Lana Laws – Kalasin – Album Review
Really kickass record from Lana Laws with a whole orchestral/metal riot goin’ on that presents impressive melodies and complex compositions as one. Neat to read the details & story behind Kalasin as well…Lana records & composes at the same time, essentially ensuring the uniqueness of each song by proxy of being right there in the moment, invested, and involved in every layer of sound you hear. A proud transgender artist from the UK – Lana Laws draws additional inspiration from Kalasin – important, personal, and empowering inspiration when it comes right down to it; Kalasin is actually a place, it’s a province in Thailand – and it’s also the spot that Lana confronted the need to transition from male to female. Obviously a massively pivotal moment in time – and ultimately, you’d have to assume that Kalasin is the place where she was finally able to break free & embrace the person she’s always been meant to be – this highly expressive collection of colorful & imaginative music on Lana’s new record likely reflects upon her journey in many ways. I could speculate and guess of course…these tunes are mostly instrumental, you’ll be welcome to your own theories on what they may/may-not be about – but suffice it to say, Lana’s definitely found a home in music and a place to fiercely blossom as an artist.
Alrighty…so…how does it all sound? That I can tell ya about. Kalasin begins with the dreamy orchestral & majestic opening of “The Chasing Of Perfidious Mists,” embracing a minute of sheer sonic fantasy before plunging deeper into hard hitting drums and a more intensified melody. What in the heck does ‘perfidious’ mean anyhow? Excuse me a moment whilst I Google here… ‘Perfidious’ is defined as ‘deceitful or untrustworthy’ apparently. Apologies…I don’t mean to get off on a tangent here, but being a word-guy myself, what else can I say but thank-you Lana – you taught me something today while you entertained my ears as well. I’ll add that one to the ol’ vocab and save it for a rainy day when I need it most. As for that definition’s meaning here on this first tune…keeping in mind, this could just be a very intriguing title…but if I had to hazard a guess, it’d largely refer to the fluctuating sound of “The Chasing Of Perfidious Mists” as a song, and how you should never assume it’s just going to stay the way it is. Ever changing, full of complex arrangements and a clearly dedicated effort to create something epic & enormous in sound – the most ‘deceitful’ sounds perhaps come at the very end as this first song shifts into the its mysterious murk & settles hauntingly into the darkest of corners until the nightmare is over. So there you go – you want range? Lana’s clearly ready to supply. I started out talking about the dreamy sounds of “The Chasing Of Perfidious Mists” and by the end here we’re discussing nightmares – how’s THAT for range? What makes this cut great are a lot of those early brass sounds, and how they almost imply the eventual ending of this song, or hint that there’s a menace surrounding this beauty that continually threatens it at all times…and through the intense pace of the song, it often feels like we’re on the ride of our lives as we’re gripped by this battle between light & dark, on the edge of our seat, wondering how it’s all really going to work out & which of these two sides will win in the end. Loved the guitars…excellent solos, tones, and melody to be found there – smart mix on them too – quite often they’ll be heard in the distance in really effective moments of this first tune. Right around 4:15-ish though…when “The Chasing Of Perfidious Mists” makes its most significant shift in sound and largest departure from the rest of what we’ve experienced so far…I mean…c’mon people – that’s insanely awesome…that’s the way to create an ending that’ll cling right to all of our bones for years afterwards.
“The Mutilation Of Heritage” becomes a whole other animal altogether. Furiously paced for the majority of the song, Lana keeps the music coming at you with bold arrangements & layers working incredible magic together, pulling the switch with timing & tempo at points to keep our attention engaged. What a triumphant battle taking place here though! The extremities of this song are entirely badass and pack a huge punch through your speakers. Best way I can put it perhaps, is that Lana really goes after the Metal-side of her sound throughout “The Mutilation Of Heritage” – and like – LISTEN to the way this starts up will ya? Percussion is straight-up unreal…love the sound on the drums as this song begins…love the seriousness that’s on display in the atmosphere immediately…and I really dig the infusion of the creative synths flaring up to enhance the melody as this song plays on. What really works in this second cut is Lana’s mastery of drama and theatrics – “The Mutilation Of Heritage” is a pretty flashy tune at the end of the day…lots of epic sounds, lots of colorfully expressive instrumentation, lots of rage-filled moments that break through with real edge & teeth…there’s the possibility of getting through to the everyday music-listener, but it’s the muscian’s-musicians and composers out there that are going to really reap the rewards of all the effort Lana’s put into her album. Not too many moments throughout “The Mutilation Of Heritage” where she’ll let her foot off the gas – for the most part, this second comes at ya fast & furious, mixing mayhem with melody in insightfully powerful new ways.
The immediate appeal of the electro-infused opening to “Identity : Prosperity : Obscenity” is killer – almost a dive right into that dark industrial type sound you’d hear from a band like Stabbing Westward for a moment before Lana takes us into her orchestral/metal world once this third cut opens up. Hard-hitting drums on display again, really smartly placed stuff in the mix and the layering of Lana’s music continues to be extraordinarily well-detailed & relentlessly creative. Full confession from me…being a melody-guy & all…the switch into the delicate moments you’ll find on “Identity : Prosperity : Obscenity” is one of my personal favorite parts of this record where so much more to Lana’s music is revealed. There’s no doubt she can create all-out killer intensity – she’ll even do it in this very son as well – but between the two-minute to three-thirty section of this song…I don’t even know what else to tell ya – just LISTEN to it…Lana’s found something incredibly beautiful there. As for what happens before it & afterwards, I’ve got love for all that too – in many ways, I don’t see how you couldn’t as a listener; everything is assembled with such care and she leaves no stone unturned when shifting directions and exploring these ideas to their absolute maximum potential & furthest extremes. I like “Identity : Prosperity : Obscenity” a ton – I think it’s a huge highlight early on in the record that fully proves that Lana can play in the light just as much as the dark and find really successful sounds & structures in both. One of the longer cuts on the record…there’s no way you can get bored with this or with anything Lana’s doing really – there’s so much here to appreciate – “Identity : Prosperity : Obscenity” fully delivers on a wildly ambitious structure that once again shows the strength of her compositions & abilities, but also shines a bright light on yet another tool in her arsenal of sound that could draw the people in to listen.
As to whether or not everyone out there is gonna be able to hang with Lana’s ideas & keep up to this music, that is truly a whole other story. For some people, no problemo, for others, it’ll be like running a marathon inside of your own head. Like…in a sense, you really gotta know what you’re in-store for when it comes to music like this – personally, I come out exhausted after a long session listening. And that’s not intended as a disrespectful comment, quite the opposite – this is a compliment. Primus exhausts me too and I love that band…but by the end of a concert, I am LIGHTS OUT tired, because I was paying attention to every single solitary second with every fiber of my being – it takes WORK to really listen, no matter how much you might like something – it’s involved stuff! Much the same can be said of an album like this, or shape-shifting sonic tapestries like “To Glide The Competing Winds To Freedom” – the powerful onslaught of ideas & sounds strung together here, the intensity it comes with, the relationship between layers & the interaction between instrumentation…if you’re really listening, believe me, it’ll take some energy to absorb it all. In my opinion, a lot of great music has that effect…I’d put Lana’s music in that same category of artist/band that has the ability to use ALL of your brainwaves at the same time to create entirely sensory experiences. Because make no mistake – that’s what these songs certainly are. I will sleep well throughout this week of listening to Lana Laws’ music – because she puts the effort into creating songs that command our attention through sheer sonic force and stunning detail…my synapses pretty much all fire off at once in one massive KABOOM trying to keep up to it all and songs like “To Glide The Competing Winds To Freedom.” Vibrant stuff in this cut for sure…sound radiates from every corner of “To Glide The Competing Winds To Freedom” and makes use of its most minimal & extreme parts with equal effectiveness. It’s adventurous, it’s complex, it’s got a rich diversity & wealth of sound that jumps from your speakers to grab your attention. At the end of the day, what Lana creates is uniqueness, and she displays that in full-force throughout the way “To Glide The Competing Winds To Freedom” changes, expands, contracts, and explodes with such ambitiously different ideas than what you’ll typically find out there in music right now. Kudos to her – she makes an impact in that respect on every cut you’ll find throughout Kalasin & the adventure in sound these songs have to offer your ears.
“A Tortured Score” was an interesting tune in the sense that, for a song-title that contains the word “Tortured” in it, you’d almost assume you might not find as much melody as you’ll find here driving this song. Lana can certainly play – every song on this record has confirmed her talent for instrumentation and musicianship – “A Tortured Score” leans closer towards what might be more universally appealing moments than some of the rest, then fully combats that comforting vibe with battle-ready drumbeats that come pounding furiously through the music to lead the charge forward. If you listen to these tunes up-close like I have, you’ll really notice how well Lana creates the finale & ending of her songs as well – tiny switches that lead to that audible cherry on top of the last moments, just like you’ll find here again on “A Tortured Score.” As it begins though, be prepared to be hit with a storm of drumbeats as the track begins – and soon after, you’ll be on a synth-laden ride into the sonic depths of hell & back as Lana takes you through the layers of mysterious & mystifying sounds that are laced throughout the atmosphere. Great balance in this track overall that she should be extremely proud of – I like that you can hear more melody break through the surface of “A Tortured Score” in many noticeable ways – and I like that it’s still creepy & crawly enough to feel like a haunting experience we won’t soon forget as listeners. Malevolence is in the air – but skill is in the music, and certainly within the walls of its structure – the final ninety-seconds of “A Tortured Score” raise the stakes yet again in another highlight ending to the songs you’ll find on this record – the intensity at the very end is straight-up extraordinary.
Kalasin continues with “One Final Swell, The Fatigued Orchestra Resigns, Farewell,” bringing back those dreamy vibes from the very beginning of the record and creating a more hybrid experience with them, infused with surging rock electrifying the energy of the heart of this track. We’re talking machine-gun style drums here at times…fast enough that there’d be simply no room for another note…at others, Lana spreads the atmosphere out and creates serenity upon the surface melody. “One Final Swell, The Fatigued Orchestra Resigns, Farewell” – you see? I told ya we’re all tired by the time an experience like this is over – even the orchestra is – it says so in the title of this track! Look…I’ll put it this way…the title’s like a clever allusion to the fact that, not just on this song, but throughout this entire record, Lana has thrown the kitchen sink at you when it comes to what’s included in this orchestral wall of sound. A song like “One Final Swell, The Fatigued Orchestra Resigns, Farewell” lives many lives inside of the singular experience – Lana will guide you through a sonic smorgasbord on this track…damn near like a showcase for ALL of her remarkable skills at once, all somehow contained within six-minutes & thirty-five seconds. But just like a great sampler of anything you like where you get to experience a little bit of what you love at a time and a whole range of variations on whatever that may be, be it beer, cheese, wine, music, or whatever else otherwise – you get more than enough to know you want to come back to it all again and give this another round.
I honestly don’t know 100% about how I feel about the final cut “The Skin That I’m In” and its inclusion on this album. I understand that there are statements being made here in this particular track that you won’t find in any other – and I get that they certainly tie-in strongly with the overall theme and aura that surrounds this whole record…but yeah…I dunno…I think the switch to a cut with vocals for just the one short experience here at the end might throw a few listeners out there. Essentially, if you’re living in Lana’s head, this no doubt makes a ton of sense to include, because it’s every bit as much of a representation of what Kalasin has been all about and the journey she’s been on – but as listeners, “The Skin That I’m In” is more than a departure from the rest of what the experience has been like overall. Not to give too much away…but you might take away the theory that this last track could be a lead-in to the next record just as much as it’s intended as a conclusion to this one…word on the street is that Kalasin II is already underway and new songs are already being composed. The more aggressive, Metal, and edgy sound of “The Skin That I’m In” might very well be a nod towards or sign of things to come. Almost like a combination of KMFDM and something like Steve Vai here at the end…My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult…Ministry…that kind of pumped-up & gnarly sound that you just can’t help but leech the energy off of – Lana Laws uses this final moment to vocalize her thoughts inside of a gripping combination of raw music that perfectly communicates the severity & savage nature of everything she’s been through to get to where she is today, brilliantly expressed and punctuated by this punishing final experience on Kalasin.
Find out more about Lana Laws at her official page at Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/lanalawsmusic