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Old 03-10-2011, 10:55 PM
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Talking The Human Abstract - DIGITAL VEIL

Quick version: HOLY SHIT. BUY THIS RECORD.

Long Version:

I was introduced to The Human Abstract a couple months ago, when I read guitarist A.J. Minette's columns on Metalsucks, here and here. I've played cello for years and years now, and had extensive experience in playing with orchestras and quartets. Classical music is one of my favorite genres, and reading his articles immediately reminded me of my old cello teachers, emphasizing not just playing a note, but putting all the possible emotion and passion into a note that you can.

I checked out Nocturne not long after, and the record blew me away with potential. Yeah, the vocals needed work and the production was muddy, but this was the closest thing to "classical" metal that I had heard. From reading other people's comments and reviews, I chose to not listen to Midhaven, since it lacked A.J. Minette, and apparently they ditched all their classical song structure.

Digital Veil is the true successor to Nocturne, the next evolution of The Human Abstract. A.J. Minette is back, as well as new vocalist Travis Richter. And Jesus tapdancing Christ, is it amazing. Lets get the bad out of the way first:



Yeah, thats some verrrrry average album art. This album deserves some BTBAM-level amazingness, like The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues.

You can't really hear the bass. At all. In any songs. Which kind of pisses me off. Scale the Summit recently put out an amazing new album, and that band sure as shit knows how to create an amazing interplay with the bass and guitars. That simply isn't here, which is sad.

And yes, it is only 8 songs. A mere total of 36 minutes. But, damn me if not every single one of those minutes is bursting with some of the greatest musical prowess I've heard in years. Anyone classically trained in music, or with a penchant for classical will immediately notice how mature Minette is in his guitar phrasing and song structure. It reminds me heavily of Mozart: he takes a baroque style and sends it on a crazy trip infused with heavy amounts of stimulants, with poignant and almost cute little twists to the phrasing. We heard potential of this on Nocturne, but this album is the work of a mature band, harnessing the crazy energy to create an amazing, cohesive whole.

For example, lets first look at the two opening songs, Elegiatic and Complex Terms. It opens up with a blissful, ethereal classical guitar duet to rival classical compositions. Building up to incorporate the full band, Theres a couple initial things I notice that continue through the whole album:

1. AMAZING Guitar tones. I can't get over how perfect they are.
2. Drumming is fierce and forceful; It sounds nothing like generic metal drums.
3. If you translated the guitars to classical stringed instruments, they aren't playing "metal". They're playing classical music. Which is inherently metal.

Fuck all those bR00T4L breakdown openings with hip, young metal bands nowadays; this was one of the best instrumental openers I've heard in years.

It moves to Complex Terms, with progressive structure flirting with classical enough to create an amazing bastard child of eargasmic awesomeness. And we get introduced to the new vocals... which are perfect. This is some of the best "original sounding" screaming I've heard in a while, with truly beautiful clean vocals interspersed. It reminding me of how much I love bands like Opeth, singing-wise. There is no -core here, kiddies! I think. Er... lets just continue.

Complex Terms begins this amazingly mature ability for THA to craft guitar riffs and melodies that are catchy, yet complex and progressive. Be honest: how many BTBAM riffs are just guitar noodling, not exactly crafting a cohesive "song" in a classical sense? Even if you took out the vocals, the songs would get stuck in my head due to me singing the melodies. Like Mozart.

Faust and Antebellum continue this similar structure and phrasing, yet constructing each their own unique melody, like movements in a classical orchestration. Faust is without a doubt my favorite off of this album, despite being the first song I heard early. At first I thought it was a great song, but I didn't really "get" it. I've listened to this whole album about 6 times now, and I "get" Faust. It grows new levels of complexity every time I hear it, with a breakdown that is actually brutal and meaningful, and a quick, tiptoeing ending that was ripped straight from Bach.

Other highlights for me are Holographic Sight and Digital Veil. Holographic begins with an eerie build up of dissonance, into a truly heavy breakdown. You need to hear the song within the context of the album of a whole: the breakdown means something musically, taking the song to a new place the "movements" of the album haven't gone to yet. Metalcore, Deathcore, crabcore... this makes all their breakdowns look like a 7 year old kid wrote them. The song reprises the build up halfway through, creating an almost scary vibe. Its hard to describe. Digital Veil is more of a traditional, "myspace" hit, beginning with a catchy breakdown and scream-along lyrics. But in a good way. THA has managed to take what should be generic, and created a beautiful new movement to the symphony of Digital Veil.

