Album: Vereor Deus, Non Dogma
Label: Voluminous Records
Release Date: 02.11.14
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Infedel Castro (Feat. Betsi Ford)
- Jihad (Feat Darin Keim of Staple)
- Eternal Respiration (Feat. Rachel Lacey)
- Screaming Whispers
- Skylights (Feat. Rob Goad & Justin Moore)
- Eternal Respiration (J.E.S.S. Remix)
In the music world of today one of the greatest fears band/labels seem to hold is being branded with any title that suggests what you are hearing is not completely new/relevant/breaking/cutting edge. With few exceptions to sounds considered by group-think to be “retro” at the moment (and therefore acceptably cool), any word that comes with baggage from the past is intentionally avoided. So, when I was presented with a band that unashamedly calls themselves “recycled nu-metal” in style and sound, I was intrigued. Nu-metal isn’t a term that is thrown around that much anymore. At one point, during the height of P.O.D. and KoRn’s reigns, nu-metal was THE buzzword that signified that a sound was new and fresh. However, as it came to identify a certain era (that itself rose from the ashes of rap-core) of music so strongly, the phrase quickly fell into disuse as labels and bands moved on to the then new catchword of the day, “metalcore.”
Don’t start thinking, however, that Mayfly is stuck in the past. Although their sound is being hailed as a “progressive” nu-metal that harkens back to early Deftones stylings, it is coming just in time to ride a new wave of attention being given to past sounds. As metalcore’s shine has begun to fade, bands have begun to explore past territory with fresh eyes. For example, For Today’s newest album subtly incorporates some nu-metal stylings into their “standard” mix while other bands have returned to 80’s metal flavorings in their “evolving” sound. In this, Mayfly is actually ahead of the curve in looking back to nu-metal and bringing it forward into 2014’s landscape with a modern touch. Thus, the listener is presented with a sound that has heavy influence from bands like the Deftones, UnderOath, Staple, As Cities Burn, and Dead Poetic and yet still feels like something new. The band themselves refer to this as “recycled nu-metal.”
Moving from sound to message, Mayfly bring a bit of political angst and holy discontent to the forefront. Tracks like “Infedel Castro” (clever title, by the way) and “Jihad,” as quick examples, shine the light on the landscapes of politics and faith as the gauntlet is laid down to follow Christ, not man made rules. This message is highlighted through the album/EP’s title Vereor Deus, Non Dogma, which means “fear God, not dogma.”
Album Breakdown: The album begins with “Choice,” which is a spoken word intro track. In this, you don’t get an immediate feel of the musical offering that is to come (though there is a somber slow jam running across the background), but you are smacked in the face with the theme of the album. “Two fears to separate… the fear of God or a fear man made.” In this, the fear of God is contrasted with a fear of dogma/rules and the initial challenge of “which one will you choose” is laid down to set the proper tone.
“Infidel Castro” begins the musical side of the album, but continues the lyrical theme brought about in the intro. The opening lyric, “beware you traders of democracy, because we’re tired of dealing with your hypocrisy. You claim to be men of God, but then you sell your souls to the evil one,” is a bold and daring beginning that lets the listener know that they are not dealing with a soft-soap delivery that vaguely hints at a problem and/or the band’s feeling on that issue. Musically, “Infidel Castro” mixes of radio friendly choruses that would fit the nu-metal style nicely with some screaming and passionate pleas. Think Deftones meets Staple.
Speaking of Staple (oh how I miss that band), “Jihad” prominently features former Staple vocalist Darin Keim in a continuation of the themes already established in the previous tracks. “Jihad” is equally bold as it starts, “sitting here again in this house of pharisees who claim innocence. This act is getting old to me.” The undercurrent theme of claiming victory in Christ rather than adhering to man’s dead rules provides a a framework for the rest of the song. In terms of style, I noticed a distinct flair towards Staple’s pre-Flicker Records days before actually catching that Darin was on the track, so fans of that era will quickly be drawn in. “Jihad” is heavy radio friendly, but also has some nice mid-ground screams. Let me just say again how great it is to hear Darin. With so many bands “resurrecting” lately, perhaps “we the people” could get a groundswell of support behind a Staple comeback.
