Veilburner – VLBRNR Review

Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull was my 2021 Album o’ the Year. It should’ve been Ferrous Beuller‘s as well, though I suppose it’s easier to forgive him his transgressions since he did award Imperative Imperceptible Impulse his crown. In any case, Lurkers was another installment in an almost unfuckwithable string of killer material from Pennsylvania mind-flayers Veilburner. Their sixth record in a mere eight years of existence, the too-poor-for-vowels VLBRNR, has big shoes to fill to live up to the standard set by Lurkers (and A Sire to the Ghouls of Lunacy, if we’re being thorough). But if history is any indication, Veilburner is more than up to the task.

Sick and twisted are Veilburner’s bread and butter, and off-kilter and occasionally dissonant blackened death metal is their vessel. Mephisto Deleterio conjures nothing short of excellence in his instrumental performances, and nothing about that excellence suffered in the year spanning between Lurkers and VLBRNR. Special mention goes to Mephisto’s drumming, which constitutes one of the finest kit performances I’ve heard all year. Meanwhile, Chrisom Infernium continuously improves as a vocalist, a clear development of skill and versatility evident in his repulsive retches and gutturals. On VLBRNR, his performance takes another step forward, featuring exaggerated cleans that sound like a tortured robot vampire in the best way imaginable, while his blackened rasps take on an even more banshee-like quality than ever before. As a team, Chrisom and Mephisto craft instantly recognizable songs that thrill, chill, and fulfill. Despite specializing in the weird and wild, VLBRNR’s songwriting is bizarrely memorable, an adept juggle of sharp hooks linking oddball effects and undeniably cool sonic manipulations together in warped harmony.

While there’s no contesting the memorability of VLBRNR as a whole, when vivisected into its constituent pieces, it isn’t as immediate or consistent as Lurkers. Case in point, “Burning the Veil.” Unfortunately placed in the center of the record, it fails to make a lasting impression—save for a positively contorted midsection—creating a five-and-a-half minute gap that saps a significant chunk of momentum without giving anything back. A rare misstep for the band, to be sure, but thankfully it’s a fluke. The only other detractor holding this back from the same greatness captured on Lurkers and Sire is bloat, served in small portions spread out across its fifty-six minute runtime. While VLBRNR falls within the mean running time of Veilburner’s discography, it sometimes feels notably longer as a result of these small moments where engagement is lost, either due to an overlong fadeout (“Unorthodoxagon”), a somewhat lackluster riff set (“VI (Vulgar Incantations)”), or an unnecessary interlude (“Exhibitionism in Limbo”).

With that said and done, even VLBRNR’s lowlights shine brighter than the highlights from Veilburner’s contemporaries. Correspondingly, VLBRNR’s strongest moments move mountains with ease. “Repulsed by the Light” is an insanely catchy bit of blackened death, with a devastating right hook flying into your jawline right at the peal of the bell. Combined with an equally ripping solo and some of the best cymbal work album-wide, this song is an easy contender for Song o’ the Year. “None So Hideous,” “Ruin,” “Envexomous Hex,” and lead single “Lo! Heirs to the Serpent” similarly kick ass, with gritty, zig-zagging riffs ricocheting between bendy leads and writhing electronic curiosities. One particularly effective bit of tuning materializes on an eerie solo in “None so Hideous.” In this segment, a lead guitar screams in tandem with some evil FX in such a way that the resulting combination sounds like either a fucked up guitar, a kazoo, or a haunted saxophone, depending on the spin and listening environment. It’s an awesome, endlessly entertaining construct, and a prime example of Veilburner’s skillful manipulation of their sound to do precisely what they want, exactly how they want it done.

As the dust settles, I realize how close I am to breaking the sacred score counter with my assessment of VLBRNR. Had I been able to cover Lurkers in the Capsule of Skull properly, I likely would have awarded it a 4.5 with pride. Now, with only a year between releases, it should come as no surprise that Veilburner couldn’t quite steal another score as lofty as that. The issues that I cited regarding bloat—and one glaring songwriting miscalculation—demand their due. Consequently, it is with a steely resolve that I hold back the coveted 4.0. But make no mistake, Veilburner are a force to be reckoned with, and VLBRNR is yet another strong exhibit of proof to that end.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: December 2nd, 2022

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