Veilcaste - Precipice review
|Release date:||February 2023|
01. Asunder Skies
02. Dust & Bone
03. Drag Me Down
04. For Us
05. Relapse In Reason
06. A Gasp Of Air
07. Empty Hell
There’s certain styles that I feel so innately predisposed to liking that it becomes hard to give enjoyable albums in said styles the appreciation they arguably deserve; it’s almost as if it’s too easy to follow a standard formula and make a 7/10 album in those genres. Sometimes you need a record that fails to reach that level to serve as a reminder that maybe it’s not quite so simple.
Veilcaste have been around in one form or another since 2010, although until 2020 said form went by the name Conjurer; perhaps the emergence of another band with the same name inspired a rebranding. Like the British Conjurer, Veilcaste operate in sludge metal territory; however, unlike the abrasive, unpredictable Brits, the Indianapolis outfit play a more conventional fuzzy brand of sludge, the kind that overlaps to certain degrees with stoner and doom. It’s this sphere of music in which bands can easily win me over with a few dirty riffs and powerful barks; albums such as Elder Druid’s Golgotha and Civilizations by Hollow Leg immediately spring to mind as recent records that offer nothing in terms of originality yet nevertheless satisfy. Veilcaste aren’t really doing anything different on Precipice, the first full-length released under their new name, so the question I’m left with is: ‘why am I not enjoying this?’
It’s not really down to that most fundamental aspect of sludge/stoner, the guitar tone; it’s not the most massive sound, but there’s enough fuzz and filth in John Rau and Brian Wyrick’s guitars to rise to the occasion. It’s not like they can’t write riffs either, between the ominous trudge opening up “Drag Me Down”, the nod-worthy groove of “Relapse In Reason” and the big lurching weight of “A Gasp Of Air”. There’s also some nice additional elements that pop up across Precipice; “Dust & Bone” stands out in particular for the more doomy, morose tone of the chorus, backing organ sounds and all, but the guitar solo in “A Gasp Of Air” and the nice evolution of the instrumentals towards the end of “Drag Me Down” are also among the standout moments on the album. On the surface, it seems like most things are in place, right?
Now, if I’m looking for something to attribute my muted feelings over Precipice to, it’s unfortunately hard to overlook the vocals. They’re performed in a hoarse barked style that’s pretty standard for sludge, but honestly, they just sound a bit flat and tired. It’s not always the case, but opening track “Asunder Skies” makes an unfortunate decision in featuring the word ‘aurora’ so frequently in the lyrics, as it’s not one that goes well with this delivery. I think something else that really doesn’t help is that there is a degree of tonality to the vocals that more extreme growls and roars wouldn’t have, but the tone often doesn’t seem to align with that of the associated instrumentals; see the likes of “Drag Me Down” and “Relapse In Reason” for examples.
At the same time, I don’t think it’s all down to the vocals; some of the execution of the songwriting could also be marked for improvement. I’ve not yet mentioned the song “For Us”; the vocals are particularly distracting when they first come in on this song, but the trudging, doomy, descending riff that the track is centered around becomes slightly tedious across its multiple reprises during the song. “Asunder Skies” has stronger components than “For Us”, but still becomes a bit of a chore to get through across its near 7 minutes.
It's a shame, as there are occasional promising signs here of something more than just a rote copy/paste sludge job; on top of the sullen melodies of “Dust & Bone”, the album also ends quite promisingly with its longest song, the spacious and nicely evolving “Empty Hell”. Still, those vocal issues, while not sinking Precipice to the extent that MNRVA’s debut fell flat last year, really don’t do Veilcaste any favours here, and as I mentioned in the MNRVA review, there’s too many bands producing competent genre efforts without such flaws, let alone the more musically ambitious groups, for a record such as this to get away with having these problems.
||Written on 13.02.2023 by|
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