On Friday we brought you the first taste of Vietnamese metalcore band WINDRUNNER, who may be one of the most exciting bands we’ve had the pleasure of meeting over the last couple of years.
The Hanoi quintet are also one of the first Asian bands, let alone the first Vietnamese band, we’ve spoken to, and this provides an opportunity to understand what inspires musicians on the other side of the world.
For example, WINDRUNNER tell us their music tends to touch on topics that are vastly different from things we might experience in our daily lives in the UK. As guitarist Trung Tôn explains: “Our lyrics are usually introspective thoughts about different aspects of life, from our own experiences or from our point of view about our own lives and the ones of the people around us. The overall theme is recognising the problems in your life and overcoming them.
“We also have a few songs talking about topics that could be quite unfamiliar with Western cultures, such as ancestral worshipping, Vietnamese traditions, etc… but it might be quite interesting to see how listeners interpret those!”
WINDRUNNER, which is completed by vocalist Duong Bui, guitarist Nam Dao, bassist Híu NT and drummer David Hudd, recently signed to US label Famished Records – who also boast our New Band of the Week from last month Dayshifter on their roster – and are on the verge of releasing their debut album MAI on 30 November.
The latest track to be released from that album will be Sakura, which will be out on 9 November. It opens up with chilled synthy sounds, then huge bursts of low-tuned guitars begin to destroy the serene opening before that’s completed by huge screamed vocals. Clean vocals come in for the chorus, with light flickering instrumentals and bursts of guitar supporting.
Light vocals build into delicious cries of “I try to feel nothing,” then high-pitched looping guitars and booming chords support Duong’s screamed vocals, then guest screamed vocals Sang Yul Song, from South Korean band End These Days, kick in. A beautiful fast-paced solo takes over alongside huge pounding bass drum, then the chugging guitars return alongside screamed vocals from both Duong and Song.
This track, alongside recent releases Rose and Orchid, promises great things for MAI and continues the band’s ongoing theme of focusing on flowers. As Trung expands: “The album is titled MAI after a beautiful flower that blossoms in the spring, which also means tomorrow. It was quick of you to notice the trend of flowers, other songs on the album are also names of flower blossoms or trees, and each one symbolises/talks about a different problem that we may face in life. Overall, we try to emphasise the importance of perseverance and hope through all hardships, to look to the future and move forward to be a better person, hence the name MAI.”
I was in Vietnam for Christmas 2016 and didn’t see any sign of metal bands, so I was keen to hear the band’s thoughts on the heavy music scene in Vietnam and across Asia generally. Trung told us: “Unfortunately the metal scene here in Vietnam is still developing, so while there isn’t much yet, we’re definitely growing and spreading quickly.
“There have been bands starting all over the area, with different styles, influences and such, which has been quite exciting seeing how they start out, how they evolve and what they accomplish. We believe it’s just a matter of time until more and more Asian bands start getting recognised and make it big in the global scene. We’re few in numbers but we have quite a lot of talent. Just you wait.”
That talent is undoubted when it comes to WINDRUNNER. We’ve had a sneak preview of MAI, and it is pretty incredible. Duong’s vocals are intense, yet delicate and highly engaging, supported by all manner of awesome metal instrumentals. The band describe their sound as ’emotions, melodies and grooves,’ and Trung expands: “To be honest, we’re not even sure how to describe our sound because we’ve tried to make all our songs sound different, so we guess those three words would be the best way to describe WINDRUNNER’s music.
“However, we do get some comparisons to a few bigger bands out there: Invent Animate seems to be one of the favourite for fans, that have mentioned them to us, and in our videos before. While I can’t quite say we sound like them – as I mentioned, we strive to be our own unique group with as much variety in our music as possible – it’s definitely flattering to be compared to someone like them. Or Crystal Lake, we’ve heard that one before too.”
As Trung alludes to, the WINDRUNNER sound is certainly diverse, which is perhaps best portrayed by fantastic recent single Orchid. It opens up with cool techy guitar blitzes that are answered by low-tuned chords and soon joined by huge screams from Duong. It soon launches into an almighty smash of huge drums and wild guitars under Duong’s huge screams.
But the big heavy sections are answered superbly by delicious ambient melodies, with Duong’s clean vocals “Are you waking up at night, When you’re all alone and cold, The shining bright sky is the only anchor to keep my heart alive, Are you waking up at night, When all you see is the darkness in your eyes, The shining bright sky is the only anchor to keep my heart alive.” Those vocals plough away over all manner of techy guitars and huge drums, which later continue into a big guitar solo. This section is so good it gives me goosebumps listening to it. Check it out in the incredible guitar playthrough video, featuring Yuto of Japanese band Earthists, below:
On their influences, Trung explains: “We all have different musical backgrounds and influences, ranging from pop, R&B and soul to extreme metal. When writing WINDRUNNER’s music, we really tried to work together to write music that fits Duong’s vocal styles, so we definitely took influences from all over the place. But specifically contemporary artists in similar genres to us that have influenced us would be Issues, Invent Animate and Novelists.”
The band also manage themselves, booking all their own gigs and tours. Trung tells us: “Every touring experience has been memorable for us, the few best ones would have to be when we went to Singapore earlier this year to play at Mayday Singapore mini-fest. (We) got to share the stage with Attila, Secrets, and other amazing bands from around South East Asia. And the South Korea tour in 2016 was amazing as well.”
WINDRUNNER will be touring South East Asia in support of the release of MAI, so if you happen to be in the area then go see them. And when it comes to branching out further afield, Duong says: “As for the UK, that would be a dream come true for us to be able to play there. We’ll work hard to achieve that!” So any UK promoters out there, make it happen.