There is nothing like a little folk metal to transport you out of the lowest point of the winter doldrums. Without a doubt, if there is one word that could be used to describe Taiwanese folk metal band Crescent Lament, it would be transportive. Combining traditional East Asian folk melodies with soaring vocal performances worthy of Nightwish, thunderous guitar chords that crack the sky, and mountain shaking beats that could leave even the mighty Manowar looking for a fresh pair of leather trousers, Cresent Lament’s prowess is as intimidating as it is beautiful.
Cresent Lament’s third full-length album 噤夢 Land of Lost Voices continues the story of their previous release, 2015’s 花殤 Elegy for the Blossoms, where we find the heroine A-Hiong separated from her lover Bing-Hong who left her side to fight the Imperial Japenese Army during the Second World War. After Japan renounced its sovereignty over Taiwan following their surrender in 1945, the Republic of China assumed the role of governing authority over the island. But as victory rises over the horizon like the light of a new day, we are told Bing-Hong has not returned from the battlefield and that his body was not recovered. In despair, A-Hiong allows herself to be betrothed to a wealthy local businessman, Lim Sui-tong, all the while holding out hope that her lover might yet be alive.
And so, A-Hiong lives a life like a ghost, waiting for the return of Bing-Hong, whose embrace might bring back the spark of life to her dreary existence. All the while, Taiwan is going through its own depressive phase. Although no longer at war, the island still finds itself gripped by turmoil, with unrest growing by the day. The dissatisfaction of the people finally reaches a boiling point in 1947 with the 228 incident, prompting a violent government crackdown and suppression of civilian protests against the secret police and government mismanagement of the economy. Known as the White Terror, the echoes of these upheavals still reverberate through Taiwan to this day. A truly harrowing setting for a romance.
Vocalist Muer’s swan-like call, weaves between the glinting, fair of sharp and delicate rhythms on “念伊人 Another Night of Solitude,” setting the stage with trepidation, whereupon the grief-poisoned lament “暮山船影 Ominous Shadows” enters with longing orations, wistful flute melodies, and a hungry, guitar-line undertow to disclose how the hopes of freedom and rejuvenation after the Japanese occupation ended were quickly dashed, forcing A-Hiong and the Taiwanese people as a whole to recon with the fetters that tightened around them following their victory over the foreign oppressors. Emotions rise like embers lifted into the air by a crackling fire on the raging cry of “夢空 Empty Dream” and a whirlwind of inward flowing contrition is set loose to spiral and rend at the spirit on “雁紛飛 Vortex of Collapse.” Hope finds itself further submerged in disarray and anguish on the soft, insistent scud of “北城風雨 Northern Storm,” but the bright, slicing melodies and the calculating circlet of chiming tones on “孤燈微微 By the Lone Light” demonstrates that there is still the will to persevere by album’s end.
You can stream Crescent Lament’s epic 噤夢 Land of Lost Voices below via Bandcamp.