Review 1977 : Laang – Riluo – English

Laang continues to wander in the darkness.

Two years after the release of their second album, the band created in Taiwan by Haitao Yang (guitar/vocals/keyboards, Abyssius), then joined by Willy Krieg Tai (bass, Bloody Tyrant) and Zak King (drums, ShadowStrike, Uncured, ex-Dzö-nga) unveil Riluo, their third album, on Talheim Records.

The album opens with Baoyu, a torrent of raw fury where throbbing leads meet visceral screams and deep howls, while keyboards provide a majestic landscape. The elements blend and naturally complement each other while also welcoming a few colder notes, as on Taiyang’s Liuxue, where hypnotic melodies multiply between two waves of violence, sometimes overlaid with a fascinating dissonance that strengthens the aggressive vocal parts before taking us back into ominous sounds with Honghai and its sharp harmonics. The fast tempo lets an Old School blast lead the wildest passages, while the band turns to impressive keyboards to give its riffs greater scope, without ever neglecting the livelier side, which we find without delay on Zhemo, a composition that also plays on the various dark shades that the band knows how to develop between two eruptions of anger. However, there are a few more soaring moments, such as the final break featuring folk instruments, before Gui Xiang envelops us in his ethereal introduction, followed as always by a more virulent and intense charge where heart-rending vociferations lead the way. The track is very rhythmic, alternating very slow parts with scathing leads, and is followed by the oppressive Yequ, which places heavy, jerky riffs under a veil of dissonance before letting the drums explode. But the track is long, and it allows the band to manage its pace in a sometimes surprising yet extremely coherent way before offering us a brief moment of respite, followed by Juren‘s martial introduction, which carries us into the most suffocating darkness. Vocals are totally different, offering a terrifying experience before we extricate ourselves from this bottomless pit to discover Riluo, the final composition and eponymous track, which begins with a much more soothing passage, but soon reverts to a heady sound where the vocalist literally pours out his feelings, whether in saturated vocals or with a few more plaintive words, accompanied by choirs.

Without really being able to explain why or how, Laang bowled me over on first listen. Riluo is sure different from the band’s previous releases, but it’s just as seizing and heart-rending in its own way, letting its creators bring a battered soul to life.


Version Française ?

Few questions to Haitao Yang, founder and now guitarist/vocalist for the Taiwanese band Laang.

Hello and first of all thank you very much for your time. Last time we talked was two years ago, how do you feel now?
Haitao Yang (vocals/guitar): Thanks so much! It’s nice to be back. I think it’s been a lot of positive improvements since we last talked. I feel the band has grown more, we’ve had more development and opportunities, and I’d say my personal situation regarding the topic of the band has continued to improve, noted in some of the songs on the album.

Your new album Riluo is about to be released, how do you feel about it? Do you already have some feedback?
Haitao: I’m excited for it to be released! It was written a little over a year ago, so I’ve been very excited for it to finally be unveiled. We’ve had a very kind response so far from reviewers and comments & messages on social media. I think that as our time as a band has progressed, we’ve started to carve out a niche of people who respond to the type of music we make, and the “genre police” who like to point out the obvious that we’re not a trve kvlt Black Metal band have started getting lives.

How would you sum Riluo’s identity up in only three words?
Haitao: Mourning, Pained, Hopeful

What does Riluo mean, and how do you link it to the music it contains?
Haitao: Riluo means “Sunset” in English. The sunset in this case is a metaphor for the departure of a past life and moving forward. That is, accepting that I am permanently changed by what happened to me, and it does no good to dwell on the past. I need to just accept that this is the way my life is now and try to move forward as I wave goodbye to the last lights of my old life. It’s bittersweet. The music explores this, especially on the title track. The album re-visits pieces of the trauma I experienced, and culminates in a melancholic acceptance, represented by the sunset.

Riluo is the second album you created as a full band, how did the creation process happen this time? Did you notice some changes, compared to the previous work?
Haitao: It was very similar actually! Since me and Willy both run music studios, we are very used to production work and working independently. I completed pre-production, recorded guitars and some demo drums & bass for inspiration and sent them to Willy and our session drummer Zak to write and record their parts. We had a Google Drive folder where everyone would put their recordings, and then I spent far too long second-guessing myself while mixing it! I think maybe we were more used to working together personally after touring, but in many ways it’s much like how we function in our daily music jobs!

