“There is a war between two wolves raging inside all of us. The wolf that wins is the wolf you feed.”
This is the Cherokee proverb that serves as the starting place for VERIDIA’s long-awaited debut full length album.
The road to get to The Beast You Feed has often been fraught with challenges and setbacks, a process that guaranteed that the resulting songs would have the intensity that can only be born from struggle. The ten tracks are laid out in two halves, a balanced take on the light and the dark. “The first 5 songs on the album touch on stories of selfishness, anger, a wounded, guarded ‘dark’ perspective,” lead singer Deena Jakoub explains. “The second half shifts to stories of those who brought light into my life when I needed it the most.”
That first half begins with the lead single “Numb,” a dark-edged masterpiece that explores what it feels like to numb our ability to honestly experience the world, aided by an infectious pulsating beat. “Cheshire Smile” and “Feed the Animal” continue to uncover the ways our hearts warp when we isolate them from community and connection, with “Cheshire Smile” talking about the walls we set between ourselves and others and “Feed the Animal” expressing the wounded desperation for love that still exists behind those barriers. “Ghost” sings from the ultimate haunted ground of loneliness.
Musically, this project is the most electronically-focused we have heard from VERIDIA yet. Kyle Levy’s percussion continues to provide the backbone, and Brandon Brown’s guitar work lends texture and grit, but it’s all spun together by rich and layered electronic beds. The non-organic, digital sounds play into the theme of living life automated, severed from the truest parts of our humanity. With songs like “Savage,” we see the truly exceptional range of techniques Deena is capable of as a vocalist, offering delivery and melody structure that plays into the experience of the lyrics.
The Beast You Feed hinges on “I Won’t Stay Down,” an empowering, bracing call towards hope: “Gotta keep my head up / Gotta fight until it hurts / Part of the process / Hope is in the progress / I’m rising up / Been down and out, but I won’t stay down.” This song serves as the turnaround at rock bottom, as if asking the necessary question: now the pain and dysfunction has been acknowledged, what do we do with it?
“Reckless” answers with an energetic, insistent beat that has had fans dancing at live performances for the past few years. “Dopamine” is a heart-skips-a-beat love song, with quirky instrumentation to match. Continuing to display the versatility of VERIDIA’s musical arsenal, “Perfume” is a sonically slick pop tune, reflecting on the people in our lives who carry an air of infectious joy with the lyrics “I wanna live like you do / Breathin’ love into the room.”
The album closer “I’ll Never Be Ready” has attracted a significant amount of press surrounding the fact that Amy Lee’s Evanescence played piano for the ballad, but here the star power should be far overshadowed by the significance of the story. Deena Jakoub wrote this song while walking with her father through terminal illness, with the song ultimately finding a place at his funeral. When she reached out to invite Amy Lee to provide piano for the track, it was mere months after Amy had lost her own brother. The result is a loving lament that piercingly captures the ache of loss.
As a VERIDIA listener since the days of their 2014 debut EP Inseperable, I feared that I might have set my expectations for their debut album too high. Those qualms were instantly dismissed as The Beast You Feed proves that VERIDIA can consistently deliver intentional musical excellence and a thoughtful, heart-on-your-sleeve approach to lyrics that is instantly arresting. Some of their earlier fans in the rock market may need a moment to mentally adjust to the more electronic-centric sound, but I hope they take that time to do so. What they’ll discover is a gem of an album that explores what it feels like to truly attempt to live life fully, even when it hurts.
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