Sound — 8
Waylander have been at the forefront of Irish Metal and Folk Metal since their debut demo in 1993. Dealing in elements of black metal, the first wave of British heavy metal, and of course their native Irish traditional music Waylander present their Celtic/Pagan themed music in a raw, aggressive and ferocious matter. Factors that have certainly played a key role in the groups position at the forefront of Irish and Folk Metal since their formation and debut in 1993. However to the suffering of the bands consistency and success to date, constant line up changes, badly organised performances, bland recordings and lack of motivation has been a heavy burden. A personal response to the bands previous releases is very negative. Simple arrangements, bad recording quality, and a weak tin whistle player. The lack of motivation I have previously noted has left the listener, wanting more. I would also add, as a well versed listener and participant in Irish trad, a lack of knowledge in the folk side was leaving the band down. However, despite the criticism, the concept and vision expressed by the band had much potential for creating something new and fresh. The front man O Hagan, had a great affection for the act as well as determination to over come all the opposing factors. A fact unquestionable from the lyrics and interviews. Since his childhood, he has been immersed in Gaelic culture and mythology, this passion alongside a vast knowledge of extreme metal was a perfect formula for a quality Folk Metal act. As has been mentioned quite frequently is the modern perception of Folk Metal. A very manufactured and unnatural sound has become very prominent. Certainly, not one with the wishes of the original Celtic Metal movement. The style designed by the likes of Skyclad and Cruachans debut Gaelic black metal album Tuatha Na Gael is far from what a modern Metal enthusiast imagines when he hears the term Folk Metal. This trend certainly has not helped Waylander, with their honest and feral sound. Honour Amongst Chaos kicks off with a pumping bass line. Reminiscent to perhaps Iron Maiden? The first quality I noticed is the sound of the drums, very 'meaty' well produced tone. Next a lead guitar enters the fray with fast fluid picking. The melody is without any doubt Irish influenced which can be heard in the jig rhythm and gapped scale. The whistles sound excellent unlike the previous albums where it sounded bland and out of tune. All the elements mentioned I have mentioned in the opening paragraphs are apparent already in the first half of the song, and not only that, they have been displayed with great skill. As Deities Clash is an unreal opening to the album. The song includes an acoustic interlude which changes the pace completely, until returning to the fast galloping style undoubtedly Folk Metal. I was also impressed with the use of a fiddle, something from what I know Waylander haven't used before. The fiddles place in the mix is brilliant particularly in comparison to modern Cruachan where it sounds out of place and cringe worthy. The formula used in the opening track is again apparent in Walk With Honour, starting with a strong rhythmic pattern on the Bodhrn and drums. Followed by the a chanting chorus, whistles and from what I can hear a stringed instrument in the main melodies which I can confirm is a mandolin. The classic Heavy Metal style which helped inspire the band at their formation is seen in the traditional METAL solo halfway through the track. There is no manufactured trendy following with the opening tracks. Traditional music merged with Metal. without any compromise. With the first seconds of Beyond the Ninth Wave, we are given a break from the fast beer lifting head banging Gaelic metal. We are introduced to the mournful melody and drones of an Irish Uilleann pipe. This suggests the song will be changing the pace from the previous tracks. The pace does change, however not what the listener expects. The lament is interrupted suddenly with the renowned brutality of the blast beat. A defining rhythmic devise of the Extreme branch of the Metal genre, it destroys any expectation of a slower paced song, quite rapidly! Melodic Death metal influences perhaps can be heard in the following riff with the pounding double kicks and tremolo picking. The song draws to an end with some epic lead work and tin whistle. At the times harmonising the two uniquely. Galloping Gaels as the name suggests is fast mosh material complimented with even more fast lead work. Murdock and McMicheal must be complimented on the superb work they produced with fast solo guitar pieces, and Celtic influenced riffs. This played a central role to the success of this record, one the listener will nearly agree up to this point, is Waylanders greatest album to date, and a modern masterpiece that has enough innovation and style to redefine the bastard folk metal of today. To Dine In The Otherworld opens with a bass, again building up the intensity using bodhrn, whistle, and acoustic guitar. The band made a good effort to create an epic atmosphere in the riffage and structure, something I regret to admit they failed to do to the best of their ability. A difficult task, perfected by the likes of Bathory, Primordial and Moonsorrow. The listener loses interest before the second acoustic interlude and this I feel is one of the weaker tracks. Thrash is a recurring sound that the band makes use of, this and the black metal influences are utilised with great success in particullary in the following two tracks. Usurpers of our Legacy a ferocious track, where O Hagan screams in anger for retribution against those that killed his culture. This alongside the call to arms apparent in the lyrics is most certainly expressed through the crushing riffs. Ferran plays an