I was impressed by Colorado’s Wayfarer on their debut. Their post-black metal was nuanced, densely textured and showed great maturity for a young band. I was eager to overlook the flaws since their base was sound, with such touchstones as Winterfylleth or Wildernessking. A year and a half later, Old Souls succeeds Children of the Iron Age in Wayfarer‘s discography but unfortunately does not develop their sound or address these problems. It holds the ship steady, for good and bad, but I’m less forgiving this time.
As before, there are definitely good ideas. Unsettling but slick riffs litter the record, such as those at 6:30 of “Old Souls’ New Dawn” (I appreciate the correct use of the apostrophe) and at 1:45 of “Deathless Tundra,” both of which have that cyclical quality and wrap around the listener. “Catcher” is a touch closer to melodeath with its melodic groove offering the closest thing to a hook. The transition between “Frontiers” and “Old Souls’ New Dawn” is effective and weaves into a tight riff. Indeed, strong atmosphere is generated through the myriad tones and textures and it initially feels deep on account of these. I was quite satisfied on first listen.
But I fell foul of this previously: my initial listen to Children of the Iron Age disproportionately informed the subsequent and while it was solid groundwork, I have definitely not returned to it as much as my score belies. Similar to previously, while the general aura is cool, individual ideas are stretched out far too thin. A good idea goes bad when repeated with little meaningful progression for 2 to 3 minutes and this is apparent on pretty much every track. There is much repetition and while this contributes at least partially to the atmosphere the music invariably slips into the background. Not all music is designed to be immediate and demanding but, again referencing AMG in a black metal review, “intensity not 15 minute songs was the cool part of black metal.” While not the full 15, two tracks exceed 10 minutes and another 2 approach that mark.
This is compounded by a lack of development in the band’s song-writing, both within the tracks themselves and from the first album. “Ever Climbing” just fades after 10 minutes which is extremely dissatisfying. There’s no culmination, climax nor real sense of journey despite its length. As with most of Old Souls‘ duration, it’s just very long-winded. It certainly isn’t a case of requisite protraction to explore a complex musical idea: there’s just a lot of repetition. A boilerplate structure of heavy / light / heavy is followed on a few other tracks which is uninspired and actually a criticism I made of Children…. “Frontiers” and “The Dust Lakes” are closer to interludes than full songs themselves which is theoretically fine but neither, nor the calmer passages within the longer tracks, are really strong by themselves. They slow things down to offer contrasts and break up the album but aren’t truly evocative or even good.
I feel like Wayfarer has a lot to offer but it’s not realized in their current form. The facade of depth is unveiled on repeated, dedicated listens and there’s simply not enough development or change to fill 51 minutes. It quickly becomes boring. Yes, I like the basics of their sound and many parts are good but repetition curtails this. Would I listen to this above Agalloch? No. Above Wildernessking? Nope. Above Winterfylleth? N… actually maybe because Winterfylleth are probably more boring. But you catch my drift.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: wayfarer.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wayfarer
Releases worldwide digitally: June 17th, 2016 ; physically: NA: June 17th, 2016, EU: June 24th, 2016