One of the things that I consistently tell people when they give me shit (which they inevitably do) about my taste in music is that you should call a spade a spade and like what you like without apologies. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have biases, however, and one of those biases that I have is against things that can be labelled as “metalcore” or “deathcore.” Since the early aughts we’ve been plagued by shitty record after shitty record from post-hardcore entities that have been passed off on us as the next big thing and that have ultimately felt sad and tired and not good. I recently ripped into Architects, for example, for being billed as ‘reinventing metalcore and themselves,’ only to produce an epic fail of a record.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I followed a link to listen to a live stream of the new The Human Abstract record whom I’d only, admittedly, ever heard of in the fog of the “metalcore” title. However, I thought that the description which was something like “a blending of metal with neo-classical elements,” sounded reasonably interested. And then it began; the record starts out with a beautiful acoustic piece which really sets the stage for the record which follows. Reminiscent of a piece by Vivaldi, “Elegiac” is a soft start to what is ultimately a combination of chuggy, progressive post-hardcore metal with a shitton of neoclassical guitar solos which rival the likes of Yngwe or Luca Turilli.
Fortunately, however, it is not just chuggy post-hardcore riffing. The band added a new vocalist by the name of Travis Richter who carries the screaming responsibilities as could be expected, but has a voice remarkably brit-pop in its tone and delivery. Adding this sort of Muse feeling, which actually shows up in the lighter parts, see the intro to “Horizon to Zenith” or the heavier parts like in “Complex Terms,” is a tremendously effective way to break what otherwise would be a monotony of stoppy, breakdownish riffs and progressive arrangements. His vocal performance was kind of the thing that convinced me that this record was definitely for real, because like so many other bands unfortunately haven’t been able to, The Human Abstract is able to walk the line between beautiful melody and raw extremity without the pieces sounding ham-fistedly jammed into the music.
That said, there are still some of the excesses of the -core genres that have make this record less-than-perfect. The tight, stoppy stuff sounds so damn fake. Going back to “Horizon to Zenith,” there’s this very jazzy riff that’s supposed to be a staccato performance that sounds like it was definitely recorded one note at a time and edited down to fit perfectly. The same kind of copy-and-paste feel to the editing shows up in “Holographic Sight” as well, and in a few other places. The record is also FUCKING LOUD, but I guess that goes with the territory, but maybe next time these guys consider avoiding the deathcore producer and maybe try to show off their musical talent in more acoustic and natural ways.
Still, Digital Veil is an excellent record. The blending between techy Meshuggahesque riffing, breakdowny riffing without the macho tough guy bullshit, Muse-style pop melodies and neo-classical showmanship gives the record a unique feel that I can honestly say I’ve never heard before. And it makes me happy to know that these guys are doing something of this magnitude that sounds and feels this damn good. I guess some people could complain, by the way, about the length of the record (38 minutes), but then ask yourself: how long is Reign in Blood? Do we really need an hour of mediocre music when we can have 38 minutes of excellent music? If you love neo-classical metal, djent, tech metal, metalcore, hell, any of the above, you should check this record out. I calls ’em like I hears ’em and Digital Veil sounds pretty damn good (even if one of the dudes in the band wears a fucking cocked baseball cap). Angry Metal Guy hath spoken, and it is good.