Release Date: Aug 26, 2016
Record label: Nettwerk
Review Summary: From a poisoned well. Total Depravity is Finn Andrews’ dark night of the soul, but Andrews is certainly not interested in seeking a union with God at journey’s end. The Veils’ frontman is much more the type to slither and moan, dragging himself along through a hellscape of his own making, dripping with blood and bile and haunted by the shrieks of old ghosts.
London-based NZ psych-goths finally hit the misery motherlode with fifth album Eyebrows were raised when Veils frontman Finn Andrews was named among the cast of the forthcoming Twin Peaks reboot. But the truth is Andrews’s macabre aesthetic (and hat collection) is a perfect fit with David Lynch’s flickering neon world. His upbringing was divided between London (his father Barry Andrews played keyboards with XTC and Shriekback) and New Zealand (where his mother taught), and like all his band’s four previous albums Total Depravity is divided between Antipodean and English influences (the snarl of Nick Cave, the gutter-glam pop of Suede).
Total Depravity, the fifth album by English indie rock quintet The Veils, is brilliantly haunting and ruefully grim. Fans of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and latter day Tom Waits will find much to love on this album, as the band's chilly instrumentation and frontman Finn Andrews' theatrical vocals evoke the Gothic tinge of the former, while the singer's lyricism hews close to the devilish weirdness of the latter. .
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.
'How could you love me, babe, just to strip it all away?' laments Finn Andrews on In the Blood, a highlight of The Veils' excellent fifth album. As with much of the band's earlier work, Andrews leads from the front: a fearless troubador with tales to tell and a heart ever in need of mending. This time around, production duties are shared with Run the Jewels' El-P, and with the band opting for looser grooves and a greater emphasis on beats and texture, it's a canny shift.
Intense, London-based quintet The Veils can count Tim Burton, David Lynch and Bernard Butler among their most ardent fans, yet while they’re forever hip, they’ve spent over a decade struggling to tap into the mainstream market. Their fifth studio set Total Depravity might just tip the scales. Two years in the making, it’s been co-produced with precision by Adam ‘Atom’ Greenspan (Arcade Fire, Band Of Skulls) and Run The Jewels’ El-P and despite its portentous title and an enigmatic, Renaissance-influenced sleeve supplied by acclaimed Italian artist Nicola Samori, it’s arguably The Veils’ most complete and satisfying work to date.
Co-produced by El-P of Run The Jewels and the band’s singer Finn Andrews, The Veils’ second album Total Depravity is a coming together of two separate artistic aesthetics. Any hunches that this record may have a slight hip-hop leaning or desire to venture out towards a more electronic, beat orientated future may further be fuelled by opener “Axolotl”, wherein classic songcraft is aided by a healthy serving of synthetic sounds. It's a path the album continues to snake down - the follow-up to 2013’s Time Stays, We Go shares the same harnessed, traditional artistic spirit and focused songcraft, but is aided by benevolent technology in order to push forward into new territories.
So here comes Finn Andrews’ indie-dark-pop outfit again, back with the sixth album of their 15-year existence (if you count 2011 EP Troubles of the Brain), since The Veils' London-NZ beginnings in the early Noughties. So what, in 2016, does this goth-inflected, stylishly troubled, sensitive-with-undercurrents-of-the-sinister outfit have to offer? Well, it turns out: pretty much the same as they always have. So fans of the dark side will be pleased to know that the symbolism and imagery remains firmly pegged to black.
Brimming over with wee-hours-of-the-morning cold sweats, the aptly named Total Depravity finds the Veils sifting through the wreckage of heartache, regret, and Lovecraftian terror via an icy slow drip of Bad Seeds-kissed electro-funk and bluesy, minor-key wailing that suggest a dark night of the soul worthy of Sisyphus. The London-via-New Zealand-bred unit's fifth studio long-player was co-produced by Run the Jewels' co-conspirator El-P, alongside frontman Finn Andrews and Nick Cave architect Atom Greenspan, and it introduces a textural change -- a whole lot of loops and gear-driven bells and whistles -- that effectively doubles down on the group's predilection toward alternately soulful and dystopian sonic miasma. Total Depravity is largely narrative based, with Andrews taking on a host of colorful characters, including a sociopathic long haul trucker ("King of Chrome") and a neotenic Mexican salamander ("Axolotl") -- it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that he was tapped by director and longtime Veils fan David Lynch for an appearance on the newly rebooted Twin Peaks.