I shouldn't need to talk too much on Minette's guitar ability; its some of the freshest, best composed technical and prog riffs I've heard in a long time. Even the rhythm guitar is playing unique, well-composed parts during the solo, giving you the question: This listen, should I focus on the solo, or the rhythm? Or the drummer? How about I go through each, 3 times? An hour later, I'm still listening to the same song, yet not bored...

VERDICT:
Yeah, OK, last week I gave Scale the Summit a perfect score on The Collective. Which they rightly deserved for an amazing instrumental prog album. But Digital Veil... it hearkens me back to when I first became a hardcore Mozart listener, when the violin melodies got stuck in my head and I would find myself singing them in class like some fucking wierdo. Digital Veil is technical, progressive, classical, catchy, and brilliant. This is the result of metal when a true classical composer, Minette, sets out to create a concerto meant for full orchestra, yet somehow ends with writing the parts for guitar and drums instead of cello and violin. Its gonna be tough deciding which one of these is my album of the year, but Digital Veil is hitting me musically like I've never experienced. That is, unless new Opeth comes out, in which I will need to replace #1-10 of my list just for their album.

Without a doubt, I consider Digital Veil perfect. The positives far outweigh the negligible negatives I have. If you enjoy classical of any kind, or are a fucking prog metal nerd like me, or, Hell, you just like good music when you hear it, this album will make you cream your goddamn pants. Thats all.

10/10



As always, thanks for reading my long ass reviews, and please leave a comment with any agreements/disagreements/sonnets/love letters/death threats/general comments. I love you all.

Last edited by jd091; 03-10-2011 at 10:58 PM.
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Old 03-10-2011, 11:12 PM
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I've saw these guys in....2004 maybe, more likely 2005. So this is the band with the chello I forgot about, I'll have to look them up again
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Old 03-11-2011, 01:10 AM
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Originally Posted by vegantopher View Post
I've saw these guys in....2004 maybe, more likely 2005. So this is the band with the chello I forgot about, I'll have to look them up again
Naw, they're a straight up prog metal band. Are you thinking of Apocalyptica, the group of 4 cellists who cover thrash metal songs? THA is more classical then them, I would argue!
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Old 03-11-2011, 04:05 AM
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I liked it, but not quite as much you did. The guitarwork is spetacular and most of the songs are very good. The clean vocals became a little bit grating at times and I thought "Antebellum" dragged. Still very good album from a very good band.
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Old 03-11-2011, 06:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jd091 View Post
Naw, they're a straight up prog metal band. Are you thinking of Apocalyptica, the group of 4 cellists who cover thrash metal songs? THA is more classical then them, I would argue!
No, I've never seen Apocalyptica. I just saw cello and remembered back to the time I saw the Human Abstract opening for Winds of Plague in June of 2005 at some tiny ass hole in the wall called the Tiki Room in Pomona. It may have been another band one that bill, who knows, its been almost 6 years since then.
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Old 03-11-2011, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by mastodon421 View Post
I liked it, but not quite as much you did. The guitarwork is spetacular and most of the songs are very good. The clean vocals became a little bit grating at times and I thought "Antebellum" dragged. Still very good album from a very good band.
To each his own; I loved the clean vocals. Glad you enjoyed it overall.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vegantopher View Post
No, I've never seen Apocalyptica. I just saw cello and remembered back to the time I saw the Human Abstract opening for Winds of Plague in June of 2005 at some tiny ass hole in the wall called the Tiki Room in Pomona. It may have been another band one that bill, who knows, its been almost 6 years since then.
Wow... THA's first album came out in 2006, so that was a looooong time ago. I recommend checking this album out at least to give 'em a try.
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:34 AM
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Im not going to lie, this album blew me the fuck away. This is my favorite album of the year so far.
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:19 AM
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I liked this album but I don't really see the hype about it, I probably won't listen to it that much. the clean vocals also really irritate me, but I can see the appeal overall.
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by w00tasaurus View Post
I liked this album but I don't really see the hype about it, I probably won't listen to it that much. the clean vocals also really irritate me, but I can see the appeal overall.
Compared to their previous work, the clean vocals are awesome imo.
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Old 03-12-2011, 02:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by masterguy49 View Post
Compared to their previous work, the clean vocals are awesome imo.
Agree 100%

Quote:
Originally Posted by w00tasaurus View Post
I liked this album but I don't really see the hype about it, I probably won't listen to it that much. the clean vocals also really irritate me, but I can see the appeal overall.
It's prog metal cleans. Not some whiny metalcore cleans. And do you play any instruments? Because for us musician nerds, this album is pure guitar porn.
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