零壹 / Voodoo Kungfu - Voodoo Kungfu (2008) - Unique despite its flaws - 80% (26/11/12)
Voodoo Kungfu is a quite unique extreme metal band and somewhat impossible to categorize. Their music has some epic doom metal influences and features quite diversified vocals that vary from clean parts over Mongolian overtone singing to a more extreme technique reminding me of Marilyn Manson. Li Nan is definitely one of the best singers I have ever heard. The most intriguing factor is though the folk aspect that gives many songs a great atmosphere and mystic touch. One can hear traditional Mongolian chants but also instruments such as the Mongolian horsehead cello or tribal drum passages. The band is definitely unique and a great deal for people interested in exotic cultures and especially in Chinese msuic, traditions and tribes.
The problem I have with the band is that some songs are truly hard to follow. Sometimes a song feels as if it was about to be over but then a completely new instrumental passage kicks off that doesn't fit at all with what has been heard before. The transitions are not very smooth and rather confusing and many parts feel directionless. The songs lack of a clear guiding line and catchy passages. Concerning the band's own compositions, there is not one catchy hook or one memorable riff on the record. Only the folk parts and the technical aspect of the vocals are great but they can't save this release. On the other side, the sometimes quite complex songs need several tries to grow on and on. What feels quite odd at first try is much easier to digest after a few more approaches even though the songs still remain too confusing at many moments. The greatest track is probably the untitled one that features a truly gripping gothic atmosphere with narrative passages and laid back instrumental parts with great folk influences.
The record also includes to rather surprising cover songs. The band chose the rather unusual Bob Marley track "Get Up Stand Up" and only kept the text to create a truly dark and vivid instrumental section around it that gives the song a new spirit. The track becomes something completely new and that's the kind of approach I would like to hear more often for cover songs. The absolute highlight is though the Eurythmics cover "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)". Even though a few melodies from the original have been kept and even though the song slightly reminds me of the version made by Marilyn Manson, this song convinces with a lot of energy, very emotional vocals and a perfect balance between calm and atmospheric parts featuring some string passages and incarnating a magic folk spirit on one side and extreme metal passages with pitiless drumming and crunching riffs on the other side.
In the end, this record definitely has its flaws. This is mostly due to a very confusing, odd and unusual song writing that is rather hard to digest. On the other side, the record has many strong components, too. The vocals are brilliant and variable and the folk influences are authentic and very well performed. Objectively, I definitely can't accord more than eighty percent to this unique release but it's strangely still one of the greatest records I have discovered in a while and I happen to give it a lot of spins from time to time. If you happen to be intrigued by my review and might want to you try this release out, don't forget to take some time and open up your mind. The patient ones will be enjoying a true gem in the end.« Southern Cross - Rise Above (2006) - The potential is already there - 65% (26/11/12)Shining - Redefining Darkness (2012) (9/10) »