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In 2017, Melbourne’s Windwaker dropped the ‘Fade‘ EP; a decent enough metalcore/post-hardcore five-track from a young local band with some solid tunes to it’s name (‘Awake‘, ‘The Destroyer‘.) Now in 2019 with their new EP, ‘Empire‘, Windwaker, after some line-up changes, have raised up their musicianship and song-writing, noticeably improving upon the foundations their last release laid down two years ago. Which is the great thing about this up-and-coming Australian act. For as time goes on and as they experience and learn more, like playing Download, their music and output just grows better and better.
Windwaker aren’t one of those local bands that gets talked up simply because they’re a local band and their mates like them. No, there’s actual, honest-to-god talent here. Vocalist Will King has such a powerful voice in any category that he wishes to opt into: screaming or singing, soaring high and far in both departments. Jesse Crofts just unloads molten riff after fiery riff across this EP: the dude’s a fucking machine, honestly. Fellow guitarist Liam Guinane (who also fronts fellow Melbourne alternative act, Reside) has brought new dynamics and breathing-room to the band’s sound, vocally playing off Will’s parts and keeping the chugs going strong. Alongside the rhythm section of bassist Indey Salvestro, drummer Chris Lalic does a killer job at the release’s production and mixing; fine-tuning together well-balanced instrumentals and spacey synths that puncture most of the tracks present.
With some reverse-reverb and a brief filter swell, ‘Reject‘ kicks things off as a heavy, bending, riff-riddled opener dealing with self-rejection and inner demons. Sonically, it’s definitely very much a Windwaker song in how it fits nicely into what with this band was doing on the aforementioned ‘Fade‘ EP, as well as their 2018 single, ‘New Infinite‘. The chugging attitude, solid production, good use of layered parts, mighty big choruses, and all with hints of personal reflection scattered throughout the lyrics. S’not bad!
Another song that slots comfortably into this same description is the angular and fast-paced fifth track, ‘Arrested‘. Sharp, panicked guitar intervals pierce a monstrous metalcore verse before Will’s soothing clean vocals slide into the song’s DMs, before the cycle repeats itself. (The high notes he hits in that second verse give me life.) It’s a decent cut; competently mixing together the lighter and heavier shades that Windwaker simultaneously opt into. ‘Arrested‘ pushes and pulls between these two musical sides constantly, which is perhaps this band’s biggest draw. It’s also a proper call-out song, whether self-aimed or directed at another, it sure as shit is vitriolic and pointed.
Straight up, ‘The Sitch‘ is Windwaker’s greatest song; it’s their song. One that outshines ‘Reject‘ and ‘Arrested‘ by a huge margin. I wrote about this single before, and while I don’t wish to repeat myself, it’s honestly one of my favourite tracks of 2019. It’s the best distillation of their sound: from the spacier, melodic sounds, the poppier under-tones, as well as their heavier, post-hardcore/metalcore sides. Those cleaner guitars in the verses with the cheeky hand claps are so smooth. The pristine riffs are hook-central and the tonal shifts the song under-goes are superbly executed. Plus, that breakdown near the end just goes damned hard. The track’s lyrical vibe of not being able to live up to the high expectations you feel are expected of you, combating that inner-doubt, juxtapose the track’s major-key, upbeat nature. Which is clearly the band’s objective. This is peak Windwaker, folks. Sit down, shut up, and listen.
At this point in the EP, this is where we start to see that these guys aren’t just a one-trick pony. Third track ‘Grey World‘ completely strips away the bands metalcore exterior at first to reveal lusher tones, reverberant and under-watery guitars, filtered percussion and more intimate vocal lines. The surging alt-rock chorus that this song shoots off into sees Will really flexing his vocal range, right before the band drop down into a heavier, scream-fuelled passage. It’s a fine enough mid-release change in pace, sound and tempo. One that shows there’s so much more to this band than simply meets the eye. That swirling, tapping guitar bridge that takes things out to an atmospheric, minimal outro is just so sick. And the way that the group blend backing clean vocalisations over the top of all the screaming and busy instrumentals during these final moments is just epic; an euphoric climax that truly scratches the sky.
