I must admit that, as I listened through The Human Abstract’s latest E1 Music release Digital Veil, I didn’t hear the work for what it truly is. The rapid-fire double kicks, syncopated beats, growling vocals, searing guitar tapping excursions, and in-your-face production tricked my senses and led me to think of this record as a modern technical or prog-metal project. After about the third complete listen, however, I have realized that Digital Veil could be one of the most clever, stealthy, and complete combinations of American metal and European classical music.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’ve heard plenty of great classical-inspired metal albums throughout the years by many great bands from Europe and the U.S.A. What sets Digital Veil apart from the rest, however, is the crisp “modern American metal” songwriting style and production by Will Putney, who is credited with various production/engineering duties on brutal metal albums by Upon A Burning Body, Demon Hunter, For Today, and Suicide Silence, to name only a few.
The album’s first track, "Elegiac," begins with a classical guitar piece that develops into an epic full-band instrumental piece, but its lack of staccato phrasing and vocals give the piece an “album intro” feel. A quick peek at an online dictionary cracks the code, though, and provides some insight to the technical nature of Digital Veil. Not only does the word “elegiac” refer to a sorrowful elegy-like verse, but also it notes a couplet the first line of which is a dactylic hexameter and the second a pentameter. That’s the kind of clever band we’re dealing with here, folks. In fact, every time I listen back to this album I feel as though I’ve peeled back another layer.
The next two tracks, “Complex Terms” and “Digital Veil,” are dense, heavy, and full of big vocals and Lamb of God-style breakdowns. Shorter bursts of classically influenced guitar licks are repeated as riffs in many cases, and the vocals include a sparse amount of singing relative to the low growls. This is some very good technical metal that sometimes brings about an Opeth or Dream Theater feel while peppering the listener with the brutal, high-energy New Wave of American Heavy Metal sound.
The album’s fourth song, “Faust,” brings about a change of pace for the entire project. Although it takes off with a big metal feel, this track melts into a complex mixture of sing-along vocals, growls, and generally opens the album up. The next four tracks take the listener on a fantastic ride through crushing metal, classical guitar and piano breaks, more sing-along choruses, vocal harmonies, and non-stop surprises that prove this album to be a listen-through work and not a mere collection of good songs with filler.
Unfortunately for all of us, this album lasts only 37 minutes. I could enjoy a sunny afternoon in the hammock with at least an hour of this sound. The great thing about Digital Veil is that I’ve listened to the entire 37 minutes over and over during the last couple of days and still I find something new every time I dig into it. Eventually, I realized that The Human Abstract did not make a metal album as much as they tastefully mixed European classical music themes with the New Wave of American Heavy Metal sound. Take the challenge for yourself. Use your imagination during one of the guitar interludes and you can almost hear the notes of a Sibelius concerto rolling off Hilary Hahn’s fingers. Isn’t that what great technical metal is all about?