Taiwanese symphonic black metal duo Laang (‘Cold’) harness horrific experiences on a third album that manages to be both highly conceptual and deeply personal. Riluo (‘Sunset’) explores the extreme PTSD of vocalist/guitarist Haitao Yang, who was once shot in the head during a carjacking. Pronounced dead, he experienced harrowing visions of a hellish afterlife while comatose and has used Laang ever since as a vehicle for catharsis and exploration of this life-changing event.
As a writer of music for film and video games, he has a love for the symphonic that Laang combine with a non-orthodox black metal style. There’s a melodeath fluency to the slick combination of riffs and string arrangements that takes their polished extremity to the epic end of the spectrum. Opening track Baoyu explores the sensation of bleeding out through the metaphor of falling rain, evoked through the pitter-patter of strings over muscular blasts and melodic riffing.
Sung/screamed vehemently in Mandarin Chinese and accompanied by traditional erhu and guzheng instrumentation, tracks such as Honghai make the most of their cinematic scope, with an urgent ferocity that makes it easy to picture accompanying epic movie scenes. The fairytale madness of Yequ brings silver-screen bombast, before an all-out, excoriating blast assault. Closing lament Riluo finds Haitao mourning the death of the man he once was prior to his violent experience, and attempting to come to terms with how the trauma has forever changed him. Baleful riffs, operatic backing vocals and solemn piano accompany his screams – tortured from first to last on a record that offers a distinctive interpretation of symphonic death/black metal, while conforming to its sonic hallmarks. Riluo’s true success lies in how genuine its emotions feel, captivating with the unique experiences of its author.
Riluo is out this Friday, November 24