Sound — 7
Northern Ireland's Waylander have faced some trouble in their time. It has been seven years since their last album 'The Light, The Dark and the Endless Knot', and only two of the band's six members even appeared on that album. However, they have persevered and returned with a bombastic delivery of just over an hour of folk metal. However, these days folk metal is dominated by saccharine tunes and gimmicks; the days of Skyclad worship are now long gone. Seven years ago 'folk metal' was quite a different proposition, when current torch-holders Finntroll and Turisas were in their early days. The rapidly swelling popularity of these bands in 2008 threatens to make Waylander's less accessible approach seem backwards and dated. Fortunately, the sheer strength of 'Honour Amongst Chaos' renders the state of folk metal utterly irrelevant. This is a real metal album, not simply a pop album with accordions and distorted guitars. It's heavy and relentless in its battery, while still providing a sufficient melodic outlet for their Celtic grandeur. Blastbeats and tin whistles co-exist side by side here, and as whacky as that may sound there are no gimmicks, simply the natural sound that this band carves. The traditional heavy metal foundation that the band has worked off of since the beginning is expanded upon yet again with a speed and atmosphere not too far removed from early melodic death metal. Indeed, one of the most impressive metal aspects of the band is the drumming of Den Ferran who singlehandedly can determine the dynamics of songs with his seamless shifts between furious double bass and reserved time-keeping on the back-burner. The combination of big tremolo picked guitar lines; masterful drumming and the congenial folk instrumentation used by Dave Briggs put together what is one of the better 'dark' folk metal albums since we last heard from Falkenbach.
Lyrics — 9
Waylander's lyrics deal with Celtic mythology and folklore. Big surprise, I know, but these aren't the sort of lyrics that will inspire internet kiddies to only increase their usage of the words 'epic' and 'Viking'. Sure, they still deal with similar stories however vocalist and founding members Ciaran O'Hagan delivers the words with intellect and a knowledge that goes beyond the superficial mythological trap that so many folk metal bands fall into. A specific interest in the subject matter is almost definitely required to enjoy the lyrics fully; however the storytelling is executed deftly. It's not just the words, either. Cairn O'Hagan is quite the vocalist, opting not for clich chanting, but instead for a harsh and aggressive vocal style bordering on black metal. Still, some clean vocals are implemented throughout 'Honour Amongst Chaos' and are used to great effect, adding another dimension to some of the album's tranquil moments.
Overall Impression — 8
Even those who would take 'Trollhammaren' over 'One Rode To Asa Bay' should find something wholly identifiable in 'Honour Amongst Chaos', an equal balance between Celtic folk and metal, both of which are rooted in a 'substance over style' ethic. Indeed, a reluctance to enjoy folk metal based on the cheesy modern form could be proven ill-founded by Waylander this year. From the shape shifting anthem 'Elemental Chaos' to the stunning 10 minute centrepiece 'To Dine In The Otherworld', Waylander's return is, for a lack of a less trendy word, epic.