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Laang - Xinteng

by Andrew Graham at 22 November 2021, 9:20 PM

We have a most unique artefact today, ladies and gents! Hailing from Taiwan, Post-Black Metal (though self-described ‘Terror Black Metal’) outfit LAANG release their second full-length album, proving their sheer skill in their craft. I will be the first to admit that genre labels are not always helpful, and indeed the Post-Black label is infamously vague and vacuous. I think it will suffice to say that fans of groups such as HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY will lap this stuff up. No less emotionally intense, LAANG’S music occupies a space of damning, even self-destructive self-reflection. Those well versed in extreme emotions will find this deeply worthwhile.

“Candan” opens, with distressed and dissonant piano keys drawing us into a distinctly, and genuine, frightening scene of chaos and turmoil. Yang’s vocals, somewhere between a shriek and shout, delivers an effect that disturbs the listener and gives us the impression of real horror. If the Realm of Chaos had a soundtrack, this would be it! (I make no apologies for intensely nerdy references!) More dissonant piano keys close the track – clearly this is going to be a wild ride!

“Dongshang” ups the intensity and eclectic feel of the sound, including an erhu (a kind of traditional Chinese stringed instrument) in the mid-section. A remarkable balance has been struck in the melodies employed: between the distinctly Chinese sound and tonality on one hand, and the universality of the distressed quality on the other. We are well versed in dissonant music, indeed Black Metal has historically utilised this to brilliant effect, so it is enough so to sound otherworldly without entirely alienating the listener.

Mournful piano opens “Wo De Piaofu Shiti”, leading into deeply atmospheric and heartfelt melodies. If someone were looking for an entry-point to this band, then this is it. The melodies and structure here most closely resemble their European counterparts in acts like HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY, GHOST BATH or ELLENDE. A wonderful back and forth effect is created with a ¾ timing, the result being almost a kind of demented and regretful waltz. Truly something to be heard to be believed.

“Zai Heian Zhong” combines harsh and clean vocals with another outing on the erhu, in a comparatively short track that nonetheless retains all the intensity established up to this point. “Host” is another that would be familiar to fans of the Post-Black Metal umbrella. Synths back up the musical canvass to contribute to another, if you like, essay in melancholy (someone remind me to trademark that phrase…)

“Heiyaoshi” is a real delight to listen to. It tugs at the heartstrings every bit as well as other acts of this kind and does so intelligently and with real pomp and style. Showing a highly developed appreciation for composition and melody, this track really gets you where you live. There’s a tendency with this kind of metal to attach your baggage to it and interpret as you please – this song is a fantastic vehicle for such self-reflection.

"Chaoxi” reaches for the heights of dissonance and distress and reaches them flawlessly. Unlike the distinctly melancholic and sorrowful feel of much of the Post-Black Metal we are used to hearing, this track really comes across as a psyche just barely trying to cling on to sanity. It functions well as a penultimate chaotic track before the closure provided by the final track.

“Yongheng De Yu” has that distinct, yet intangible, flavour of finality about it. Conflict and turmoil present throughout the album has met resolution – at least insofar as complicated emotions (particularly things like grief and despair) are resolved. Perhaps ‘reconciled’ would be a better term. A curious interlude, which sounds like a reversed piano, leads from one extreme to another, connecting intense sections of outstanding emotional strife.

As Black Metal this is unconventional in many ways, or “non-canonical” as they themselves admit, but much is gained as a result. Traditional Chinese instruments and atypical melodies and tonalities make for distinctly uneasy listening, but then that is the point. This music is emotionally distressed and ill at ease with itself, a mood that is conveyed perfectly.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Candan
2. Dongshang
3. Wo De Piaofu Shiti
4. Zai Heian Zhong
5. Host
6. Heiyaoshi
7. Chaoxi
8. Yongheng De Yu
楊海濤 (Yang Haitao) – Vocals, guitars, orchestration
戴 (Willy Krieg Tai) – Bass
李婉伶 (Li Wanling) – Drums
Record Label: Talheim Records


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