Veil of Maya/ The Devil Wears Prada on Friday the 13th
There are many old superstitions regarding Friday the 13th, dating back to the story of Genesis, when Adam and Eve were ejected from the garden of Eden on a Friday, to the thirteen present at the last supper, and the fact that a pope ordered the killing of all of the Knights Templar on the cursed date. But it is perhaps the possibility that most of my life is already a series of unfortunate events that exclude me from most other people in that the day always seems to bring me good luck.
Case in point: getting a last minute invite to the Veil of Maya/ The Devil Wears Prada show at the Plaza Live that same night. I had requested the show, but assumed nothing had come of it, since I’d never heard anything more about it. My day had been pretty good already, but it seemed my night was to get much better. I got the text, then the email, dropped my other plans and headed for the concert.
Now, one bad thing did happen to me as a result of my own poor planning- I assumed I knew where the Plaza Live was because I knew where the Plaza building is in downtown Orlando. Guess where the Plaza Live is not? That’s right, it’s not in the same locale as the building with which it shares a remarkably similar name. Raise your hand if you already knew that.
The last minute notification combined with my mistake in navigation caused me to be an hour late, so I missed the opening acts: metal core groups Silent Planet and Thousand Below. That was the bad news. The good thing was I didn’t have to wait in any line, and the bands I was here to see hadn’t started their set yet. I even had time to grab a frosty brew from the venue’s bar.
The crew was setting up, so I had time to check the place out. It’s bigger inside than it appears on the outside, and has a theater-like floor that rises steadily away from the stage. That’s really cool, because you are able to see the groups you came there to see without taller people being in your way.
Anyone who’s been to shows knows the frustration of trying to peer around that really tall head banger who has matching devil fists thrown high in the air and whose golden locks of hair are flying in every direction as they show their love for the band. Or the big, bald brute taking a break from moshing, and a seemingly permanent vacation from wearing deodorant. The Plaza Live has remedied those potential situations by simply sloping the floor so attendees can enjoy what they came to do from most anywhere in the building. Props for that.
Veil of Maya Set
It wasn’t too long of a wait before Veil of Maya took the stage, to loud cheering from the crowd. Never heard of them? Not too surprising. Metal core, or Djent, as it’s erroneously called gets literally zero radio play. It is largely thanks to the ever-reaching hand of the internet that allows these bands to get into their fan’s ears. The hardcore community is huge online, and relies mostly on word of mouth and social networking to make people aware that they even exist.
Band members and fans communicate freely in these online forums, discussing gear, technique, and shows. Metal core’s fan base is mostly younger people, the sub-genre only about ten years old, having begun in the mid-2000’s with bands like Messhugah, Tesseract, and Periphery. Most groups get funding for their first tours from online startups like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Once signed, life gets slightly easier, but staying fresh in this environment requires relentless touring and social media exposure.
This tour, in particular, is called the “No Sun/ No Moon Tour” and is as hardcore as the scene itself, having dates most every night beginning in late September in the Northeast U.S. and working its way down the East coast into Florida, then up, and out, Westward. You can see the schedule HERE.
The quartet launched into their set, loud and fast, like a rocket lifting off before us. Guitarist Marc Okubo’s fast, technical playing drove the sound, his left hand rapidly walking up and down the fret board like a spider chasing invisible prey.
Hard-hitting, triggered drumming by Sam Applebaum and Danny Hauser’s rhythmic bass held the song together, maintain the tempo which would stop and start unpredictably, in a technique well known to artists in the genre as syncopated rhythms. This is one of the signatures of this style of music, separating it from other types of metal music which predictably maintain the same tempo throughout the songs, perfect for head banging.
Vocalist Lukas Magyar used his own body as an instrument, his vocals ranging from deep, guttural growls, to cleaner notes of higher pitch. The singer and his band mates raged through song after song, a few from their last album, Matriarch, such as “Leeloo”, “Three-fifty”, and their most well-known song, “Mikasa.”
Though Okubo is the songwriter and Veil of Maya’s keeper of the musicale timbre, Magyar was in command of the crowd, directing the audience like a pastor at Sunday service. Maya in Hinduism is a Vedic word meaning “magic” or “illusion”, and there was definitely some power at work as the band worked their way through the catalog of songs they brought to bear.
