Hailing from Colorado, another state which seems to be churning out a number of great bands the last few years, Wayfarer offers up its sophomore effort. The thing that is interesting and refreshing about the band is that they don’t just play a standard form of pagan black metal. Being a huge fan of that subgenre, I wouldn’t mind if they did, but I quite enjoy the big fat dose of death metal employed here.
It doesn’t take first track “Ever Climbing” long to kick some serious ass, serving up thundering double bass and wicked tremolo guitar. But again, this is not your lo-fi or icy or grim BM. The production is huge, thick and booming, and the air pulses around your speakers with the bombastic noise streaming from them. The vocals, too, are distinctly un-black metal, being delivered in a massive, quaking roar. Pagan and atmospheric elements are woven in, however, with a wistful guitar melody about ⅔ of the way through the song. And then, just to make sure you are kept on your toes, things spiral headlong into D-beat crust punk! The 10 ½-minute opus ends by subsiding to chunky riffs and repeating the main melody, the guitar standing alone and echoing into darkness. A potent, ravaging opener.
The instrumental “Frontiers” paves the way for what I consider the centerpiece of the record, the immense and devastating “Old Souls’ New Dawn.” Again guitar tremolo is used to amazing effect, coupled with colossal drums and bass that are like Army tanks mercilessly grinding everything under their treads. Letting off the assault for a bit, we get some soulful acoustic guitar in the track’s middle, before the pummeling resumes and the song circles back to that hypnotically crushing tremolo guitar.
If this album could spawn a radio single, it would be “Catcher.” At a bite-size 4:38, it’s practically half the length of most other tracks here, and it’s…well…catchy. Very much so, in fact, with a grooving, head-nodding rhythm line. Acoustic guitar makes a brief entrance before drummer Isaac Faulk lays waste to his kit, and the track actually contains the first appearance of a standard speedy black metal tempo, but it settles back into that main groove to finish. “Deathless Tundra” seems all the more patient and deliberate as a follow-up, and takes its sweet time to build to a flailing blackened beatdown. A second instrumental, “The Dust Lakes,” is a bridge to closing track “All Lost in Aimless Chaos,” which comes screaming out of the gate with a skull-rattling attack and plenty of frenzied blackness. Dynamically alternating between melancholy passages and a vicious machine-gun rhythmic strike, this remarkable tune drives home just how skilled the band is at melding true brutality with soothing introspection.
Fusing death and black metal is nothing new. Some blacken their death while others death up their black, but I’ve never heard the hybrid rendered as it is in Wayfarer’s formula. Previously unknown to me, they’ve made an indelible mark on the US black metal scene. “Old Souls” is a breathtaking force of nature.