When Brandon Butler left Veil Of Maya back in 2014 due to “creative differences” I figured the band would go out and find another vocalist with a similar vocal style to Adam Clemans, Veil of Maya’s original vocalist. Which is basically what they did when Brandon Butler replaced Adam Clemans when Adam left the band in 2006. At Knotfest in 2014, the band performed with their new vocalist, Lukas Magyar (vocalist for Arms Of Empire) and it appeared that they had found a new frontman with a similar style to Brandon Butler, higher in pitch but still a good fit vocally. In January 2015, Veil Of Maya announced that Lukas would indeed be filling the role as the new frontman and at the same time released the first single off their upcoming album Matriarch, called “Phoenix.” In March 2015, they released a video for the track “Mikasa” where the band introduced clean vocals for the first time ever, which of course, stirred up some controversy. Founding members, Sam Applebaum (Drums) and Marc Okubo (guitars) are joined once again by Danny Hauser on bass guitar and the brand new vocalist, Lukas Magyar. I’m not quite sure what the lyrical theme is on Matriarch but the majority of the song titles seem to be names of women, for example, “Daenerys” is named after Daenerys Targaryen from the popular book and television series, Game Of Thrones. Matriarch contains twelve new songs, was released on May 12, 2015, and is available through Sumerian Records. Veil Of Maya worked with producer, Taylor Larson (Periphery, Darkest Hour) in the studio and the artwork was done by Daniel McBride.
The first time I heard “Phoenix” I couldn’t help but think that Veil Of Maya was coming out with a slightly different sound, nothing too different but different nonetheless. It didn’t have that really technical style with just the right amount of “djent” mixed in that Veil Of Maya is known for. Instead, it seems that the technical playing has taken a backseat to way more “djent,” ridiculous over production and more breakdowns than a teenage girl. No big deal I thought, they’re just exploring their musical influences, incorporating new elements into their songwriting, and growing as musicians, but they’re still Veil Of Maya. Adding new elements to songwriting is totally normal when you’ve been in the game since 2004 and released five studio albums (including Matriarch). Writing the same record over and over gets old pretty quick for both musicians and listeners alike. The next track I heard was “Mikasa” when they released the video in March and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Clean vocals?! Veil Of Maya doesn’t do clean vocals! I had to make sure some jackass didn’t upload a Periphery song with a Veil Of Maya photo onto YouTube. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t like it, not that the song or vocals are bad at all, it’s actually one of the best songs musically on the album. My problem with it is that it’s just so different sounding from the Veil Of Maya I became a fan of years ago when I first heard their amazing album titled, The Common Man’s Collapse. Personally, those pop style clean vocals mixed with brutal sounding screams has never been my cup of tea, although there are a few exceptions, but that’s just my own personal taste, too each his own. On the instrumental side it’s still pretty Veil Of Maya sounding, just really polished, very digital and to be “djentle,” it’s over produced. The biggest and most impactful change to the sound is definitely in the vocals.
I got the full length fairly recently and Matriarch is a fairly solid release. For the most part, the new vocal style of switching from screams to clean singing is predominant throughout the album. “Phoenix” or maybe “Teleute” are the closest thing you’re going to get that is similar to Veil Of Maya’s original sound on Matriarch and even they have their differences. In fact, those songs almost stand out and seem out of place with their new sound being so different on the rest of the album. Matriarch opens with “Nyu,” a song named after the main character in an anime series called “Elfen Lied.” Nothing really special about this song, to my ears anyway, it’s basically just two minutes of off-beat breakdowns. “Nyu” blends right into “Leeloo,” Matriarch’s second track. And by blends right into “Leeloo,” I mean it’s basically just another song of breakdowns, still nothing exciting going on musically in my opinion. Now, if you’ve read my reviews before you know I like a real headbanger to open up any record and it takes all the way up until the third song on the album, a track called “Ellie,” for the interesting music to finally start. “Ellie” is musically what we’ve come to expect from Veil Of Maya, really precise drumming, technical guitar riffs with interesting melodies, unexpected tempo changes, just the right amount of “djent,” the only thing that really sounds different is the vocals but I was ready for it this time, still not my cup of tea, but not such a shock to the system when I was expecting it. I will admit that on a few tracks like, “Ellie,” “Lucy,” and “Daenerys,” the vocals did grow on me over time and that the addition of clean vocals really gives the band endless possibilities of different directions to go musically. My favorite songs on Matriarch are, “Phoenix,” “Ellie,” and “Teleute,” which is just a relentless, face melting track.
This album sounds absolutely crystal clear but at the same time it sounds very digital. Like I said earlier, I’m not a big fan of the production, I prefer it to just sound like a really good recording of a band playing, but that’s probably just me getting old though. Sam Applebaum’s drumming on Matriarch is as badass as always. He absolutely destroys the kit on “Teleute.” Marc Okubo does some really tight guitar playing and wrote some pretty tasty guitar licks for Matriarch, he shines throughout the entire album as well. Danny Hauser adds the extra kick with the bass and with the crystal clear production it’s easier to hear and appreciate the bass more than ever. The new vocalist Lukas Magyar does a great job as well. His screams are brutal, really brutal at times, he’s pretty impressive to say the least. He lost me a little with his clean vocals. Not that they’re bad, they’re really good, I’m just not into that style is all but it grew on me a little on some songs. His vocals sound sort of similar to Spencer Sotelo’s (from Periphery) vocals, which makes perfect sense because Spencer worked with Lukas and helped with the vocal production.
Matriarch is a pretty solid record from Veil Of Maya. They took a pretty big risk and it seems to have earned them some new fans and lost them some fans at the same time but I’m sure they were expecting that. I’d compare their new sound to bands like Periphery, TesseracT, or even Textures, so if you’re a fan of any of those bands or that style, you will most likely be into the new Veil Of Maya sound. If you’re a fan of their old sound you will probably be either disappointed like me, or pleasantly surprised by Matriarch. Personally it’s not my thing, I much preferred the old Veil Of Maya sound but my personal taste aside the musicianship is really well done and the track list has a great structure, from start to finish it has a nice flow to it and it doesn’t get boring. I really wanted to like this record because I really am a fan of the old Veil Of Maya sound but it’s just not for me. You might think it’s a change for the better and that this record is badass, so do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself. I give Matriarch 663/666 horns because It’s a good record musically but I feel like they sold out a little by switching to a more radio friendly sound and the production is just too much. Veil Of Maya seems to be heading down the more pop infused metal path that is becoming more and more popular nowadays and I for one am not a fan of this change but you should judge for yourself, everyone has different taste in music after all. You can pick up a copy of Matriarch through the Amazon link on the sidebar or by clicking the link below.
Rating: 663/666 Horns
Shawn “Short-Fuse” Carter