Veil Of Maya

support Betraying The Martyrs + Vildhjarta + Structures + Volumes
author AP date 16/05/12 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Apologies for this article's lateness - exams have prevented me from bringing it to you any sooner. It describes a well-selling show at Pumpehuset featuring some of the most prominent purveyors of the "modern metal" movement, which encompasses metalcore, deathcore and djent. Read it below.

Volumes

Volumes are well underway by the time the queue outside dissipates, so my evaluation of the quintet is based solely on the latter half of their set, which consists of "Wormholes" and "The Columbian Faction". Already the crowd is passionately involved in the proceedings, and despite the fact that most of the band members are visibly stoned following a tour of Christiania earlier in the day, they are feeding off this energy to deliver an equally frenetic performance. Granted, most of the movement happens center stage, where dual vocalists Michael Barr and Gus Farias are taking turns screaming intently into everybody's faces and driving the crowd into moshing, jumping and headbanging by example. Sadly the sound engineer is not functioning to the best of his capabilities, which ensures that almost none of the atmospheric melody that is so important in the band's music given its otherwise thick and uncompromising nature can be distinguished from the mix. It's a shame because Volumes are clearly a decent live act and possess a collection of solid metalcore/djent songs worthy of a listen.

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Structures

Strangely Structures are not billed on the venue's website alongside the other bands, so there is some confusion as to whether they have plans to perform at all tonight. But such suspicions are completely unfounded, as they take the stage promptly after Volumes warp things up. The presence of two guitarists, as opposed to Volumes' one, bodes well for me, promising at the very least a layered soundscape. But even though no one could accuse Spyros Georgiou and Brendon Padjasek of lacking talent for handling their seven-string guitars, Structures' set is plagued by a number of problems. First: the sound engineer must not have thought Volumes bass-centric enough as it was, as now literally the only things that are audible most of the time is Andrew McEnaney's pounding of his drumkit and Spencer MacLean's punishment of his bass - only during dual-harmonic bridges where the other instruments are laid to rest does the interplay between Georgiou and Padjasek pierce the wall of sound. Second: while Structures have the ability to play extremely technical stuff on their respective instruments, they lack the knack for doing so in the context of functional songs. Indeed, the songwriting is, to me, the band's greatest setback, as all four songs played tonight sound like a patchwork of small incompatible parts with no seamless transitions. Sure, the breakdowns are heavy - enough to provoke the front of the audience into some pit action - but until Structures develop an ability to write actual songs, my interest in them will not persist.

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Vildhjarta

For much of the audience here, Vildhjarta are undoubtedly the main event. And who can blame them with a performance this electrifying? Not only have Vildhjarta mastered the art of playing djent in the classic way, as prescribed by Meshuggah; they do so with incredible finesse and attention to detail. From the ominous light show and the performance dynamics - such as vocalists Daniel Ädel and Vilhelm Bladin always retreating to the background during an instrumental part, thus focusing the spotlight on Daniel Bergström, Calle Thomer and Johan Nyberg on seven-string guitars and bass, respectively - to the macabre obscurity of their music, Vildhjarta enfold the venue in silence and darkness for the entire duration of their set. It is of course a huge bonus that their music is, subjectively speaking, the most complex and interesting of the five bands billed, so that listening to songs like "Dagger", "Shadow", "Eternal Golden Munk" and the brilliant "All These Feelings" is a hypnotic experience in its own right. The sound engineer has also awoken from his lull, ensuring that no intricate detail goes unnoticed.

There really is very little to say about Vildhjarta that does not drown them in praise. Their songs are predominantly in the slow-to-medium tempo range, which does not facilitate a frenetic performance as such, but by using the nature of their music to their advantage, Vildhjarta are able to conjure up an atmosphere unlike any of the other bands on the bill; an atmosphere which earns them the most enthusiastic response of the night thus far.

Betraying The Martyrs

This French sextet, comprising screaming vocalist Aaron Matt, keyboardist/clean vocalist Victor Guillet, guitarists Baptiste Vigier and Lucas d'Angelo, bassist Valentin Hauser and drummer Mark Mironov, represents the most conventional style of music tonight, mixing the well-worn genres of deathcore and metalcore into a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure with clearly defined clean refrains. What separates the band from the lot, however, is the nigh inexhaustible amount of energy they dispel, with Matt in particular coming across as a psychotic splice between Rammstein's Till Lindemann and letlive.'s Jason Aalon Butler. Towering over the audience on his monitor, he looks like a straight loon, frantically waving his arms, contorting his face into demonic expressions and exposing the full white of his eyeballs whilst delivering a harrowing set of high-pitch screaming over the band's melodic, yet brutal music. So where Betraying the Martyrs lack in originality and variety, they fully compensate with the most intense performance of the night - one which is sure to earn them live infamy in the years to come.

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Veil Of Maya

The stage looks rather bare with Veil of Maya on it, having just witnessed three six-member bands, even with Dan Hauser's humongous seven-string bass. But although Veil of Maya have just four members to work with, there is something oddly enticing about their performance, even despite its largely static character. For it takes a certain level of expertise to be able to move and jump around like Marc Okubo does, when you're delivering impossibly complex arpeggio-based melodies with your guitar at the same time; just as it takes a certain level of charisma to be able to interact with the crowd as casually and warmly as vocalist Brandon Butler does. Sound quality is of course of the utmost important to the quality of a Veil of Maya show given the progressive, melodic nature of their music, and thankfully the sound engineer seems to have turned all the right nobs right now, because songs like "Punisher", "Dark Passenger" and "We Bow in Its Aura" sound like pure gold - achieving the perfect balance between the heavy and the pretty.

But having just witnessed the grandeur of a Vildhjarta show and the intensity of a Betraying the Martyrs show, it is easy to spot the weaknesses, both in the performance and music of Veil of Maya. The songs, though impressive in terms of technical prowess and pleasantly focused, do have a tendency to not sound too distinct from one another. The most striking songs are those taken off the latest album, "Eclipse", which was co-written by Periphery's brainiac Misha Mansoor, while the older tracks blend into each other when played in rapid succession. Never does Veil of Maya manage to parallel the kind of madness shown by Betraying the Martyrs when it comes to performing, either - Okubo and Butler are the primary eye magnets - but on the other hand, most of the audience seems to agree that Veil of Maya are playing to the best of their capabilities and doing very little wrong.

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Photos courtesy of Rasmus Ejlersen

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