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Wayfarer - A Romance With Violence review

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Band: Wayfarer
Album: A Romance With Violence
Release date: October 2020

01. The Curtain Pulls Back
02. The Crimson Rider (Gallows Frontier, Act I)
03. The Iron Horse (Gallows Frontier, Act II)
04. Fire & Gold
05. Masquerade Of The Gunslingers
06. Intermission
07. Vaudeville

Conjuring the sound of the old American West to life in black metal form, Wayfarer once again craft something epic and distinctly their own.

Although an early favourite sound of mine as I got into more extreme metal, atmospheric black metal is something that has lost some of its appeal to me as the years and long string of identical-sounding bands have come and gone. Fighting successfully against that declining interest is Wayfarer from Colorado. The group impressed me early on with their debut, Children Of The Iron Age, but I was not prepared for 2018's World's Blood, or the hooks that it would plant in me. The guitar tones they use are distinct and conjure up spacious, barren landscapes, charming yet sinister in equal measures. I've anticipated a follow-up from Wayfarer for quite a while, but given how unique World's Blood has been in sustaining my interest where most other atmos-black albums within the last few years have failed, I feared it would be a one-off connection that any subsequent efforts would struggle to recapture. Thankfully, A Romance With Violence shows all the signs of being another regular fixture in my listening for years to come.

World's Blood and A Romance With Violence are both heavily inspired by the westward expansion of the United States, but whilst World's Blood's artwork and lyrics focused more on interactions with Native Americans, combat on horseback and empty plains, A Romance With Violence appears to draw more from the towns that arose once the settlers had inhabited the West, from the train on the album cover to song titles such as "Vaudeville". This is echoed by the old-timey piano that kicks off the record on "The Curtain Pulls Back", but although the inspiration may have shifted, the sound on this new record is still very much recognizable as Wayfarer. The spacious, atmospheric black metal riffs that open "The Crimson Rider", although perhaps with some newfound complexity in the guitars, could easily slot onto World's Blood; the band do deliver some blasting, high-tempo moments on occasion, but they operate more in mid/mid-fast tempos, sacrificing frenetic energy for a touch of grandeur and sense of purpose.

The driving black metal riffs and menacing, large atmospheres Wayfarer bring to the table is one part of puzzle as to what makes them so appealing to me, but arguably of greater importance is their regular use of cleaner guitar tones, and how they employ them in a manner that is so distinctive, I know that I'm listening to Wayfarer when they appear. A little over halfway through "The Crimson Rider", the black metal riffs give away to a prolonged section of slick, eerie clean guitars dancing around each other, powered on by large, echoing drumming that provides a real depth to the music. Without sounding heavily derived from Western movie soundtracks or other music associated with the West, it works wonders in conjuring up the sparseness, harshness and sense of cautious optimism that came with inhabiting these new frontiers. One new (to my memory) element subtly weaved in here is the use of keyboards, not for long, but a briefly added layer to further flesh out these enchanting clean-toned atmospheres before the black metal takes over. By the time its 10 minutes are over, "The Crimson Rider" has confirmed that Wayfarer mean business and are here to undergo their own expansion from World's Blood.

For the most part, the rest of the album doesn't hold huge surprises after having heard World's Blood and "The Crimson Rider"; the black metal riffs and clean guitars that you would expect are here, with some songs leaning more towards the former ("The Iron Horse") or latter ("Fire & Gold"). The edge that A Romance With Violence has is that each riff and clean section is as good, if not better, than most of the material on World's Blood; without being a revolution, this is a solidification of the sound of that record, and a successful attempt to maximize its potential.

The one big exception to this refinement approach is closing track "Vaudeville"; much like "A Nation Of Immigrants" on World's Blood, this album's closer makes a firm lasting impression, but whilst "A Nation Of Immigrants" was decidedly stripped-down, "Vaudeville" is more grandiose and bombastic. Featuring Kelly Schilling of Dreadnought, the song has a sense of the theatrical to it early on as black metal shrieks are set aside for a clean-sung approach by Shane McCarthy, accompanied by slack guitar and clapping. As the song progresses, it grows increasingly poignant in tone, before exploding into a stirring climax elevated by Schilling's ethereal vocals rising above the powerful drive of the band beneath. Quite possibly the best song the band have put out to date, "Vaudeville" finishes A Romance With Violence on a hell of a high note.

Based on the album ratings on this website, I suspect that I may hold World's Blood and Wayfarer in general in higher esteem than a fair portion of the userbase, but they've enchanted me twice now in a way most other atmos-black groups couldn't dream of doing, and I'd be impressed if any album in the subgenre released after A Romance With Violence matches up to it in my eyes before Wayfarer hopefully release its successor. Drenched in powerful atmosphere and bookended by two particularly killer tracks, A Romance With Violence is a truly fine piece of work.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 8
Production: 8

Written on 12.10.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 10   Visited by: 138 users
12.10.2020 - 16:19
Rating: 9
World's Blood was definitely one of the most unique atmo-bm albums out there, glad to hear they manage to capitalize on that. Looking forward to it.
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
12.10.2020 - 17:19
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
You like bm, its a news to me. Good band, debute was awesome
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
13.10.2020 - 00:27
I liked World's Blood an awful lot. I was very excited for this already, your review has made me impatient.
14.10.2020 - 19:33
Rating: 8

Somehow i missed them sofar...time to check them out... thanks for the review.
14.10.2020 - 23:03
no one

Amped to hear this, there last record was sick.
Unable to connect to the database
15.10.2020 - 21:42
Oh man totally looking forward to this, World's Blood was one of the best BM albums of 2018 so seeing this get close to a 9 from you is very promising.

We definitely need more Old West black metal, for sure.
Check out Apothecary's Favorite Bands Playlist, brotendo. One track per band.
15.10.2020 - 22:46
Rating: 9

Written by Apothecary on 15.10.2020 at 21:42

Oh man totally looking forward to this, World's Blood was one of the best BM albums of 2018 so seeing this get close to a 9 from you is very promising.

We definitely need more Old West black metal, for sure.

Glad to hear several people here feel similarly positive about World's Blood as I do, I thought it was a fantastic record. I feel like anyone who likes that record should enjoy this one - it's very similar in style, whilst featuring odd novelties (mainly in Vaudeville) that avoid it being a straight repeat
22.12.2020 - 13:45

World's Blood was a cool album. I loved the atmosphere but thought it lacked a bit in memorable factors. This one is like an enhanced version of it on all aspects. Absolutely fantastic stuff, and very possibly my favourite album of 2020.
09.01.2021 - 19:16
Rating: 7

Band is new to me. Seems like I have to listen Worlds Blood first as you have reviewed more of it than new album.
Heard Crimson Rider and I liked it pretty much.
In the beginning I was made of clay. Then I bit the apple and they changed me to metal 🤘
30.01.2021 - 21:07
Rating: 9

Thanks for this review, I wouldn't have found this album/band otherwise, I really enjoyed this, especially "The Iron Horse."

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