In 2008, the tiny venue of Concorde 2 in Brighton was due to be treated to an appearance by The Veils, a band centred around Finn Andrews – son of a founder member of post-punk legends XTC – appearing on a bill topped by the rather instantly forgettable Captain. For whatever reason, they never appeared but by this time they had released a couple of impressive albums – debut The Runaway Found (2004) and follow-up Nux Vomica (2006).
Since then, two further albums emerged, and despite being above average offerings, neither enjoyed as much critical acclaim as their forerunners. Fifth studio album Total Depravity marks a noticeable change for the quintet, with Andrews declaring that many of the songs were formed from mere “loops and sounds”. Another crucial difference here is the involvement of Run The Jewels’ El-P on co-production duties after Andrews met the self-confessed Veils fan outside a bar in Los Angeles, in conjunction with Adam ‘Atom’ Greenspan whose links with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are evident here.
Growing up in both the UK and New Zealand isn’t particularly common but flitting between parents living on opposite sides of the globe gave Andrews an insight into two very different lifestyles. Coupled with his Nick Cave like ability for story-telling, his creations are unleashed from a unique source, usually self-contained stories that not always rely on personal experience. A quick glance through the tracklisting of Total Depravity suggests a dark interior awaits the listener. Here Come The Dead, In The Blood and House Of Spirits – a cut most reminiscent of Cave’s dramatic compositions – all lend considerable weight to the dark side.
Lead track and album opener Axolotl belies its cutesy amphibian title (his mother used to keep the permanently grinning creatures) to deliver an eerie, brass-tinged number about transformation sounding more like an ode to a demonic being, lyrics speaking of “growing six black tentacles” and a “bellyful of black soot” amongst other dark mystery. Demonic references continue to pepper the collection: twangy Duane Eddy guitar appears during the excellent A Bit On The Side after an ominous beginning amid exorcising of demons, while the “gates of hell” get a mention during the brilliant slab of cool rock that is single Low Lays The Devil, the vocal delivery sounding like The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach.
Perhaps most frightening of all is King Of Chrome, an intriguingly odd tale about a truck driver but the preacher like ramblings depict a far more grizzly affair than one of a man behind a wheel, tribal drumming helping instead to conjure up images of the summoning of a terrible beast from the depths of the jungle – think King Kong or Jurassic Park, or even worse, a mythical monster from the Netherworld. As for the title track – the album closer here – wow: it’s a superb cut, leaning on creepy undertones, sounding devilishly sinister and ghoulish – totally captivating.
There’s a lighter side on offer too, though. Another classy track, Swimming With The Crocodiles provides an easy lull among the chaos and is stunningly engrossing, then Do Your Bones Glow At Night? moves on from a skeletal procession start to develop into an excellent piece of hauntingly gorgeous, female vocal-backed harmony. New single Iodine And Iron – an older song treated to the full band treatment that tells of the end of life – is a thing of beauty, its heart wrenchingly sad piano line is emotionally soaked in tragedy while In The Nightfall leans on shimmering, haunting atmospherics perfectly.
The Veils may be a little late to the party but Total Depravity is good enough to sit pretty at the top of their far from mediocre catalogue. It will draw you in with repeated plays, track after track gradually vying for a place as your favourite. When you buy it, just refrain from buying anything else at the same time – this is capable of condemning any other joint purchase to the shelf for a very long time indeed.