Some of the crowd moshed without breaks, the concertgoers sacrificing their bodies to the music, transcending pain and inhibition in exchange for spiritual freedom. Metal core or Djent may not be everyone’s connection to the divine, but for those who get it, it’s the only path they need to travel in order to break free from the mundanity of their ordinary lives. You either get it or you don’t. The music is a great escape from the dull, colorless aspects of one’s ordinary world and a night out with a band like Veil of Maya is like a visit to an art gallery or a great cathedral, where you find yourself surrounded by the vibrant beauty of life itself.
The Devil Wears Prada Set
Once again the stage went dark as the boys from Chicago left as quickly as they’d come. A flurry of activity ensued as the crew got ready for the next act, The Devil Wears Prada.
This six piece from Ohio brings a Christian influence to their hardcore sound, veterans of the scene for over twelve years. I was unprepared for the disorienting mix of a total absence of light as the scene went dark which was just as quickly replaced with a torrent of strobes, stage level lights, and the house lamps blinding either the crowd or the performers in time to the rapid-fire blast beats.
I thought singer Mike Hranica’s monitor might have been turned down too low, but it seemed this was his preference as he never had the volume brought up. I was as unfamiliar with their material as I had been with Veil of Maya’s, in spite of the fact that they had been performing on big shows like Warped Tour for over ten years, but the crowd was definitely tuned in, singing along and jumping around like a broken container of bouncy balls.
I was into it, trying my best to maintain my spot on the floor as the mosh pit swelled and shrank unexpectedly, the strobes causing me to lose my sense of balance. The Devil Wears Prada, or TDWP as I shall call them from this point, was able to generate more complex sounds than VOM due to having two guitar players, and a keyboardist. I liken them to the difference between a punk rock band and an orchestra. Though they both may play the same song, the results are radically different just due to the complexity of the arrangement.
Honestly, it was a little hard to pay complete attention to the band’s performance because I had lodged myself in the middle front of the crowd, slightly to the left, and had to keep a constant eye on the ever fluctuating mosh pit that grew and wavered continually off to my right. Thanks to the darkness/strobe lit/darkness/ strobe lit effect it was hard to gauge when and in which direction bodies might be moving, which was both exhilarating and slightly terrifying at the same time.
TDWP played through a monster of a set, Hranica referring to it as a million songs, but was actually more like 15-20, which is still a punishing amount of material to divulge all at once like that. Songs like “Forever Decay”, “Planet A” and “Dez Moines” were among the many featured that night. “Planet A” can be heard HERE.
The highlights for me included when I accidentally found myself in the mosh pit as it unexpectedly swelled around me, and how one of the guitarists leapt from the stage and ran out into the crowd to join the pit, without ever missing a lick during the last song. Talented guy. Try it if you don’t believe me!
The crowd cheered a mantra of “One more song!” until the band came back out and played their most well-known tune “Mammoth”
My ears ringing and slightly deaf, I made my way out of the building, along with the masses of millennials who dominated the crowd. I’m all about keeping my finger of the pulse of modern music, and this was a perfect chance to see how far removed I was from modern music. It turns out I can draw so many parallels between what deathcore represents and the metal I grew up on. I hear an unbroken lineage that runs from these modern acts back through to groups like Sepultura and Pantera, further back to legends like Megadeth or Judas Priest, and all the way to the bluesy beginnings found in bands like Black Sabbath and Motorhead. Metal has in its DNA a mitochondrial constant that descends from a rock and roll lineage unbroken since the 1930’s.
Styles change, new fads replace old ones, but in the end rock will never die. If you want to experience the evolution of the art, go see these bands for yourself. Buy albums. Support the industry. Go see shows. You might find something you’d never dreamed of but suddenly can’t live without. Rock will embrace you regardless of age, race, or creed. It is a unifying medium unparalleled in its immensity, and its grandchildren are bands like Veil of Maya and The Devil Wears Prada. Embrace your collective lineage and keep on rocking!
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