The Veils are one of those bands you sit back and ask that question: “Why aren’t they bigger than they are?” The London-based, internationally-touring group have seen the world and amassed patronage from international radio; cementing a loyal fan-base along the way – so why the lack of critical respect? It seems baffling the band has not registered harder in critical circles. Their live shows, fronted by singer Finn Andrews, are cathartic, dramatic and the stuff of legends. Consistently tagged alongside musical heroes like Nick Cave and David Bowie: that alone, one would imagine, would gain a certain kudos? The consternation and media apathy have not dampened the band, who are undeterred and resilient.
The life of The Veils has been far from smooth. Encountering line-up changes – Andrews left the U.K. in 2005 to tour solo; returning home to New Zealand he joined school friends Liam Gerrard and Sophia Burn- it led to a new lease of life for the band. Back in London, and with a new line-up assembled, Dan Raishbrook joined the fold with drummer Henning Dietz. Finn Andrews came in with rougher, experimental vocals and Nux Vomica, the band’s second L.P., topped many end-of-year lists. Sun Gangs (their third album in 2009) and 2013’s Time Stays, We Go received impressive reviews – but they were few and far between.
After extensive touring across the globe and new creative impetus: The Veils unveil their mightiest statement in Total Depravity. Current single Low Lays the Devil has been picked up by BBC 6 Music and defines the album: swirling, Steely Dan-esque keys, and clattering percussion. A funk workout with Andrews at his most determined and intense best. Boasting some of the most epic, grand-sweeping and biblical images you’ll hear this year: you get caught in the rapture and soul-moving guitar. Tight, exhilarating, and wild: it is a song that once heard, you will be damned to repeat ad infinitum.
Lead-off track Axolotl – whose video has just been released – puts one in mind of 1990s electronics has pulsating, pounding beats and a nightmarish, echoed voice – they sit with electronic glitches and driving percussive beats. Every element together creates something dizzying, drunken and exciting. Elements of David Bowie and Nick Cave come in but those influences are blown away by The Veils’ unique and astonishing aural assault. On paper, King of Chrome sound metallic and static but is one of the most emotive and fascinating songs (on Total Depravity). “He used to swim round naked with the fish” Andrews declares. Backed by a moody, bubbling electronic base and howling accompaniments: another mystical, shadowy and haunting song that will screw with the mind.
Here Comes the Dead, as the title might suggest, is harrowing in parts but comes with wisdom and impassioned vocals. “They’ll strike you down/right in your prime” could, in a musical sense, be applied to The Veils and critics’ lack of recognition and deserved applause. Total Depravity’s most vivid and emotive lyrics: Here Comes the Dead is among the album’s finest selections. Idoine & Iron casts more light and tenderness into the aural mixer. Aching, romantic strings are supported by plinking, agile piano notes. “Yeah, you wait for me”; “Care to ease my mind” paints possibilities of romantic co-dependency and need: Andrews’ voice is at its richest and most heart-aching. Do Your Bones Glow At Night could be taken as a lewd, sexual come-on. Strutting with blues guitars and a bold, fiery composition: one gets touches of The Black Keys during their El Camino period. Swelling, gorgeous backing vocals get hairs raised and contain a certain groove and sway. Everything together: Do Your Bones Glow At Night is shimmering, hushed and simply stunning.
In the Nightfall and Total Depravity ends the album. The former is gentle and slow-building. Andrews seems affected, thoughtful and burdened throughout: the song is almost an aural confession or sermon piece. Again, romantic and tender: it shows the band is confident and compelling when taking the mood down and aiming for the heart. Total Depravity aims for the loins and bones and does so expeditiously. Juddering, cosmic electronics build a song that has trip-hop elements – Andrews’ voice is at its most Nick Cave throughout. World-worn, smoky and dark-hewn: one will picture Cave as the song unfolds.
If the band has not quite received appropriate celebration for their previous albums: Total Depravity will surely change that. Balancing moods, subject matter and tones: it is a record that hits you instantly but reveals more every time you listen. The Veils have gone through line-up shifts and struggle but sound at their most galvanised, inspired and assured here. Ignore them at your detriment!