Gaylord – Wings of the Joyful Review

At its core, metal has always been about rebellion. About sticking it to the man, and society at large. About thumbing expectations and demands and just banging your fukkin’ head. But metal is also, for most, an irrelevant beast. In an era of Coronavirus and global warming, singing about Satan and wizards seems quaint at best, and ridiculous at worst. On top of that, metal is generally white. And male. And often not particularly kind to people who aren’t male and straight and white. Into this breach steps the provocatively named Gaylord, with its second LP, Wings of the Joyful. In much the same way that Deafheaven’s Sunbather, with its distinctly un-metal title and bright pink cover, was clearly an attempt to distance itself from the traditional ‘black metal’ scene, Gaylord is the same. The name was conceived as a middle finger to the homophobic, and the content of Wings of the Joyful follows suit. A one-man project from the mind of Englishman Richard Weeks, Gaylord takes aim at Nazis, fascists, misogynists, homophobes, and bigots of any kind. Its weapons are black metal and blackened thrash, played in a fairly traditional style. Can your snowflake self handle what Weeks is throwing down?

For someone taking aim at many of the dodgy pillars of the metal community, Gaylord’s music is surprisingly… safe. The biggest problem with Wings of the Joyful is that while its aims and lyrics are absolutely laudable, the songs themselves are fairly orthodox blackened death fare. Most tracks make use of the same formula: blast beats, simple chord changes, standard growled vocals, with occasionally some dissonant riffs or a solo to change things up. Both “Devils from the Black,” and “Borne from Inferno Winds,” sport titles and contain music that’s all very standard stuff, performed with passion, but no exceptional skill. Both contain moments of cool riffage, but not enough glue to hold the rest of the songs together. Variety is also lacking, and the repetition in tracks like “Godless Universe” becomes wearying after a while.

I harp on about dynamism a lot on this blog, and for good reason. Metal is so furiously loud that dynamic changes are essential to avoid boredom and fatigue. Gaylord has yet to master this art, with everything packaged uniformly to the point of inseparability. Whether vocals that never change pitch, or guitars that are always cranked up to maximum, it all resembles a sonic blur, whizzing past, but without the magnetism to carry the listener with it. The compressed production only exacerbates this: what little variety exists is steamrolled into a grey blur. Instead of popping out, everything fades into the background.

On the plus side, Gaylord has improved significantly from its first LP, The Black Metal Scene Needs to be Destroyed. If the music on that effort sounded as though it played second fiddle to the message, here the songs themselves do stand alone, if – like a newborn foal – somewhat unsteadily. There are moments, such as the riffs on “Devils From the Black” or  the thrashy fun of “Circle of Spears” that hint at Gaylord’s potential, and point at a promising way forward

I really admire the message Gaylord is trying to spread. I respect his bravery, inclusivity and passion. Metal needs more women. It needs more people of color. It needs more LGBTQI representation. It needs to reject bigotry and hatred of vulnerable minorities. But a positive message alone is not enough to make an album worthwhile; there needs to be quality and compelling music to accompany it. Here, Wings of the Joyful falls sadly short. It’s not terrible, it’s just bland, which is perhaps even more disappointing. Weeks has a message to spread, and the passion to spread it, but if he continues to play it so safe music-wise, I fear he won’t find the audience to hear it.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Blackened Death Records
Releases Worldwide: March 20th, 2020

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