Lana Laws is a transgender keyboardist, guitarist and bassist and the creator of “Kalasin” – a symphonic, progressive instrumental metal project. The name of the project comes from Kalasin – a town, as well as a province, in the northeast of Thailand, which is dear to Laws, due to the time she spent there completing her personal metamorphosis. It’s always a wonderful thing for a symphonic metal fan to see the names of real instruments being played, as opposed to just having synthesizers mimic those sounds. And that’s what you see in the opening credits above. It’s a really good start. The music is big, bombastic, cinematic, melodic, complex, symphonic, and even operatic in places, though there are no vocals to speak of, except on the final track – basically all the things you crave in this genre.
If you haven’t heard of Lana Laws, that’s okay, because a lot of people across the globe haven’t yet. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that things will remain this way. For starters, you must have some patience, but not much, when listening to the “Kalasin” album, because the first track will grab you and hold you until the last throbs of sonic texture fade out on the climactic “The Chasing of Perfidious Mists”.
Laws has so many unbelievable songs but for me this is absolutely perfect. The pacing, the atmospheric textures, the brutal riffs, the cosmic soundscape, and the exquisite songwriting that proves that she is tapping into something innately visceral, and transcendental, when she makes music.
“The Mutilation of Heritage” is a powerful, bone crushing tune, where the crunch of the heavy guitars match the orchestrated symphony, almost note for note. The symphonic metal world is, regrettably, almost as full of copycats and one-trick ponies as the mainstream, but Lana Laws legitimately earns the label of innovator with her sonic blend, which leans heavily towards vibrant cinematic imagery. All of which is forged on this track. Pounding drums drill the theme home and help to set the needed tone.
Lana Laws creates multiple levels of sonic artistry on “Identity : Prosperity : Obscenity” that build upon each other until finally crashing down and switching into diverse avenues. The various sections of music are meant for listeners to get lost in for hours at a time, and Laws accomplishes this effortlessly.
This is not chugging power chord metal. This is far more thoughtful. It is very much like post-rock except faster, heavier, and musically, more fleshed out. “To Glide The Competing Winds To Freedom” again showcases the dominating cinematic elements with Laws’ arrangements, except for the drums, which could so easily come from death or thrash metal.
In fact, the high-speed, high-energy drums brings a very personalized flavor to Lana Laws’ take on symphonic metal, especially on “A Tortured Score”, which has a relentless onslaught of percussion, pushing the momentum of the arrangement, until you the listener is nearly out of breath.
“One Final Swell, The Fatigued Orchestra Retires, Farewell”, is probably one of the more melodic tracks on the album, but never once does it cease to be busy and urgent in its execution. With lumbering guitar tones, and drums that pulsate like ripples in stormy water, Lana Laws is certainly not on the softer side of the rock and metal spectrum.
And she explodes with all her power in the final track “The Skin That I’m In”, which is an out and out rocker, narrating a very personal emotional and physical experience. Between the frantic and the intense, the track hurtles ahead, driven by the machine-gun drums, screaming guitars, and harsh vocals. It’s rare that heavy music can ever be regarded as catchy, but Lana Laws pulls it off on this track.
All in all, “Kalasin” is a powerful, effortlessly epic work that requires absorption; you cannot hope to gain the most from it, through skipping tracks, or doing something else while listening to it. This needs time, and love, and absolute attention. It’s thrilling stuff!