The Pitch: The powerful new album from Vietnam-based, feamle-fronted progressive metalcore outfit Windrunner via Famined Records. FFO: ERRA, Polaris, Parkway Drive
What I Like: Windrunner combine the hard-hitting djent hooks of Architects with lush, reverb-soaked synth atmosphere. But unlike many other albums taking this approach, Mai gives it a subtle infusion of Eastern influences. While there are still the usual piano and ambient effects, Windrunner also throw in simulations of more traditional stringed instruments from the region. Mind you it's not Tengger Cavalry, but the overall effect on the aesthetic is certainly worthy of note and helps them stand out.
Even tossing differences aside, Mai is a strong entry in the genre as a whole. There are some really great standout moments that come forwards as we progress deeper into the album. "Cedar," for instances has a Sumerian-sounding synth interlude that reminded me of Born of Osiris along with a fantastically adrenaline-inducing D-beat portion early on. "Rose" has super catchy, melodic Parkway Drive riffage and choruses while "Lotus" and "Narcissus" showcase the band's heavier side; breaking out the china cymbal and singer Duong Bui taking detours into some seriously aggro territory. On that note, Duong has a really impressive range from her ethereal, entrancing cleans to Morgan Lander/Courtney LaPlante screams. Furthermore, as a lover of languages, I appreciated that the bonus version of "Rose" is provided in Vietnamese. It's not usually the best commercial move, but I would love to hear more of this.
Critiques: You may have noticed that my favorite tracks all are from the second half of the album, and it's for good reason. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the songs before interlude "Dahlia," they're just markedly less memorable. During casual listens my ears even have a hard time differentiating between them. This may very well be a conceptual choice, but the album might flow better if they had alternated the more melodic tracks with the heavier ones.
The Verdict: Windrunner do a lot of things right with Mai from the instrumentation to the overall atmosphere. It's an album that wraps around you and sports solid production. There are some issues in terms of pacing and dynamics, but overall I'd count it among the relative few truly solid metalcore albums I've heard this year.
Flight's Fav's: Cedar, Rose, Narcissus
- Review by FlightOfIcarus
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