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Review: Veil - Sombre

Label: Stellar Winter Records
Year released: 2008
Duration: 42:13
Tracks: 5
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: January 21, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating

Rated 3.71/5 (74.29%) (7 Votes)

Veil hails from Minnesota in the US, a land perhaps not so well known for its cold and distant Black Metal. With Sombre this two-man band has created something that should, on many levels, fail terribly, but instead provides a very solid and memorable slice of washed out depressive Black Metal.

The outstanding thing about Sombre are the melodies; each song has a main theme melody that drifts in and out of the tracks length, swapping roles with the vocals, and each of these melodies is intensely memorable and, dare I say, catchy. They are most often carried by a stinging guitar, sharp yet ever so sweet, but they are also presented by acoustic guitars, most notably on "Mater Maternis" (available on their Myspace page), which has arguably the most melancholic melody on the album. Each of these melody lines is the very essence of simplicity, consisting mostly of only several notes, but each of those notes is perfectly chosen and woven with the others, the outcome being one of consistent excellence. The feeling is overall quite similar to that of Alcest's Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde, but decidedly more metallic and black.

The rest of the instruments are also very minimalist, and this is a great strength of the album — when added together, this minimalism adds up to be more than the sum of its parts. The mainstay of the album is what I guess you could consider the rhythm guitars; a distant wash of white noise laden fuzz that spends most of the time strumming an open chord pattern while very rarely going into more traditional riff based sections towards the latter half of them album. This provides a strong feeling of being trapped in a snow storm, the swirling of white noise surrounding and blinding you as an aching melody echoes through to sooth you into a false sense of security. The drumming is also uniformly minimalist as well, with nary a fill or roll in earshot. My guess is that the one man band nature of the album (all music written by and all instruments, apart from some vocals from Thurisaz, are care of Stolzträger) contributes to this — the drums are just there, doing their job of keeping beat, speeding up and slowing down as the riffs dictate, but never being a driving force in any real sense. The bass is clearly audible on all tracks and warms the sound up considerably as the lows are kept and not EQ'ed out as they are in the icier Black Metal dirges of, say, Forteresse or Sombres Forêts, with who Veil have some musical commonalities.

Vocally, Stolzträger uses a standard Burzum-esque shriek that is drowning in reverb and mixed deeply into the tracks, giving it a sense of distance. It is quite effective, and, like the guitar melodies, comes to you through the swirling snow storm of the guitars, from no particular direction, menacing and evil in counterpoint to the calming melodies. The effect can be both unsettling (during the verses) and soothing (as when the guitar melodies take the fore). Lyrically, Veil are concerned with nature and the cycle of life, deference to the old ways, respect for ancestral heritage, and the warriors of old, and, given their association with the Pagan Front, you might expect to hear some NS themes. They rein it in short of that, staying instead with themes of pride and heritage from a naturalistic viewpoint.

The structure of each track is also fairly straightforward — the whitewashed guitars begin, then the drums, then the melodies, and then the vocals trade verses with the guitars. It is very non-traditional in that there are no choruses, nor bridges, and at first it feels a bit odd. But as you continue to listen each track opens itself up and you begin to pick small sections where the melody changes slightly, or develops into a minimalist solo (such as the end of "Resilience"), or an angelic keyboard line sneaks in behind the white noise. It is a very interesting journey of discovery.

So, as I was saying, this album shouldn't work as well as it does, especially given the "just there" nature of the song structures, but after several listens you quite simply find yourself captivated by the joining of the different simplicities crafting a well rounded experience. The end result isn't complexity, instead, it's as if all the simple elements have added up to create a different kind of simplicity that you are able to take enjoyment from on a different level. Well worth your time.

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