The first single produced for this album is set to be “Eternal Respiration,” which is certainly one of the more catchy tracks on the album. It also has some of the catchiest, yet still very deep, lyrics on the album. The focus is on “telescopic living” of a “microscopic life.” Aside from brining a similarly titled album by Tourniquet to mind, this dichotomous imagery builds upon that of the previous tracks as it continues to dig into the perils of dogma versus the freedom found in Christ. “Eternal Respiration” also features some of the heaviest moments on the record as passionate screams are set against a backdrop of the aforementioned nu-metal style of the guitars and drums.
“Screaming Whispers” is a bridge between “Eternal Respiration” and “Skylights” that uses the tried and true method of presenting a siren’s call (often used to show the point of view that a band is railing against) through hushed whispers. This breaks immediately into “Skylights,” which continues the Deftones meets Staple sound of previous tracks. This guest-heavy track incorporates some of the more melodic elements of the album with singsongy moments in the back/mid-ground of the track (as well as some whisper vocals near the end) as Mayfly continues to amp up the aggression at the same time. Though “Eternal Respiration” is set to be the first highlighted track on the EP, I would point listeners to “Skylights” as their first taste/sample of the band, as it blends together both the musical and thematic threads of the rest of the album.
The album technically closes with a very Wyrick styled (as in Wyrick’s own albums, not his production work on other bands’ albums) remix of “Eternal Respiration.” However, since remix tracks are typically considered “extra” material, the true close comes with “Fiasco.” In this, the band proclaims: “We don’t need the devil to tell us it’s ok. Because we mock the straight and narrow and chose our own way. So we are to blame…. what does it take to make it right?” “Fiasco” solidly closes up the themes presented in other tracks while pointing to a solution to the problem. Musically, it is more melodic and rock driven than the rest of the album. The final proclamation “my heart is in Your hands” followed by a choir styled vocalization end the album on a nice upbeat note.
Musicianship: As I’ve mentioned in a few reviews recently, the heavy music scene is in between “distinct” sounds. Metalcore is fading and being blended with other sounds (including 80’s metal, frequently) as it makes its swan song. This is nothing new. It happened to rapcore in the early to mid-90’s and Nu-metal in turn. It is actually sort of refreshing, then when a band comes along and unashamedly gives a classic yet updated take on a previously dominant sound. In this, Mayfly prove adept. However, this sound is so different than what many bands are producing today that the listener may take a few treks through before reacclimatizing.
Lyrical/Spiritual Content: Mayfly are not ashamed of their faith in Christ. Though they state that they don’t always make that the forefront of their message, it is a dominating factor for them and that shows on this album. The theme of this album has political and spiritual implications and is very challenging in nature, but in the right ways. Mayfly is seeking the heart of Christ, as they make clear throughout, and it shows. Still, Vereor Deus, Non Dogma is not afraid to call it like it is.
Lasting Value: When I first started spinning this album it did take a little getting used to. Having predominantly seen metalcore and/or progressive hardcore play as the sound of the times, it was a bit jarring to return to a former love. For some listeners, this very disconnect may initially color their time with Mayfly. However, as I immersed myself more and more in the album, I found a welcome return to and evolution of a once-dominant sound. Those who grew up with the era lead by Tool, Deftones, KoRn, P.O.D. and others will find great joy in this return. Those who grew up in a post-August Burns Red and Underoath world are likely in for a bit of culture shock.
Overall: Mayfly brings a sound that is influenced by the past, but is perfectly timed to help shape the future of heavy music. Though Vereor Deus, Non Dogma’s sound may be compared to past heavyweights like the Deftones and Staple, it comes at a time when heavy music as a whole is trying to find itself again. In this, the album is a fresh take on the nu-metal sound and will likely stand out in a sea of progressive/metalcore that is trying to redefine itself. Lyrically, Mayfly are up-front and challenging with some equally heavy themes. Finally, for an EP length album there are several guest spots to be found, but none is more welcome than that of Darin Keim (Staple).
RIYL: The Deftones, Staple, As Cities Burn