You may recall that Colorado’s Wayfarer have enjoyed two reviews at my skilled and insightful hand. I scored their debut highly, citing a strong core sound and a good variety of textures utilized. Their sophomore release fared less well, as I noted that little was done to address the weaknesses of the debut and a lack of progression in the long song structures. As I perused the promo bin I was surprised to observe that Profound Lore has picked up Wayfarer for their third full-length entitled World’s Blood; Profound Lore boasts a particularly strong band roster and I was intrigued to hear what had now garnered such attention.
World’s Blood operates at a similar intersection of folk, atmospheric black metal, and progressive tendencies as Agalloch. I would make some terrible puns about if it can take up that mantle or if it would merely be a pale imitation of those folkloric influences, but I won’t do so as a man of class. What I can say is that the folksy elements are more deeply embedded into this release than previously, drawing on the Appalachian folk favored by Nechochwen for the quieter moments and interludes. Such passages exhibit a thoroughly commendable delicacy and poignancy and bring a lot to the record through atmosphere and emotion. Other variations include slightly more death-influenced vocals which are somewhat akin to Andy Marshall of Saor and riffier, less blast beat-reliant black metal sections which recall Enslaved.
I first noted that the production is very good. Even before running any software I could hear it was clear and dynamic, thankfully stripping away the walls which limited prior releases. Tonally, the drums are warm and organic while the guitars have a pleasing crunch in the heavier parts and clarity in the light parts. The mix balances these instruments well with reasonable bass prominence yet always emphasized the most exciting instrument at any given moment. At a moment’s listen, things were positive.
I’m aware that such name-dropping in the second paragraph may have caused some private parts to spring to attention but I’m afraid that my feelings about World’s Blood are much closer to Old Souls than Children of the Iron Age. Though there are multiple neat moments, such as the transitions and entry into the furious blasting on “On Horseback They Carried Thunder” and the epic final growl on “The Dreaming Plain,” much of the record is unfortunately forgettable. I am not compelled to re-begin upon reaching the conclusion and struggle to recall particular defining features of each track, subject to the above exceptions and the obligatory notes I took for review purposes. It would be wrong to call World’s Blood repetitive as it shifts frequently but while there are enough ideas, there are far too few stand-out ones. Only “The Dreaming Plain” is consistently good, featuring stronger melodies and grooves throughout, peaking with a powerful climax then fading with emotive, cosmic synths.
On this note, the song structures are generally dissatisfying and far too predictable. The Animals (Pink Floyd) structure is used whereby three long, core tracks are encircled by shorter tracks which reprise certain themes. These core tracks all track a similar course across Wayfarer‘s influences, opening quietly and gradually layering into heaviness. This will endure for several minutes before a lighter interlude which itself then gives way to a climactic finale. This light/heavy/light pacing is quickly predictable even though there are only a few principle songs. Even on “The Crows Ahead Cry War” which deviates from this formula through omitting a faster passage at its conclusion, there is instead a distinct sensation that it is unfinished. It tapers off with no real destination or pay-off, highlighting that World’s Blood is a long and meandering rather than carefully arranged.
On balance, the strength of “The Dreaming Plain,” the pleasant, delicate passages and the excellent production save World’s Blood from falling below the 2.0 mark. But I struggle to recommend the album otherwise as the song-writing lacks direction and largely fails to engage. After three times around I’m beginning to think that the potential at Wayfarer‘s core will not be exploited as the band’s whimsy takes its listeners through significant passages of mediocrity to find those that are satisfying. Apparently, Profound Lore hears something I do not.