You are on a quest. It began long ago, and the eve of its third year draws nigh. Twice before on your journeys, you have found yourself hopelessly lost, utterly outnumbered, and gasping on the verge of defeat. Your spirit sinks as you realize that, for a third time, certain doom is at hand.
But do not abandon hope! For in those desperate hours twice come and gone, a mysterious stranger plucked you from the grip of destruction and set you on your path again. Was it a wizard? A mighty warrior? Some ancient, unnamed god overseeing your quest? You cannot say for certain, for as soon as you are saved, the stranger is gone, existing only in the shadows of memories. Now, as you are once again beset on all sides by foes, demons, and darkness, you know your only hope is in the hands of your faceless savior.
And that’s when I’ll mercifully end the overblown metaphor. It’s not a terribly accurate (or good) one, but for me it’s somewhat representative of Veilburner’s yearly intervention in my listening habits. The Pennsylvania duo received high praise for their 2014 debut The Three Lightbearers, and, being as oddly indescribable as our shadowy stranger, it gave me the healthy dose of weird I’d been needing at the time (be sure to revisit Herr Molenaar’s excellent interview with the band shortly after the release). But alas, the ebb and flow of my listening habits allowed The Three Lightbearers to fall out of rotation and into the shadows. Then, just when it seemed like I needed it the most, Veilburner unleashed 2015’s Noumenon and violently reminded me what I loved most about the band: aggressive, visceral metal with freakish experimental tendencies.
And now we come to 2016’s The Obscene Rite. The new album completes a conceptual trilogy exploring transhumanism, ghastly experimentation, nihilism, and an unholy quest for immortality, and the music sounds every bit like the subject matter. In what genre does Veilburner fit, you ask? Shut up, I respond. Categorization doesn’t matter much here, but a twisted combination of death, black, and industrial metal may be your closest reference. For those familiar with them, the band has stated that they intended to combine elements of the first two albums for The Obscene Rite in order to give the trilogy a cohesive feel from beginning to end. They succeeded in style, and Veilburner once again proves they have the songwriting ability and conceptual prowess to deliver a cohesive, yet bizarrely far-reaching album.
Similarly, we can see unifying threads running through the three albums of the trilogy. The wild keyboard sounds are just consistent enough to make the albums feel like a set, but they are just varied enough to not sound like the band pulls continuously from the same bag of tricks. We get a similar sense of pitch-bending and tonality-warping effects as we heard on Noumenon, but those ideas have a keener sense of balance with demented riffs, macabre vocalizations, and well-placed rhythmic anchors this time around. “Eucharist of the Breathing Abyss” and “Baphometic Catalyst” are easy and brilliant examples of riffs melding with keyboard madness to excellent effect. If the melodic riff paired with synth shortly after 1:30 in “Baphometic Catalyst” doesn’t make you want to abscond from reality and start a cult dedicated to John Carpenter, you may need to rethink your priorities in life. And that thunderclap in the middle of it sounds like it’s straight out of Super Mario Bros, and I absolutely love every second.
All in all, Veilburner have delivered another truly stellar product that caps off their trilogy with all the fury and flair you could desire. If you’ve had a problem with the use of a drum machine in the past, you’ll probably still have a problem. I personally think it fits the cold and mechanical aspect that partially looms over their sound, but I can see some taking issue with it. If not, this is exactly the Veilburner album you want. I’m very interested to see where they’ll go next; their sound seems to fit the grotesque experimentation that their lyrics reference, but I’m eager to hear what the duo does when they tackle a new subject with the completion of the trilogy. Until then, I don’t think I’ll forget the life-saving contributions of my mysterious savior this time around.
4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell