The Light, the Dark and the Endless Knot

In theory I should love this album. Being a fan of Cruachan, Skyclad, In Extremo and other folkish inspired metal acts, I was looking forward to reviewing Waylander’s second album. Adorned with Celtic knot work and pagan icons and also having song titles like, “Morrigan’s Domain”, and “Balor of the Evil Eye”, you know what you are in store for with this Irish metal act. Unfortunately, Waylander don’t fully deliver on the promise of the imagery on the album. What we end up with is some average thrash/death metal, but to enforce the “Celtic” image there is the odd tin whistle thrown in for effect, which ultimately winds up being a very disappointing affair.

After a promising debut on Century Media in 1998, the band ran into some label issues, revolving band members, and was eventually signed to Blackend. I think the instability has affected to level of output and time the band can focus on song-writing, as the material on The Light, the Dark and the Endless Knot falls far short of the debut record. This is unfortunate, as Waylander really have some elements that make them stand out from the pack, they are just not fully utilized effectively.

Musically, Waylander produce average death/thrash riffs pulling obviously from NWBHM and other European metal outfits; the problem is it just isn’t played very well. The drums sometimes are out of sync, the guitars riffs are sloppy, and on the rare moments when the band speed up, all the instruments seem to fit together out of sheer luck rather than skill. Overall it sounds like a well produced demo, and reminded me in quality of Cruachan’s primitive Tuatha Na Gael. However, the band has recently undergone even more line-up changes, and hopefully this will solve the numerous musical issues.

On top of the questionable playing, the Celtic elements seem thrown in as an afterthought just fit the imagery, and its limited to only a tin whistle and flute. Hardly awe inspiring pagan grandeur. I wouldn’t mind this if the music itself stood up fine on its own, but it doesn’t. None of the riffs really invoke the required atmosphere to complete Waylander’s desired pagan effect. The odd acoustic flute interlude and tin whistle over some of riffs doesn’t cut it, especially when other bands in the genre have far more variation and depth to their ethnic elements. Then the failing coup de grace, the entire album suffers from the Curse Of The Awful Clean Vocals. Yes, the singer can growl and snarl adequately but he (Ciaran O’Hagan) has a severe case of “crapcleanvocalitis” – possibly even worse than displayed on Hin Onde’s recent album. Even attempts at bouncy jig type songs, which normally really get me going, fall flat due to all the aforementioned elements (“After the Fall” and “Release the Spirit Within”).

I hate writing negative reviews, but a really had a hard time finding much positive about this album, as Waylander took a huge step back from Reawakening Pride Once Lost. Essentially Waylander do have the tools the make a impact in the pagan/Celtic metal ring, but until they learn to play more cohesively, settle on a label and stabilize the line-up, the amazing potential won’t be realized. However, I will still investigate future releases as I think external and internal adversity has temporarily taken the some of the bite out of this once proud clan. Hopefully, after some time thy will return triumphantly.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
October 22nd, 2001


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