Sound — 7
So this is album number five for Sumerian staples, Veil of Maya. They've carved themselves a unique niche within the label, both at once appealing to fans of the normal roster while having a very technical/progressive edge to their music. They helped branch out the general "core" genres with other acts like The Faceless, After The Burial and early Born Of Osiris before the latter started sucking eggs.
What VoM and its circle did was bring some actual progression to the genre, flesh it out a bit, make it closer to being as diverse as death or black metal, two major genres with a lot of crossover.
I've made it plain in the past that deathcore can go get itself rekt, and still, after nine years of being aware of its existence, I've yet to hear a band that was anything other than the same as the next deathcore band, baring a few exceptions. Few and far between, but there's a few bands who broke the mould purely by adding some actual technical ability.
"Matriarch" isn't going to produce the same results as say, "The Common Man's Collapse." It is, without beating about the bush, the exact same album they've released for the past 5 years, just with more djent riffs and a "factory fresh" production. That's just not a prospect I was really excited about nor did it leave a good taste in my ears: it is essentially the "we're the same but different" marketing spiel.
But that's not to say its a bad album. There's still the intricate, neo-classical riffing, ridiculously tight syncopation and haywire song strong structures. There's even more annoying vocals, but we'll get to that when we get to that. Overall, in the actual music department, it is typical Veil of Maya. There is really not that much out of the ordinary, which is a bit sad. A few songs like "Mikasa" and "Phoenix" stand out for their respective reasons, the former being this albums version of "It's Not Safe To Swim Today" plus some cheesy clean vocals (I think we're onto "INSTST v.4" if counting "Codex" and "that other one") while the latter is singularly diverse among the other songs on the album for its collective variety. Those are my personal choices, although that's from a pretty biased perspective. I will say that "Lucy" has this really awesome bit where it sinks into this Animals as Leaders style clean riff with epic chords, but then you realise "Oh sh-t, this is just The Faceless." This album highlights just how important it is for a band to do more than just keep replicating past success.
If I had one thing to say about the production, it's that its dangerously close to being Within The Ruins level of what I describe, with all the maturity you've come to expect from me, with the word "euuuch." By that I mean, if it weren't for VoM's undoubtedly proficient technical ability as a band, I'd swear everything excluding the vocals is a mechanically quantized technical exercise in "factory fresh" production. It's nowhere near as egregious as WTR however, and I give them props for somehow finding a magical guitar tone that works for both djent and spirally, technical riffs.
Lyrics — 5
I could behind VoM as a band, even with their sort-of generic older vocalist Brandon Butler. But this new guy just further compounds the problem with "Matriarch" being a rather generic release. Indistinct death/metalcore vocals conveying a message completely mired in the technique, making them more and more rhythmical and less expressive. Even the Justin Hill-style scat screaming and clean singing suffers from being way too similar to Generic Metalcore Band #83789396 to such a degree that it started physically grating on my ears. I'll give them that "Mikasa" does have a very infectious chorus, however, and that lydian movement in "Lisbeth" is pretty swish.
At the very least, they vocals are functional and well performed, even with all the gimmicky, glitchy production tricks used whenever there's a free space.
Lyrically, I'm not certain on the very specific concept of this album, but reading some of the song names, its easy to deduce that they all refer to female protagonists in various media franchises. Obvious examples are "Leeloo" ("The 5th Element"), "Ellie" ("The Last of Us") and "Aeris" ("Final Fantasy 7") while there's one or two slightly obscure ones such as "Teleute" (AKA Death, from "Neil Gaimans Sandman" series) and "Three-Fifty" which I assume is a reference to "Y: The Last Man." Now the lyrics themselves, and not the concepts, don't really say a lot despite this obvious theme running throughout. An example from "Mikasa":
"Align the stones to form
a message in the sand
I will never relinquish
It is written in the sand."
I'm personally not sure what to make of that, other than a desire to not have said message erased (cuz why else use stones). I'm just going to presume these songs are about the strengths/story of these characters portrayed through a song, in which case, yay equality and all that figurative jazz.
Overall Impression — 6
I was kind of hoping for some change or twist from a purportedly progressive metal act (or have I been deceived all these years). Yet, "Matriarch" just doesn't really deviate in an interesting way, and it's just too similar to their previous releases for me to get enthusiastic about. I'd probably just go back to "[id]" or something, personally.
That said, if you were already a fan, unless you have the misgivings I have about musical progression, you'll probably still enjoy this album. It has its moments and feels fairly sincere, and doesn't wear out its welcome either.
Songs to look out for: "Mikasa," "Phoenix," "Lisbeth."