Review Summary: Young upstarts carrying the torch with a unique flourish all their own
2018 has been a tumultuous year for heavy music, from drama and tragedy amongst the ranks of iconic metal groups to resurgent releases from acts thought played out. Throughout all of it, one realization seems inevitable. Like their predecessors before them, the vanguard of 00’s metalcore led by bands like Underoath, August Burns Red, and the like has aged; some groups more gracefully than others.
While the next generation of heavy is absolutely shaping up, we usually see little variation, and along predictable vectors. Established bands are opting to go heavier and more aggressive, or melodic and more palatable to a mainstream audience. Meanwhile, a strange little trend of oddball acts from unexpected regions of the world have been popping up, and in some cases, making a serious impression.
I’m willing to bet Windrunner is going to be one of latter. In many ways, their debut LP is more or less predictable. At a glance, MAI
sounds just a notch above a tastefully placed intro song to an interesting anime. Asian-infused melodies and inoffensive production accompany above-average metalcore instrumentation and good but predictable lyrical themes. However, in a genre as mapped-out as modern metalcore seems to be, detail can distinguish a lot.
Windrunner’s approach to technical metalcore is certainly refreshing, if divisive. To be sure, the Asian-influenced elements in MAI
are sure to incite a strong reaction, positive or negative. Rather than agonize over whether they are worse or better, Windrunner’s performance on their debut LP gives the impression of a band content to simply express itself. On that front they certainly do, and with astonishing panache. Songs like "Sakura" and "Oleander" might be a touch gimmicky, but feature clean instrumentation and a showcase a wealth of inspired songwriting that is surprisingly well-executed for a debut. If anything, the added piano playing occasional Asian string tones coupled with the female-fronted vocals make Windrunner a little overwhelming at times.
Overall, the album punches well above its weight class, with the eponymous title track having all the makings of a seriously infectious ‘core earworm. Female-led vocals in the metal community seem to either categorically impress or irreparably offend the ears of fans. This album certainly isn’t going to change that, but at its best, the clean singing found on MAI
is absolutely a highlight, and one not often found elsewhere. Backed by more than capable instrumentation, the album represents a promising start to say the least.