|Review: Fear of God - Within the Veil|
|Within the Veil|
Label: Warner Bros. Records
Year released: 1991
Genre: Gothic Metal
Review online: November 16, 2021
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
for:Within the Veil
Rated 5/5 (100%) (8 Votes)
The story behind Fear of God is one steeped in tragedy, both that of the band and that of founder and former Détente singer Dawn Crosby. After that band broke up, she took guitarist Michael Carino and bassist Blair Darby with her and started this project with the express intent of taking their sound in a darker direction. Despite this turn to more unfriendly and inaccessible sound, they ended up getting signed to Warner Bros. Records and were poised to become a big name in the scene, with their debut made to be something of a breakthrough release. Unfortunately, the deeply sad history of its founder left her a troubled and often destructive person whose temper and poor behavior would tear the project apart shortly after, leading to a new lineup and an ill-received sophomore album a few years later before she tragically died of liver failure in 1996. This all led to Within the Veil getting buried and largely forgotten, which is a shame not only because of the circumstances that led to it, but also because even now, decades later, it may well stand as the greatest work of Gothic Metal ever made.
At first glance, there's nothing about this that would support such a claim. The base of Fear of God's sound is the moody atmosphere and melodies of goth rock of the era with the attitude of something like Hole or maybe Concrete Blonde, which is all implemented in about the same way Paradise Lost and even Celtic Frost did, though not as doomy as the former nor quite as aggressive as the latter. This is both contrasted by and melded with the aggressive Thrash stylings of Détente, which are most evident in the harsher sections of opener "All That Remains" and the hammering "Love's Death". You'd think the shifts between the two styles would be jarring, but it all seamlessly fits together in a way that's logical and often emotionally resonant. This is partly due to the excellent guitar work, which can shift from chugging Thrash riffs to shimmering harmonies and moody leads at the drop of a hat, giving the songs a very consistent flow despite how many surprising turns they take.
All of that alone would merely make this a very good or even great album, though. What really sets this apart, really makes this a singular and affecting work, is Dawn Crosby's jaw-dropping vocal performance. Technically, she was never a very good singer, but then she never even tried to do that, initially leaning on a nasty yell in her Détente days and further developing it here to be meaner than before while giving it more emotional depth than before to fit the tragic and deeply personal lyrics found throughout. With this she mixed in moans, mutters, intones, croons, and every other approach imaginable, often multitracking herself to do many of these all together in a way that sounds like she's giving her personal demons a voice to express their anguish and despair. At first, I didn't really know what to make of it all, as I've heard similar attempts at this style and felt it made the same mistake of cluttering the music, but I eventually realized that Dawn doesn't so much lead or even support the album with her eclectic style as she does encompass it. Whether she powers it out on tracks like "Drift" and "Diseased" or slips more into pained reflections as on the pseudo-single "Emily", the claustrophobic "Red to Grey", and the frightening, moody album highlight "White Door", her performance gives this album a bitter, sometimes genuinely upsetting atmosphere that many bands have aimed for, but very few have ever really reached.
The iconoclastic nature of Within the Veil makes it hard to say how big Fear of God would have gotten if they didn't fall apart, especially when it was released the same year as seminal albums like Gothic and Slow, Deep, and Hard, and with Gothic Metal as a whole leaning more towards the smoother realms of Delain these days, it's hard to say just how much influence it had overall. Still, it remains an individual and deceptively arresting release that invokes the darkest places of trauma and self-destruction in a way that very few works overall have, and certainly not anything else in Metal that I can think of. This used to be difficult to find, but with Warner Bros. finally giving it a reissue some time last year, now is as good a time as any to give this masterwork the attention it deserves.
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