Wayfarer
Children of the Iron Age

Blackened quartet Wayfarer hail from Colorado, and put on a melodic, mental institution clinic on their debut Children of the Iron Age.  Formerly an independent release, Children of the Iron Age has been picked up for CD/LP distribution by Prosthetic Records, which should help the band’s mixture of midtempo, tuneful chaos, despondent doom and rural, colony bound tribal/folk find a wider audience.  I’m not sure who their peers would be; maybe Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room but these cats certainly favor volume and sheer decibel output over intense, lengthy bouts of introspection.  I.e. they’re heavier than both of those bands, though hardly shy on catchy, hook-basted songwriting.

The wind kicks up, and acoustic guitars surround the campfire pyre on the brief intro, “The Earth only Endures,” an obligatory “set the mood piece,” before the 10 minute rampage of “Forests Ash by Dawn” really tells you how Wayfarer feels.  Production-wise, the band achieves a dense, suffocating blanket of minor key riffage sharp enough to fell redwoods, claustrophobic vocal screams, Isaac Faulk’s chunky drumming heavy on slow to fast fills and morphine dosed speed-ups as bassist James Hansen’s rumbling lows ensconce any open space.  The dual guitars of Tanner Rezabek and Shane McCarthy offset each other nicely, one axe delegated to a lower, feral buzz and the other lending a harmony-laced lead element with a lot of interplay happening.  Not only do the twin guitarists trade-off licks, but they also complement each other’s vocal viscera with coagulated screams, raw growls and other unpleasant verbal abuse they’ve kept imprisoned in the stocks back at their practice spot making an appearance.  A pungent doom break turns the air to pea soup at the 5:40 mark, and as it collapses the band transports themselves musically to a deep, lightless grove where they embrace their inner gothic minstrel with a medley of rich acoustic guitars, tribal tom heavy drumming interspersed by hand percussion and bellowing, chorale styled vocals.  When they plug back in, Faulk commandeers the skin-peeling guitars into a teeth-bared, forward lunge thanks to combat loaded percussion that plays like one giant fill with a roll on top.

A Neurosisian, Through Silver in Blood beat wash of endless tom-drum thunder juxtaposes beautifully with the transcendent guitar shimmer during “Toward Mountains’” intricate setup.  The tones and playing are straight outta Norway or even Sweden (a little Dissection in there?), but the pacing and constant down-tempo plucks fruit from the American doom tree (Morgion, Rwake/early Neurosis).  Vocally, this one gives more prominence to hearty, death-y roars, but the screeches are still there.  A couple of things separate these guys from the pack to my ears including the band’s general knack for arrangement and layout, the winding out of the riffs and the way notes bend melodically (see 5:15 for a more than fine example) almost creating some semblance of groove, with the bass just audible enough to make the difference.  These guys are very much a whole and a band.  There’s not a soloist to speak of, just a wall of sound and performance that weaves together into an ever unfolding tapestry.  Hell, they even rock things out a bit towards the end with a swingin’ riff that’s not quite Sabbath, but indecent enough to elicit a similar type of old school headbanging atrophy.

“The Elemental” is a bit busier and more directly intent on chasing you through the night, opening with a clean bass lick followed by chugging, thrash-y staccato riffs, it soon splinters into a dark, atmospheric lurch with excellent albeit brief guitar leads tearing you open like a hungry pack of wolves hellbent on sampling your wares.  Frequent stops and starts are created by the constant percussive motion; the rhythm section and the riffs this time constantly in your face flashing you a knife even though they give you no warning as to exactly when the fatal acupuncture’s comin’ down.  This stuff pushes vibrantly and viciously in the way that Garden of Shadows’ classic “Twilight Odyssey,” did, and has a similar effect on my mind.  These guys also wait to unveil a lot of their magic tricks past the 5 minute waypoint, so make sure to stay buckled in.  They had me thinking I was getting sawed in two, when they quickly pulled a rabbit of 70s tinged rock riffing knee-deep in the second half of the show.  Further along the pike, some pristine melody guitars are practically devoured by volume and heft so cavernous you’ll swear it got sucked down Charlie Manson’s oft-talked about “hole in the Earth.”

Folk-y acoustic guitars and African rhythms provide a hypnotic place of respite on “Stormcall,” your journey across the album landing on calm waters until your brain vessel is lured to a dashing death on the rocks by the siren’s song sorcery of the title track, “Children of the Iron Age.”  Piercing melodies are threaded between thunder cracked riffs that have an ascending, becoming God kind of feel to them.  It’s definitely that hesher, blood on the battlefield vibe but trading pulp and camp for a blade dripping with legitimate madness.  The call and response harmony leads at 4:00 are a true highlight, again furthering a feeling of climbing the Tower of Babel, before being pulled back down into the sod by bewitching acoustic guitars, and Isaac’s moonlit sticks racing across the snares/toms.  Brace yourself, because the pain returns with a goddamned, graven vengeance intent on extinguishing the last gleam of every soul.

“A Place among the Stars” flirts again with punch-y, thrash staccato played in a slovenly form, while continuing to keep the melodic riffs and sodden drips of doom falling; each drop corroding your eardrums a bit more like a sweet, solemn acid rain shower.  Plundering double bass, slick tripwire tom fills and a military snare march only goes to show just how much Faulk adds to the unit overall.  Switching up the acoustic formula a bit, the daunting 15+ minute closer “Skysong” kicks off (instead of endng) with a medieval string jam and ghostly cymbal splashes.  This tune really encompasses Wayfarers’ style completely, going all over their musical map with several interjections of acoustic guitar and trippy dementia, cloven hoof doom-y riff crawls, atonal abrasive bleakness and barb-wired chords straight from the cream of the BM crop.

Children of the Iron Age is a damn good debut, and Wayfarer have already set some lofty heights to reach on their next outing.  I thought with nary a song under the 10 minute mark that this was going to be a little much for me.  Most folks that know me are privy to the fact that I tend to stick with the black metal of yore, while only allowing a few new bands in the circle.  The melodic side especially can go either way, but Wayfarer has not only got strong melodies and songwriting skills, they’ve got enough grit and aggression to carry their extended compositional framework.  Perhaps this won’t be for everyone, but I’m certainly into it.  My advice is to blast this one when the sky’s gray, the snow is falling and you’re righteously warmed up on your favorite, high proof winter beverage.  I think you’ll have a good time!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
January 21st, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Dan Wrathburn

    This sounds absolutely killer. Nice review. I’m going hiking this week and will definitley be loading this on the ipod.


  2. Commented by: Jason

    Thanks Dan! I dig the hell out of this album. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever heard on Prosthetic as well. Really unrelenting album. It slows down and chills out here and there, but it’s always right on top of you, breathing down your neck.


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