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Wayfarer - A Romance With Violence Award winner

A Romance With Violence
by Chris Hawkins at 30 September 2020, 5:19 PM

Some bands create a long-spanning career making songs that all abide by the same principles, or rather restraints.  This is not to take away from any of those bands that indeed hit upon essential, singular vibes, but it is always exciting to hear a band with a fresh new take.  WAYFARER aren’t exactly a new band having formed in 2011 and this new album, “A Romance With Violence,” comes fresh off the heals of 2018’s seminal “World’s Blood”.  Are the defenders of the West, gatekeepers of the mighty Rocky Mountains and its storied, legendary gunslinging legacy able to top their last release?

At 1:12 seconds, the instrumental intro titled “The Curtain Pulls Back” is a short breath of music yet it properly sets the tone for the following music.  There is a turn of the century vibe that fits neatly alongside their desperado, Western mystique.  “The Crimson Rider (Gallows Frontier Act I)” follows with an exhilarating emergency as the band launches into this ten-plus minute epic.  The twin guitar assault attacks head-on weaving huge chords, dual harmonies, and even an acoustic section over which a slightly-distorted Strat-sounding single coil-clank issues an expressive statement in a fashion I’d never have envisioned a quarter century or so ago when I got heavily into Black Metal.  There is so much atmosphere created in this song as the band boldly explores the depths of their collective ether.  The section from approximately 8:20 through to 8:47 when the tremolo picking and blasting kick in for the first time in the song is the most revelatory of the ethos behind this band’s creativity.

One point that I made abundantly clear in my review for their previous album (Metal Temple Wayfarer "World's Blood" review) was how the band emphatically stated that they are not Black Metal.  In this case, not aligning with a particular section of the overall Extreme Metal scene leaves them with a fuller canvas upon which to paint their ideas.  Perhaps there are dozens of better examples than this, but I cannot help but think about the last SKELETONWITCH album which was a stunning display of finely-crafted American Melodic Black Metal, but it didn’t seem to have the explosive impact upon the scene as deserved from the quality of the material or even that I’d expected when I reviewed it which in retrospect I attribute to the band making their name playing Thrash.  WAYFARER on the other hand, does not have to tolerate the stress of coloring within the lines of genre, or rather, sub-genre expectations because the band decided to take the more uphill yet rewarding task of creating their own genre.  “World’s Blood” was impressive and this album is as well, perhaps even more so as their vision seems both clearer and broader.

Fire and Gold,” the fourth track, is indicative of those wider brush strokes alluded to earlier.  It is almost all clean guitars married with haunting clean vocals and as such, is an eye-opening moment showing they can craft songs that totally defy any preconceived notions.  The last track, “A Nation of Immigrants,” from “World’s Blood” also featured clean vocals but it had more of a trippy “Planet Caravan” vibe.  This is a different feel altogether, though, a leap in songwriting prowess showing a more Prog sense of influence – in spirit, adventurous freedom rather than strictly stylistically (while there is some Hammond organ on the album, there are no crazy scale runs or super syncopated rhythms that normally indicate Prog).

The following track, “Masquerade of the Gunslingers,” is instrumentally just as epic as the name implies.  Returning to a heavier approach, the band proves how equally adept they are with the more abrasive heavy parts coupled along with moody passages.  This song, much like the second track, showcases the breadth of the band’s palette; however, the dream is much wider on this track.  With that said, there’s such a tempered restraint employed between sections in the song.  Like a blend of OPETH’s more impressive years spanning “Orchid” to “Blackwater Park,” the mood crafting and dreamy, haze of when ANATHEMA was still a Metal band, and a healthy dose of ENSLAVED, WAYFARER tempers these influences with careful, judicious prowess never relying too heavily upon one nor anything else really that could stand in their way of forging their own Rocky Mountain, big sky country, Americana Metal.

It is now clear that the opening question’s answer is a resounding yes for WAYFARER have truly topped themselves exploring the depths of their creativity and thereby expanding their sound in the process.  It really is a pleasure to see this band come into their own like this.  “World’s Blood” was killer and honestly made me a dedicated follower of this unique vision.  There are absolutely no limits with this album.  Some of the clean parts echo the same forsaken, noir approach as an artist like NICK CAVE doused with a healthy splash of the nihilistic, anti-feeling atmosphere of JOY DIVISION.  Hearing the freedom the band has to back off the distortion and blasting and utilize such myriad warm, organic guitar tones, the secret to their success is evident in that ability to employ peaks and valleys in the songs.  As such, the heavy parts are made much more so along with the cleaner sections opening up more room for expansion.   I obviously had high hopes for this album but had no idea how much it seemed to nail the prevailing mood as of late – a dreary, yet pensive stare into the void.  Like even the darkest purveyors of art realize, having that bit of light shine in via melody truly makes the music come alive.  WAYFARER have indeed blown me away with this release literally throwing out stiff arms in every direction as they plow forward on a trajectory limited less and less by any obstacles for they literally carve out their own section of Metal.  It is a bold vision yet one that is distinctly American  and with the new album, the drama is ever heightened.  WAYFARER prove why they are one of the most promising, exciting outfits out there.  This is undoubtedly making my top ten for the year!

Songwriting:        9
Originality:           9
Memorability:     9
Production:             9


4 Star Rating

1.  The Curtain Pulls Back
2.  The Crimson Rider (Gallows Frontier, Act I)
3.  The Iron Horse (Gallows Frontier, Act II)
4. Fire and Gold
5.  Masquerade of the Gunslingers
6. Intermission
7. Vaudeville
Shane McCarthy – Guitars
Isaac Faulk – Drums
Jamie Hansen – Bass, Vocals
Joey Truscelli - Guitars
Record Label: Profound Lore Records


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