What were your influences to create Riluo?
Haitao: Topically, the album represents an externalization of my thoughts and emotions while working through trauma. Each album is a snapshot of where I am in that stage of recovery. In the case of Riluo, that stage is edging into acceptance, while also exploring and discussing components of what happened that I wasn’t comfortable sharing before. Musically, I draw inspiration from many sources. Much like before, my primary influences are Alcest, Katatonia, Karg, Harakiri for the Sky, and Chthonic. But some additional influences came from video game soundtracks such as work by Akira Yamaoka, NeoClassical such as Cedric Vermue, and a surprisingly new discovery of Panzerfaust.

I noticed drums were recorded by Zak King, is he officially part of the band, replacing Wanling (who played on the previous album)?
Haitao: He did! I haven’t asked him to officially be part of the band, but he is going to be our live drummer until we find a permanent member. He played drums for us on our US tour because Wanling couldn’t make the trip, and he was incredible. He’s probably the best drummer I’ve ever played with. I wanted to feature his playing on the new album after touring together because he’s just incredible. He’s super busy though, so I’m unsure if he’d be able to join full-time. 

About vocals, I personally felt more diversity on this album. Do you think you improved yourself as a songwriter and musician?
Haitao: Thanks! I think so. I actually took some more vocal lessons since the previous album, which helped extend my range. I also felt that I wanted to intensify the vocal style used. The reason I used the initial vocal style was because it allowed me to be loud and really just scream my feelings, while a typical fry scream style is actually very quiet and honestly wimpy. For this album I found a bit of a combination that I was happy with that allowed me to use more fry technique while still being loud and pushing myself to express the emotions I’m trying to. And I’m always learning more and improving as a musician and writer, we should never become stagnant or egotistical!

Is there a reason about the songs sequence? The last one, Riluo, sounds like a comeback to the previous material, right after Juren, which sounds to me like the darkest one, for example.
Haitao: There is, it’s a sequence of storytelling, passing through memories of the event to memories of recovery and struggles since the event, and finally up to acceptance. The juxtaposition of Juren into Riluo is intentional. They say, “It’s always darkest before dawn”, or sunset in this case. Where Riluo is about accepting that I am changed and saying goodbye to my past life, that’s not necessarily an easy thing to do. I’m not only mourning that, but it’s also actually quite terrifying. In many ways I am still terrified of so many things because of what happened. Juren is representing that final terror to overcome before I can reach acceptance in Riluo. Yequ is a bit of a precursor to Juren in that way. Yequ is fear of death, where Juren is fear of in fact being dead and having died. 

Compared to the last time we talked, the world is now open again, and Laang was able to play its first live shows in the USA with Dzö-Nga. How were those shows? Do you have a special memory to share?
Haitao: It was a wonderful experience! I’d go as far as to say that my time on tour was the happiest I’ve been in my life. We made some great friends on that tour, both with some now former members of Dzo-Nga as well as people we met at the shows. I think my favorite memory from the tour was probably in Cincinnati Ohio. That was probably the most high-energy crowd we’ve ever had. It was incredible, someone stage dove during Dongshang, an American in the front was screaming along to a song in Mandarin, and when we finished someone stormed backstage and demanded that we play another song. After the show, and many others as well, I was approached by people sharing with me their own personal experiences of survival and trauma, and how our music has helped them feel less alone in that, and how they’ve connected with our music. It was very rewarding, and I’d love to go on tour again as soon as we can.

Do you have some plans for the album release and after? Especially about touring.
Haitao: Touring is always something we want to do. We are in the very, very early stages of planning another US tour. We’ve been trying to make a European tour happen for years now, but we’ve not been having much luck with European booking agencies. If anyone wants to book us, let us know! We’re always happy to tour anywhere! As for other work, I’ve written demos for about half of the next album, which so far has a more aggressive and chaotic musical approach that I hope people will enjoy!

Did you see any evolution of the local scene around you?
Haitao: At risk of sounding pessimistic, honestly no. That said, I’m also not very connected with the local music scene around me. I tend to be quite introverted, and don’t go out much if I’m honest. There are some cool bands around, but I’m also not really in a hotspot for Metal. It’s great that tours are now happening again that the world has re-opened, but I don’t think I’ve personally seen much evolution happen locally. However, on the global scale there are some great bands popping up everywhere, including in Taiwan. I’m hoping to see more coming in the future!

It was my last question, so once again thank you very much for your time! Last words of this interview are yours!
Haitao: Thanks so much for having me! Our new album Riluo comes out very soon on November 24th. We put a lot of emotion and work into this album, and I hope you’ll all enjoy it. Also, we’d love to come tour wherever our fans are, so any suggestions or connections you can provide us will be helpful to make it happen!

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