Probably the band on Sumerian Records that gets the most critical leeway (next to The Faceless), Chicago's Veil of Maya have a full slate in front of them for the year's first half. Currently on the road with In Flames and Trivium, also worth mentioning is the band's fourth album Eclipse, which will drop on February 28. Based on the success and bristling death metal elements heard on 2008's The Common Man's Collapse and 2010's [id], Eclipse promises to be an even greater boundary-pusher and should add to the growing debate over the bandís DM pedigree. It should also deal a massive blow to the bandís ill-founded reputation as being part of the current wave of ďdjentĒ bands. VoM is infinitely heavier and interesting than practically all of those bands, without question.
Phoning after the band's first tour stop in cold, blustery Detroit, singer Brandon Butler was quick to give Blistering the scoop on their current North American run, the new album, and much more. Here's what the easy-going frontman had to say...
Blistering.com: Youíve hooked up with In Flames and Trivium for this North American run. Itís a pretty diverse bill, so what do you hope to get out of it?
Brandon Butler: Itís a really exciting tour. Iíve been listening to In Flames for a long time, so itís definitely an awesome tour to be on. We started yesterday, so weíre getting everything together.
Blistering.com: How much time are you allotted?
Butler: Usually 25 to 30 minutes.
Blistering.com: With four albums worth of material to condense, what are you trying to work in?
Butler: Weíve been playing a new song from our album coming out, then the rest has been a mix between [id] and The Common Manís Collapse, trying to play as many songs as we can to try and keep people happy. Itís definitely hard.
Blistering.com: Coming out of [id], you were able to chart really well with it and do some extensive touring. How did you see the albumís success helping in terms of your development?
Butler: It went really well. There are a lot of fans that cling more to Common Manís Collapse than [id] and vice-versa, but overall, I think itís a pretty good album and was successful. Hopefully the new one will be more successful than [id] was.
Blistering.com: One of the cool things about [id] was the fact that you were able to write such a short, compact album at only 30 minutes yet still make it interesting.
Butler: Thereís probably one song on there that breaks four minutes. We feel like sometimes a song tends to drag when itís four minutes or longer. A lot of times itís harder to fit those kind of songs into our set. One of the more popular requests we get is ďItís Torn AwayĒ from The Common Manís Collapse, but itís four minutes and 45 seconds, so when we have a 25-minute set, itís one of the harder songs to play.
Blistering.com: With all the touring youíve done for [id], what type of live unit have you become?
I try to think that weíre better live and more impactful than what you hear on the album. Weíve had a lot of fans tell us that. We just try to make the live show real intense and more in-your-face than when listening to the album. We want to make it exciting and make people want to come back as opposed to people saying, "Oh, they were good but Iíd rather listen to the album." We always try to bring certain aspects to the live show that arenít there on the album.
Blistering.com: With this bill, both In Flames and Trivium are heavy, but there not as heavy as you, so that has to play into your favor.
Butler: I think weíll go over really well. It just matters how we perform live and which songs we play and we can grab the most peopleís attention for the 25 minutes weíre onstage. There are a lot of people who definitely donít have any idea who we are on this tour, so weíre trying to get new ears and fans. A lot of In Flames fans, especially, I hope we can get a lot of their fans into our stuff. There old stuff was heavier, and with Trivium, even. Hopefully the kids will dig the straight-metal side of us.
Blistering.com: As for the new album Eclipse, how does it stack up against [id]?
Butler: In my opinion, and Iím sure every band says it, but itís definitely the best album weíve done. The mix on it sounds really good; itís stronger, the bass is out more than on the other albums. With my vocals, I use more range. We had a lot more time to work on this album compared to the other two where we were touring and had a lot of deadlines to get those done, whereas with this album we had the entire summer to write and record the album in a month. I went to California to record vocals with Michael Keene [The Faceless]Öit was a real comfortable album and weíre really happy with it.
Blistering.com: Working with people youíre comfortable with like Mischa [Monsoor, Periphery] and Michael had to be beneficial, I would think.
Butler: For me, itís crucial. I like working with Michael and Iíve always liked working with him. Heís done the last two albums. As a vocalist, I hate recording in a studio, I think itís an awkward situation. People looking at you screaming into a microphoneÖitís not as real, you know? It has a fake aspect, but at the same time, thatís how recording is done. You really have to be comfortable who youíre recording with to be able to project what youíre capable of. When youíre comfortable working with someone, the whole album cycle just flows so much better.
Blistering.com: From a vocal standpoint, are you trying to new things?
Butler: With me, Iíd try to get different range with the screams and tried to make different vocal sounds than on the other albums. Some of the albums are straight-forward with a lot of high and low screams, not a lot of combination and I know that was brought up in a lot of album reviews Ė people wanted to hear more mid-range in my vocals. So thatís what we decided to work on and make more it more varied.
Blistering.com: What were you hitting upon lyrically this time out? Any particular themes?
Butler: Thereís no real themes and we like to leave our lyrics open to interpretation. Once you define it, then kids are going to go ďOh, so thatís what it meansĒ and it could be something not important to them. Lyrics can be interpreted in different in ways; some songs are personal and some more open. We have a song on the album about Game of Thrones, so we did another theme around a TV show like we did on the last album with ďNamasteĒ which was about Lost.
Blistering.com: Iíve never watched Game of Thrones, but my girlfriend seems to be into it.
Butler: Itís not exactly about the entire the show, but thereís this thing in it that has a white wall thatís defended by these people who are outcasts or criminals or bastard children. They go in and spend their whole lives by this dangerous white wall defending the country. Itís hard to explain unless you watch it [laughs].
Blisteirng.com: With all the fuss being made about djent and Sumeriancore, do you think youíll be able to stay a step ahead of the bands playing your style?
Butler: You definitely want to put something out that hasnít been put out in a style that hasnít been shown. Weíre trying to make it more intense, like a new sound for Veil of Maya, but keep to the basics. We still have every element in any other element, but we definitely took it to the next step. It has a lot more looping and effects from Marc [Okubo, guitars]Öit definitely sounds different from our albums and should hopefully separate us from the djent bands that are starting to appear. Actually, the whole ďdjentĒ thing is starting to take over the Sumeriancore word.
Blistering.com: With the new album coming out in February, whatís the touring load looking like? Anything planned for the summer?
Butler: We do have something planned for the summer, but we canít say anything about it at the moment. Weíll be doing a pretty good tour in the summer coming up [laughs].