Out January 19
Inside every successful musician lives an artist with a desire to push their scope of musical endeavours and explore other sonic realms.
But, of course, when you are in a successful band your musical output is governed somewhat by fan expectations, so ultimately a large number of artists go their whole career without scratching that subliminal itch.
Take Mike Spreitzer for example. Most people know him as lead guitarist for DevilDriver, who are known, loved and revered for their brutality when it comes to writing songs.
For 20 years Spreitzer has been the main axeman for DD and loved every minute of it, but deep down he also harboured desires to create something more on the industrial side of metal.
Which he has finally given himself the chance to do with the newly formed outfit Verona On Venus.
Not only does Spreitzer lay down significantly different slabs of sonic excess on the guitar, he also assumes lead vocal duties in a move completely out of his comfort zone.
The album is called Popular Delusions and will be released for mass consumption on January 19, with the singles Rodent and Monarch Acid Test both introducing us to a fresh world of industrial-fueled metal that is already turning heads.
Starting with Rodent, a tasty guitar lick gives us our first glimpse behind the new curtain as the drums kick in menacingly before withdrawing completely and laying bare a soft, soothing vocal section that eases into things nicely.
These fade out before a quick drum roll intensifies the sonic output of Spreitzer who sings with slightly more urgency that falls back once more into the more soothing and pleasant tone.
A quick look at the linear notes tells me Spreitzer is responsible for vocals/guitars/bass/programming while session drumming is handled by Austin D’Amond, making this even more of a step outside of the music realms in which Spreitzer normally inhabits.
Around the 2.40 mark, another short, sharp snap of the drums incites a guitar solo that carries through nicely, soaring and gliding as if let free on the breeze.
I remember seeing the music video for this song and it was truly stunning. Much like the song.
Dead Heroes Hang is up next with a quickened tempo carried by a repeating guitar riff and high hat snaps.
Much like the first track, this one draws back into itself rather than exploding as expected. It has an almost dreamy feel, which is swept along by a rolling drum pattern that gives it life.
Stuttering, bottom-heavy guitars up the tempo momentarily before once more we descend into relative tranquillity. This is definitely mood music and made to be digested as a complete body of work instead of the usual staggered single releases.
The song picks up again halfway through, again carried by chunky guitars, but this time a harsher vocal breakdown leads us down a darker, more deliberate road where the streets are paved with solitude.
A soaring guitar solo summons forth urgency, and it continues to swirl and dictate proceedings in time with a renewed assault on the drum kit. Shouts of “hey” fill the void as the track retreats into darkness, ushering in Floods Of Burden, which is already the most industrial song so far.
A sonic twinkle pierces the calm briefly before guitars reclaim the night, swirling haphazardly as Spreitzer adds a sense of sorrow to his vocals that is accentuated by the brooding guitar tone.
It is minimalistic on everything, with an abundance of space allowing a subtlety to the music that is difficult to master.
While having heavy undertones, the music is more along the lines of progressive rock, but who am I to genre-classify music like this?
It is definitely guitar-driven – as exemplified by another beautiful solo on this track – but it is the measured and balanced vocals from Spreitzer that elevate each song into its own sonic entity. Not bad for a first time vocalist…
The Hate Ballet dances in next, a steady guitar riff summoning another introverted piece of music that invokes a plethora of emotions.
Verona On Venus have managed to paint a sonic tapestry with their music that draws you further into their musical world, taking you on a journey of sorts with each passing track.
Spreitzer explores a different side of his vocals here, roaring in a whisper at junctures, the softness in tone a stark contrast to the harshness in which they are delivered but having greater impact because of it.
Dirty Cigarettes butts in next, amid sharp bursts of static that gradually morph into music. This has a very laid-back and atmospheric vibe, pulled back to the bare bones.
It doesn’t take long to find its voice, once more sparked to life on the back of a solid guitar run, but that acts merely as a momentary distraction before the almost whispered vocals return, rising and falling effortlessly in keeping with the sultry mood inferred.
There’s shades of Manson and Nine Inch Nails in this song, but only fleetingly. Spreitzer has managed to nail his own sound from the outset, hinting at a variety of influences but only pulling flimsy strands of DNA from each.
Red Dead Rose comes to life on the back of some clever samples that create an air of contempt that only intensifies as the vocals surge, courtesy of a steady drum passage and continuing subliminal samples.
This track has a Western kind of feel – don’t ask me why – but I can picture a gunslinger in a Western saloon throwing a red rose at one of the ladies of the night as another cowboy draws his pistol and fires six rounds into the rose before it hits her feet.
Fuck knows how or where I came up with that vision, but that’s the beauty of music, isn’t it?
The title track follows and also starts with sample effects, this time of a more hypnotizing variety.
It’s almost like a pulsating heartbeat – but obviously isn’t – succeeding in setting a bleak landscape that has fallen victim to the battle between man and machine.
It almost feels apocalyptic and dangerous as the samples become more menacing, spurred on by a repeating guitar lick with the occasional deviation.
The sound of keys enters the battle, and gone are my visions of a Western battlefield, replaced by more of a Terminator feel.
More samples buzz haphazardly, but it’s the constant and recycled drone that transfixes your senses, waiting for whatever lurking monster decides to attack first.
Which it doesn’t, but that may be because it, too, was mesmerized by the hypnotic nature of Popular Delusions…
Monarch Acid Test sonically picks up from where Popular Delusions left off, but this time with a more outer space feel, as the samples sound like lasers slicing through the cosmos.
As the drums kick in, a mournful sigh reverberates, shattering the status quo and ushering in a harsh bout of vocals that drip venomous intent.
This track has much more urgency, shedding the possibility of a peaceful resolution and instead making what sounds like a declaration of war.
At this point, I find myself wondering if this is a conceptually based album, and if I am on the right track. If I am, great, but if not the music has definitely been telling some sort of story. And if not, it certainly triggers enough mental images to give that impression.
The Bones Of Baby Dolls closes out the album, and it has all the hallmarks of an epic and grandiose finale.
Acoustic guitars pluck gently in the distance, while Spreitzer returns to his comforting vocal style, giving a sense of contentment and closure to proceedings.
Around the 1.30 mark you can feel a massive breakdown building, but Verona On Venus resist the temptation to usher in more flamenco-style guitar sounds that simmer gently beneath the mellow vocals.
It is a fitting closing point for the album, offering a sense of hope amid the turmoil that is accentuated by the beautiful harmonics of an assortment of guitar sounds.
There is almost a Middle Eastern feel to this track, carrying us off into a fading musical landscape that is laced with an endless sea of suffering.
Another quick look at the album notes tells me this song is actually a cover of an Acid Bath song, which highlights even more the thought that has gone into this album. The track is the perfect final piece to a musical body of work that clearly has a purpose.
And that purpose, my friends, is beautifully left to the imaginations of each and every one of us, which epitomes why we listen to music.
Of all genres.