With only a mere ten track and twenty-eight minute-long final playing time, Veil Of Maya's fourth full-length, "Eclipse," straddles the line separating a full length from an E.P.. Therefore, it is short, sweet, and to the point. The Chicago-born technical death-grinders definitely wear their influences on their sleeves throughout the record, ranging from Origin to Cryptopsy to Meshuggah to Dying Fetus. But even if this 2012 release is not wildly original, it is still technically quite dazzling, thrilling, powerful, and certainly memorable. The guitar work is excellent, as Marc Okubo spits out gobs of intricate, technically impressive riffs, fleet-fingered leads, and exceptional solos. But the drummer, Sam Applebaum, is every bit as talented. A true ace of his instrument, Applebaum's playing is constantly airtight, precise, and brutal. And there might be a shred-happy moment or two found, here; but "Eclipse" is refreshing (and, to a certain extent, unique) in that it does not suffer from "breakdown happy" syndrome. Finally, the record is very well produced, too. Periphery shredder Misha "Bulb" Mansoor is the guy turning the knobs this time around, and doing quite an excellent job of it, too. His mix sounds compact, chunked-up, and leaves room for every instrument to shine through at least a little bit.
There are a couple of ominously quiet, electronic/symphonic -- and near DJent-worthy -- interludes (see "20/200" and the closing "With Passion And Power"). But of the eight proper songs that remain, the opener "Divide Paths," seems to stand out the most. Recalling the likes of Beneath The Massacre and The Faceless, this track explodes with Cookie Monster death metal vocals, Origin-inspired guitar sweeps, and triggered, grinding blast beats. (The drumming in this song comes across sounding like the birth child of John Lengstreth and Flo Mounier.) And there are plenty of chunky, chugging breakdowns to be had, here, as well. Tracks three and seven (the aptly-entitled "Punisher" and "Numerical Scheme"), meanwhile, both boast plenty of chunky, staccato Meshuggah riffing anchored by pummeling blasts. And, in the case of the latter song, a very proggy, infectious, and sweeping guitar intro is also included. "Enter My Dreams" also evokes Meshuggah, as it is filled with insane drumming (including a rapid-fire drum intro, jackhammer-fast double-time pummel, and Tomas Haake-reminiscent polyrhythms), and tacks on a good, Meshuggah-ish solo near the end, too. Two of the set's other biggest standouts include "The Glass Slide," with has pulsing, throbbing bass work; and "Winter Is Coming Soon" which marries Slayer-esque guitar licks with blistering, breakneck drumming, and tosses in an interesting -- if somewhat out of place -- mid-song symphonic breakdown for good measure, too.
"Eclipse" marks a huge musical and creative step forward for Veil Of Maya from the rather unremarkable, monotonous, and all-around generic deathcore heard on 2010's "ID." And, not only that, it is also the best album in this band's discography (which, granted, is still quite young); and one of the finer technical death metal/grind records you are likely to find in all of 2012. Recommended.