Veil of Ashes was a college rock band from Oakland, California, who debuted with the critically-acclaimed album Pain on Graceland Records (an imprint of Frontline) in 1989. While they had started out as a post-punk outfit with goth leanings, most of that influence had faded by the time their debut hit. A second album The Young and the Reckless: The Regression of Veil of Ashes was released on Blonde Vinyl in 1992, but it was actually a retrospective release of earlier demos. That same year the band shortened their name to Veil and released their final studio album (before taking a long hiatus and re-forming in the late 90s) Mr. Sunshine, which featured a brighter, jangle-pop style.
The thread that runs through all of this, however, is a penchant for poignant lyrics and a tendency to never shy away from difficult subjects. It was quite astonishing in the 80s for a band on a CCM label to be tackling subjects like suicide, depression, abuse, and racism. While those topics may have been addressed, it was generally in very black and white tokenistic ways. But when you listened to Veil of Ashes, you got the impression that there were some real-life stories behind the lyrics.
The first track I heard from the band was “Without Eyes.” It had been getting rave reviews in the press and climbing the faith-oriented music charts, but the song was no Sunday picnic. The opening lyrics give us the meaning behind the song’s title:
Under a war-torn sky
Another little black boy dies
I hear his mother cry
I wish I had no eyes
Without eyes, I’d see no colour
Without eyes, I’d see no hate
Without eyes we’d love each other
While in some ways it might be naïve or at least not so culturally apropos to suggest blindness as a cure for racism, but you had to give them credit for addressing racism in a creative way. And “Without Eyes” isn’t the only track on the album that deals with difficult subjects. At least two songs on the album deal with suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. Another deals with God’s infinite grace, but gives a creative spin by personifying grace simply as “She.” Yet another takes one of the more sombre lines from Ecclesiastes and turns it into a melancholy rock song. But “Without Eyes” is the standout track from the album.