Lars Katz – The Veil
Record Label: Wide Asleep Music
Release Date: January 22, 2009
Oh, that voice!
It’s a fairly obvious first reaction, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself uttering a similar expression upon hearing Lars Katz’ latest full-length, The Veil.
If you’re wondering where Katz has been all your life, you’ve probably heard from him without even knowing it. The very definition of a finger in every pie, Katz’ private consulting and contract work has led to appearances on albums such as Anberlin’s Cities (gang vocals on “Godspeed”), Fair’s The Best Worst-Case Scenario (acoustic guitars on “Pause” and “Confidently Dreaming”), and even the soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (guitars on “More Than It Seems” by Kutless). He’s also helped to engineer and/or mix many of Tooth and Nail’s recent releases. I swear, the man doesn’t sleep.
Oh-and-did-I-mention: that voice!
Pairing Katz’ stratospheric pipes with all manner of straining strings, jubilant bells, and anxious guitars, The Veil sets its arcing melodic rock to the key of existential philosophy. Tackling the truth inherent in our own awareness is no light task, but it somehow feels easy in Katz’ deft hands. Each track is massive and miniature all at once, layering wistfully self-conscious lyrics across walls of soaring sounds.
Our introduction is somewhat rude as “Alive” sets the electronic strings a-humming with almost no warning and then throws some uncharacteristically aggressive screams our way (they fortunately only appear again briefly in “The Reaper”). All is forgiven, though, when Katz absolutely launches himself into the lyrics “Brightest night skies/ Fall and give rise to/ Everything I see in your eyes.” His ability to jump octaves, combined with the precise beauty of the album’s vocal harmonies, is stunning.
Katz’ extensive musical experience is apparent in the execution of The Veil and each of the instruments he plays (guitars, bass, and drums) clearly benefit from years of practice. There are times, however, when the delicate framework gets a bit smothered by digital elements. The sea of strings and bells fits at some moments, but at others, it threatens to drown the listener in its programmed depths.
The Veil is at its best when it hands the reins to Katz’ voice. Tracks like “Flare” and “Hearts Pour Out” gently usher the instruments to the background, allowing the exquisite vocal track to hold center stage. That said, one of the major successes of this album is that despite the obvious power of his voice, Katz doesn’t hold back from pushing the tempo and rocking out. At no point is The Veil slow, nor will it likely ever be accused of being “sleepy,” and yet its elegance is undeniable.
It’s tough to call Lars Katz a secret. He’s had a hand in a lot of the music you’re probably listening to and he doesn’t fall into that vast and mysterious category of “unsigned.” Still, with one of the strongest voices in operation, both he and The Veil deserve much more of our attention.