Coming into their fifth album, "Matriarch", VEIL OF MAYA were faced with no singer. Recruiting Wisconsin native Lukas Magyar to take over for Brandon Butler, VEIL OF MAYA strips down a bit, from the previously detailed instrumentation to Butler's hard vocals. The band focuses on relatively less technicality and more clean singing. Thus far, fans are divided in their reception of "Matriarch".
The 1:55 opening number "NYU" finds Lukas Magyar barking away and the band chucking ratchet grooves, bass bombs and floating electronica. Magyar continues to holler his guts out and Marc Okubo taps breakdown-mirroring guitar blats on "Leeloo", nearly getting lost within the engulfing keys. If you're a longtime VEIL OF MAYA fan, so far, so good. It's when "Ellie" comes along where the new Magyar era begins to separate itself from lineups past as the clean vocals manifest within the honeyed (though hammered-down) choruses to offset the ralphed-up verses and noisome guitar stitches.
"Lucy" picks up the speed and the methodological madness that's been a part of this band right down to Danny Hauser's tumbling bass notes. Yet the counterweighing choruses and a sugar-sweet progression lead to an equally gooey clean vocal part, though Lukas Magyar woofs his way through most of the ride. "Mikasa" found veteran fans throwing darts for its interceding clean parts, despite most of the song running amok like the band with their hair set on fire. The same method applies on "Aeris", a song which strikes a glaring case of identity crisis between its bit-grinding chaos and melodious emocore. At least Magyar bulls straight through the heavy-heavy "Phoenix" and he takes only minute dips into cleans on the concussive "Teleute".
In comparison to albums past, the emo-glistened cleans and emphasis upon harmony versus VEIL OF MAYA's usual frenzied grind is a dicey maneuver that only works due to the band's encompassing performances. Kudos especially to the theatricality of the instrumental title track, which really shows what astute musicians VEIL OF MAYA are.
The finessed cleans of Lukas Magyar bring a previously-unexpected sense of order and control to VEIL OF MAYA's rampant mania. Yet the decision by the band to doll up their songs in a presumed response to the success of tuneful metalcore acts like ALL THAT REMAINS is ballsy to a fault, no matter the excellence of the playing. Magyar's dynamics are an asset but overused. Yes, VEIL OF MAYA strives for growth on "Matriarch", but they take perhaps too bold a step away from their core identity.
Let the fans be the judge of this one-eighty verve in the VEIL OF MAYA camp.