This album is a classical case of the reality not meeting your expectations. As much as I heard, Waylander was supposed to deliver a mystic, dark, Irish folk oriented metal, based on the reviews of their debut Reawakening Pride Once Lost. Trying hard as I might to find that debut I thought I settled for the second best picking up the follow-up The Light, The Dark and The Endless Knot. Yeah, it has been three years between albums and the band changed labels, but the backbone of the band remained the same, and therefore the philosophy of music making should have stayed with them. Brothers O’Hagan (Ciaran on vocals and Dermot on guitars), bassist Michael Proctor and tin-whistle blower Mairtin Mac Cormaic are still there, second guitarist in Peter Boylan has been added, and Den Ferran has been replaced on drums by Bo Murphy. However, if the acclaimed debut is as bad as this opus, don’t count on me searching for it anymore.
As good as Cruachan and Primordial are, how can Waylander fail? Irish pagan metal concept, druidic inspirations, excellent cover art (dark vs. white halves), and provocative title – everything is good but the music itself. At first, I thought that the biggest problem is the production. It is if the whole band, except vocals and drums, is playing inside of the suffocating plastic bubble. Such approach stifles both guitar and bass trying to punch through and create a darker edge to the music. As vocals sit front and center, it is almost by default they will have to be scrutinized. Most of the time, Ciaran O’Hagan goes for what I call a semi-raw Irish pub vocal style, which is neither clean nor harsh. At times the crooning is cleaned up (the end of Balor of the Evil Eye). Reaching for the darker side, a harsh grunting is also displayed, and Ciaran sounds like a not-so-well produced Aaron Stainthorpe wannabe. In fact, when the band tries to be doomy My Dying Bride influences are obvious.
OK, so the production is horrible, and vocals aren’t very good, but this isn’t it. Most songs are stagnating uninspired pieces with faceless riffs supporting the up-front vocals (except the opening verse riffs in To Rule Was Preordained). Tremolo (title track) or simple chugging – this is some of the non-descript rhythm guitar playing I have heard in a while. Songs have no logical beginning or end (After the Fall, the blip closer Plague of Ages). This is some storytelling that never develops. You think you are about to embark on the journey after some cool acoustics (title track, Release the Spirit Within), but you never even leave the house when muffled riffs kill the song. I would recommend consulting Lake of Tears Path of the Gods epic from Headstones album to hear how some of the best music in this style can be done.
To add insult to injury, musicianship does not seem to be top-notch either, as the band trips itself with rhythms, or sounds dissonant and out of tune at times.
A few positive moments can be found in the use of tin-whistle which adds a lot of the authentic Irish atmosphere. Anu’s Retribution, where tin-whistle leads throughout the song, is flowing nicely and does remind somewhat of Cruachan with high frequency tin-whistle contrasting the low timbre grunts. A few guitar solos are also interesting (Balor of the Evil Eye), but often the lead guitar goes into a pointless protracted note shuffling (title track, Release the Spirit Within). If those long solos were meant to save those songs they achieve quite the opposite – they seal the coffin.
The booklet mentions that the album was blessed by the Irish war goddess Morrigan, but provides little in the way of the band info. I’d say that the song bearing the goddess name (Morrigan’s Domain) is indeed the best on the album, along with the aforementioned Anu’s Retribution. Somehow I feel the Irish gods withheld their blessing from the other six cuts, and The Light, The Dark and The Endless Knot is the platter you can easily miss.
Killing Songs :
Anu's Retribution, Morrigan's Domain
|Alex quoted 45 / 100|
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