The clean guitar noodling that begins the serene ‘Colourless‘ is a big switcheroo for Windwaker. It’s a gorgeous song that is the most wild shift in direction for the band style-wise. Will has done the odd pop vocal cover in his time, but this song discloses that side to him the most, opening up that he’s not just a man of the metals. It also reveals what Liam has been able to bring to the band’s table, taking the vocal reigns for the most part here, and nailing that lead vocal role so well, showing what he can behind the mic in Windwaker. The clicky snare hits and distant atmos samples that surround this track are unlike anything else Windwaker have attempted before. Even more so when the bleeping club synths kick in with live drums as a gorgeous prog lead guitar glosses over the top with some added whammy love. I so adore this change in direction, as it’s basically a chilled out Polyphia or CHON track hybridised with some pop and hip-hop elements. And I fuck with it! This doesn’t define ‘Empire‘, but it does define this particular song; one of Windwaker’s finest creations yet. Something interesting and different, a sound that I hope to see the group expand further upon down the road.
This striking three-track run from ‘The Sitch‘, to ‘Grey World, over to ‘Colourless‘ is the peak of this EP. After that wonderful detour, it’s back to the core business with ‘Arrested‘, before we hit EP closer, ‘My Empire‘.
This final jaunt starts out with dark, modulated synths that make it feel like you’re about to enter a whole other record. Will definitely steals the show, hitting the upper peaks of his higher-register for that “I’m not giving up” chorus with real ease. ‘My Empire‘ is BIG in the moody space that it inhabits, a real creature of the night. The whispered vocals that transition into more aggro, mid-range screams – something that Will loves to do on this EP, often times with added EQ and modulation – are pulled-off well. As are the guitars and octave layers that give the song a prog-metal edge. However, it doesn’t quite feel like a final track to end on; it honestly feels like their should be more to this EP’s girth after ‘My Empire‘ comes to an end. Of course, this is an EP, not some hour-long opus: length ain’t the name of the game. But I do wonder whether this should’ve been a full-length instead; an LP that is currently no doubt being demoed and worked on by Windwaker for 2020.
When it comes to heavy and alternative bands in Australia, if you’re doing an EP and it doesn’t end on a strong final note – a fitting closer in terms of tone and impact – than maybe head back to the drawing board. Regardless of sound, the golden standard for me when it comes to Australian bands and ending their EP’s is that of Sierra’s ‘The Great Charade‘, which concluded their masterful ‘Reality Redefined‘ EP. Simply put, ‘My Empire‘ just does not have that total sense of finality. It sounds and feels like more should follow, yet more doesn’t come. I’m left wondering why that final interlude part that’s repeated from the intro wasn’t cut, as it begs for a resolution to arrive; whether it be another section or perhaps another song or two that maybe got axed from the track-listing.
New empires are often built out of the ashes of those that came before them. In this sense, Windwaker’s ‘Empire’ EP is well-learned from the history of their past releases, and strives to outdo everything that once stood before it. And I’ll be damned if the band haven’t done just that! They’ve made some solid, defining improvements right here. From the song-writing, the slick guitar output of Jesse Crofts, the forever-moving voice of Will King, the new dynamic layers that Liam Guinane adds, to even drummer Chris Lilac doing the production and mixing in-house. These guys are doing things their own way, in the right way, and the full proof is in the pudding of their efforts.
The lyrical content behind ‘Empire’ reveals a budding band wishing to really push beyond their own doubt and fears, to tap deeper into their artistic drive and creativity that they, somewhat ironically, actually show-off on this release’s mid-section. Fear not lads, you’v got this one in the bag; with ‘Empire’, Windwaker can hang with the best of ’em. Hopefully, this EP is going to be a great push forward for the band in 2019. Give Windwaker some time, and they’ll take over. Because if this is how far they’ve come since 2017, just think what another year or two will do! I for one welcome our new Windwaker over-lords.
- The Sitch
- Grey World
- My Empire
‘Empire’ is out March 22nd, 2019.