THE VEILS, REVIEWED (2023): Upon this rock music I will build my church

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THE VEILS, REVIEWED (2023): Upon this rock music I will build my church

Should anyone doubt the capacity of popular music to achieve the spiritual, they only needed to have been in an audience when Leonard Cohen sang Hallelujah.

Or when an audience sang a hymnal “push the sky away” to Nick Cave like a holy reverie.

Cave, of course, can and often does, go the other way, back to the Old Testament as a fire and brimstone declamatory preacher calling down the wrath and punishment of a vengeful God with all the fury of a man possessed.

Finn Andrews of the Veils – who has often been compared with Cohen and Cave – hasn't quite achieved such moments but at times in this concert before an enormously appreciative crowd, he came damned close.

In his dark suit and wide-brimmed hat, with arms aloft and under a shaft of white light, Andrews could come across as a film noir figure, a preacher in the night declaiming the corruption of this wicked world.

This is not an image – Robert Mitchum's criminal preacher from The Night of the Hunter transported into rock – which Andrews shies from: the opener was the blood-soaked Bullfighter which references ecstasy, the hand of God, Hail Marys and twirling in flames.

This was a set of old time religion and imagery ripped from the pages of the Exodus and Book of Revelations like a rock'n'roll Pentecostal pastor.

Although traditional Western religions have conspicuously failed in the past century in the face of world wars, the Holocaust, genocide and natural disasters, that doesn't mean the imagery has been lost.

In fact, uncoupled from scripture-based faith, they may have even gained in power: death, destruction, famine, fires, floods, plagues and whirlwinds are not from the world of the fearful imaginings these days but are the meat of nightly news. Dystopian visions are sold in cinemas and the small screen.

finnandrews1Redemption, ascension and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – death riding a pale horse – have infiltrated the secular world of rock music.

Andrews may call down Christ but he also aims more widely into death mythology.

No Limit of Stars opens with “I went down to the water and the ferryman said 'We are forever entwined at the partition between the living and the dead'. And with that I raised my eyes to the sky and I saw no limit of stars”.

And after the tumultuous Swimming with the Crocodiles the audience is confronted by the howling of Here Come the Dead, like Crocodiles also from the Veils' 2016 Total Depravity album: “A ceaseless fire and an endless rain are gonna flush us apes back down the drain. We're all hanging on, hog-mad with fear. It's Pandaemonium in here. We prayed for Heaven, but we got this instead . . . Here come the dead”.

And should you still be in any doubt, “The end is coming, well just you wait. We prayed for mercy about a minute too late”.

Screen_Shot_2023_04_02_at_9.34.59_AMThe Veils delivered all this and more in an intelligently crafted setlist which favoured the new album And Out Of The Void Came Love and the vinyl reissue of the often oppressive, gothic 2006 album Nux Vomica, – taking its name from a tree with seeds which can heal or poison. The Nux Vomica title song offers, “what say you Lord, now that they're breeding all our animals insane and the remedy is growing harder to obtain. There's a white horse running wild through the switch-cane. I can hear him now and I fear him 'til Kingdom come”.

Death metal may deal with the impending End of Days when the dead walk again, but the lyrics of that genre are nowhere near as poetic and fear-filled as Andrews' Biblical visions.

IMG_3051The tight and focused concert – the three song encore taking it to around 70 minutes – was equally crafted as a sound and visual spectacle: the shafts of light and dramatic darkness, the intimacy of acoustic guitar or siren scream of feedback and guitar thrash perfectly pitched for the songs.

The Veils – bassist Cass Basil who anchored but also left space, deadly accurate drummer Jo McCallum, guitarist/synth player Tom Healy, keyboard player Liam Gerrard and Dave Khan on fiddle – are as disciplined in their delivery as they are discreet and supportive under the lights.

Bands don't come much tighter, or more empathetic to their frontman's vision.

IMG_3035And at the end after two quietly redemptive songs -- Someday My Love Will Come (“sailing off in your little lifeboat to a tropical island where they'll devour your flesh like bread and drink your blood like wine”) and the Celtic-kissed lullaby Rings of Saturn for his new daughter – Finn Andrews wrung his electric guitar like some Southern snake-handling pastor filled with righteous certainty and the spirit of his Lord on the furious Jesus For the Jugular.

It folded right back to the opener with its blood and bullfighting imagery: “There's a bulls'blooded fountain in the pit of a moan that I'll summon an eclipse on my way to the lord”.

Get behind me Satan.

Doubters begone.

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The Veils, Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand. April 1 2023

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