It is common lore that the devil has the ability to take many forms and on Total Depravity, The Veils fifth studio album, it seems to have taken over the soul of Finn Andrews. Andrews, the lead writer and singer of the English-New Zealand quintet, is the perfect channel for the devil’s words – pale skinned with striking blue eyes, wearing a wide-brimmed black hat and suit. He could easily be mistaken as an actor in a thriller striking fear amongst the townspeople of some dark, rural village. So much so, in fact, that he has recently signed on to take part in David Lynch’s reboot of Twin Peaks (though his role is yet to be identified, along with fellow musicians Eddie Vedder and Trent Reznor and others). He has always been known as a possessed performer of great theatrics and it seems that in Total Depravity, he has embraced this persona to its fullest, and we are the better for it.
The Veils and Andrews have long been a band with great potential and moments of genius. Since their debut album, Runaway Found, released in 2004, they have created songs that are achingly beautiful, playful, devilish and spiritual and, yet, accessible. And while many people aren’t familiar with The Veils by name, you are likely to have heard one of many of their tracks in a series of television shows and films over the last decade plus. Yet, somehow, they have managed to remain mostly anonymous on the popular music scene. Though Total Depravity is not likely to change this because of its dark nature, the greatest sin of Depravity would, ironically, be to never hear it.
The twelve track set opens with the first single, “Axolotl”, and the mood of the album is immediately set. The dark, synth sound is a departure from previous Andrews’ works that rely on piano, strings and horn. However, the experimentation feels familiar to Veils’ fans while showing a new patience and maturity in both pace and structure to previous works. The ominous nature of “Axolotl” runs throughout the album like a lifeblood coursing through the album’s veins and makes Total Depravity the most cohesive work to date by the band.
The follow up single, track three, “Lay Lows the Devil”, is the epitome of the album and could easily have been the album’s title based on its subject matter and its accompanying video. The catchy track is classic Veils with guitars, drums, and an organ that haunts over the beckoning vocals of Andrews, calling out to the listener, “Quiet as that secret you keep, Still in your heart as you sleep, Old as the lay of the land, Cold as all matters at hand, Long as the river of song, Mad as the world it moves on.” Lyrically, “Lay” is dark and beautiful and the video goes one step further, showing the band’s humor and sinister nature, a juxtaposition that makes this album more than successful, but complex and important, exploring the nature of humanity in a world consumed by social media, technology and an ever-changing moral landscape.
The album’s remaining nine tracks are highlighted by the introspective “Swimming With The Crocodiles”, the slow crooning “Iodine and Iron”, reminding of early Damien Rice, and the mid tempo “Do Your Bones Glow At Night”. However, pulling favorites from the album diminishes the value of the whole package. Track to track the album flows like a river that crashes against rocks, thins and rushes in pace and has moments of waterfalls that are both scary and exhilarating. It is a journey that should not go unnoticed, even if the devil is at the helm.
02 A Bit on the Side
03 Low Lays the Devil
04 King of Chrome
05 Swimming With the Crocodiles
06 Here Come the Dead
07 In the Blood
08 Iodine & Iron
09 House of Spirits
10 Do Your Bones Glow at Night?
11 In the Nightfall
12 Total Depravity