By: Matt Butler
Wayfarer | facebook | bandcamp |
Released on June 17, 2016 via Prosthetic Records
It is by definition that we as listeners merely grab a snapshot of a band’s creative process when we listen to an album. Who knows: between the recording of a piece of work and its release, the guitarist, for instance, may discover a penchant for strident horn sections. But we’d never get to hear about it because what we are given is frozen in time – and, if we’re lucky, specifically planned to sound coherent. Occasionally we get to hear an anomaly; like Ringo Starr’s ‘Octopus’s Garden’ slap-bang in the middle of the Beatles’ hazy classic Abbey Road – as incongruous as, well, an octopus in the middle of a road.
Wayfarer’s second album doesn’t contain anything nearly as jarring as Ringo’s abomination, but amid the sheets of rasping atmospheric black metal lies ‘Catcher’ a song with a proper head-nodding groove to it. Make no mistake, it comes as a nice surprise; but with its Soulfly-style thump (that comparison is meant to be complimentary, by the way), which morphs into a melodic-death drumfest then returns to the initial groove, it does stand out from the rest of the album.
Because the rest of Old Souls follows directly from the Colorado band’s debut Children of the Iron Age, with long, mostly mid-tempo songs that appear to be influenced by the beautiful but harsh environment of the Rocky Mountains. Just like their debut, the production in Old Souls is crisp, if more gutsy, and the musicianship – especially the drumming – is at times superb.
The opener, ‘Ever Climbing’, is true to its title, beginning with foothills of tribal drumming, building to towering slabs of noise that engulf the listener. And the crescendo towards the end never reaches a climax; instead it fades out as if we are indeed ever climbing. The title track – or near enough as it’s called ‘Old Souls’ New Dawn’ – is a 12-minute gargantuan which conjures images of either open winter skies and silhouettes of jagged mountains, impossibly deep caverns or gathering clans of ancient beings, depending on your state of mind.
At this point it is worth bringing up the reason for reviewing this album in autumn, months after its release in June. It’s simply because the height of summer is no time for black metal, no matter how atmospheric. When there’s a snap to the air and the trees are getting bare, however: perfect.
Anyway, back to the music. After the relative bounciness of ‘Catcher’ come two more enormous songs, themselves bisected by the evocative ‘The Dust Lakes’. The first is ‘Deathless Tundra’ (see what I mean? There’s no way you could listen to a song called Deathless Tundra when it’s barbecue season) and the quiet acoustic segments and subtle time changes – plus others that are far from subtle – make it seem more like a suite than a single song. ‘All Lost in Aimless Chaos’, however, sticks to a single theme throughout in its alternating loud-quiet way and, as the title suggests, is a bleak, if rewarding finale to the album.
If a criticism must be made, there is a lot to take in, with four of the seven songs pushing (or exceeding) 10 minutes each, but it is still well worth a listen, especially as winter approaches. And it whets the appetite for what may come next. Will it be more of the same or will they embrace more groove? We wait in anticipation.