.  If you’re interested in the debate you’ll find it played out across countless YouTube clips and blog articles.  This guy is my favourite:

This pic pretty much summarises the arguments of the critics:

The argument against deathcore

But here’s the thing about the whole debate: IT’S FUCKING STUPID.  Both ways.  Deathcore is not as bad as the haters claim.   But it doesn’t represent a huge evolution from death metal.  It’s really not that different.  The vocals are screamier, the lyrics are angsty rather than evil, the production is better and the haircuts and clothes are different.  The two genres are so similar that I can’t see how you could like one but not the other, and getting all worked up and emotional about which one is better is just stupid.  It’s like debating 7-Up vs Sprite.  Sure, one might prefer one or the other*, but c’mon guys…

OK, now, onto the review.

Firstly let me say that, as someone who has recently moved from Melbourne to the country town of Ballarat, it was great to see Veil of Maya come all the way from Chicago to visit our little town and play a gig for us here.  And well done to Karova Lounge for booking them – it’s such a great venue.

One of the great things about Melbourne was that so many good bands play there every week, but that means you end up ignoring most of them and only seeing the ones you know and love.  In a smaller city you don’t have that luxury, which means that when a decent band does come to town you’ll make the effort to go and see them, even if you might have otherwise ignored them.  I’m hoping that is a good thing.

So, Veil of Maya: how were they?  Well, I thought they were excellent.  Sure, the lead singer looked like Scott Pendlebury, and they all looked far too trendy and pretty to be playing metal, but they sounded great.

The songs rock, the breakdowns work, and the use of samples throughout the gig was effective.  I loved the contrast between the melodic parts and the chug-chug riffs.  They sometimes layered one over the other and it worked.  They are a tight five piece, and the drummer in particular stood out for his speed and precision.

If you want to hear a sample of their stuff, well, this song is pretty good:

They didn’t seem to play for very long, so I’m marking them down a few notches on the set list rating.  The songs are quite short and the only played eight to ten so I’m not sure we got our money’s worth, although with attention spans so short these days and the challenging and technical nature of the music it is understandable I suppose.

I’m not entirely sure what songs they played because I’d never heard them before, but a quick search on the internet suggests the setlist must have looked something like this:

  1. 20/200
  2. Crawl Back
  3. Dark Passenger
  4. Unbreakable
  5. Punisher
  6. Pillars
  7. We Bow in It’s Aura
  8. It’s Not Safe to Swim Today

My biggest complaint for the night (and yes, this is the old man coming out in me) was the way the kids at the gig were dancing.  ‘Back in my day’ we used to mosh.  That meant jumping together in a tight group, pushing off one another, with some stage diving thrown in for good measure.  As Tom Araya said in Decade of Aggression, “If you see somebody going down, help ’em out, alright.  That’s what we’re here to do – help each other out”.

That whole spirit of camaraderie seems to have gone out the window.  Now the goal seems to be to clear as much space around you as possible by whipping your arms around so violently that if anyone came with a metre of you they would be knocked out.  There was even some guy jumping around doing some high martial arts style kicks that could have seriously injured someone if they walked into the wrong spot.  This kind of stuff means there is no chance of the group of like-minded metal fans coalescing into an amorphous mass.  You end up with little islands of angst rather than one sweaty, seething mass.  It also means stage diving is not really an option, and I’m sure it wouldn’t look as impressive to the bands on stage.  So if anyone out there actually reads this blog, please stop doing this – it’s annoying.

Anyway, Veil of Maya, thanks for coming to our little town and adding some awesome metal to an otherwise drab Wednesday night.  And to all you cynical old metalheads who dismiss this stuff off the cuff, you’re missing out big time.

Category Rating
Sound: 9
Set List: 6
Crowd: 6
Overall: 8

– Hazizi

* – 7-Up kicks Sprite’s arse

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