instrumental role in the heavier songs, flawless blasting followed by Bodhrn imitation on the Toms. He shines in the less folky tracks, notably the following one Taker of Heads. I was delighted to hear an effective use of twin guitar harmonies, again highlighting the early Heavy Metal background the band have emphasized throughout their career date. This is certainly a track that the band use to present their straight up Metal ability. Endless thrash riffs, blast beats and guitar harmonies. Savagery! The album draws to a close with excellence. A very epic and powerful note to end a savage album. Elemental Chaos showcases some of my favourite riffs from the whole album. One band I must draw a comparison to is in fact the Swedish so called Viking Death Metallers Amon Amarth. The riffs and vocals are very alike! It continues into another acoustic interlude similar to To Dine In The Otherworld, but this time the atmoshpere is brought to it's existence with much more success. A sad guitar piece backed by a mournful chanting in the distance. It predictably builds itself back up to the same type of riff we've heard throughout the album. This highlights my only argument, the repetitiveness that the album suffers. I would argue, they should have cut one track, as the constant utilisation of the signature sound, makes it lose it's impact and effect. The song draws to it's close with the acoustic piece which continues into Br na Boinne, not what I'd typically describe as Celtic it continues until the tin whistle and mandolin join in. A very beautiful and mysterious atmosphere is created. This is followed by the Uilleann pipes and then by the guitars. Very similar to early Cruachan, this track is an ending. One final epic song, filled with O Hagans chants to the gods, the signature fluid licks of McMicheal and Murdock, the crushing patterns of Derran and of course the awesome folk instrumentation of Dave Briggs!
Lyrics — 8
The bands subject matter deal with Gaelic Mythology, Folklore, Paganism and modern society. Hagan gives his personal commentary on the philosophies of Irelands ancient inhabitants and how modern society as a whole have changed in comparison to the ideologies of ancient times. He makes constant reference to places associated with pagan worship for example As the Deities Clash, a song where he proclaims his respect for the old pantheon of gods, and makes reference to the ancient capitals of All Ireland, Connaucht and Ulster. Tara Cruachan Emain Macha the place names of the centres of ancient power and worship. The lyrics seem to deal with the personal philosophies of the writer, he proclaims his respect for nature, the wild, old customs and shows no respect for those that have rejected the beliefs and spiritual strength of those that came before us. As testament to the ancient Gaelic subject matter, he describes the emotions of characters in native Irish mythology and folklore. Beyond the Ninth Wave discussed the ordeal of Mac Cuill (translating from Irish as son of the hazel) the third son of the god Ogma. He is reborn as a petty thief of Ulster, in an era where his people have fallen from grace. He is eventually caught and is put to sea for his judgement. Hence O Hagans reference of the god of the sea. Mannanan Mc Lir my fate lies with thee. I feel the music is a good representatin of the lyrics. The Uilleann pipe lamenting the exile of Mac Cuill. The riffs and lead guitar playing keening the loneliness of the character and the evident betrayal of Ulster. Galloping Gaels seems to be immersed in the subject of kicking ass. Hagan frequently uses macaronic lyrics. In the chorus he uses the Irish word Ab which means To Victory. The fast pounding main riff and the black metal growls of an ancient Gael charging head first to his fate makes a quality track! Despite my criticism of the instrumental of To Dine In The Otherworld, I enjoyed the lyrics. The subject matter is the Sdhe, translating directly as Hill Folk, but what we refer to in the English speaking world as Faeries. In Irish mythology The Sdhe, are the remnants of gods which have been driven in to the surrounding hills by modern society. According to the lore, there are times when humans get trapped in their abodes. The Otherworld. The music tries with great effort to capture this sense of mystery and an alternate universe. To highlight the emotions of getting trapped with out return. It fails to do this but the lyrics are exceptional as is Ciarns eerie vocals during the acoustic interludes. The lyrics of Usurpers of Our Legacy are furious and emotionable. In the song, O Hagan screams and casts bad cess on the invaders of his homeland. The various Kingdoms which invaded throughout history, who raised a foreign flag, and inevitably those that helped destroy the culture he affiliates himself to. The music captures this malevolence fully. It is a song of savagery, in the final verse he calls for the remaining people of his culture to defend their culture. Rise up Pagan sons! . He describes how emperors destroyed small cultures The song ends on a despairing note, he refers to Erin (the spirit of Ireland perhaps? ) as one in grief. iriu she grieves. In the following tracks he discusses the philosophies and stories I discussed earlier. These suit the two very traditionally metal tracks fully! The album ends superbly lyrically and musically with Br Na Boinne. This is the Irish name for an area in central Ireland much associated with archaeological sites and deep folkloric tradition. Br refers to a bend in a river, and Binne is the Irish for the River Boyne. A personal response to this song, is to do with recent controversary regarding destruction of ancient sites in the hair. O Hagan is calling out in fury and confusion of why people in our modern society can't comprehend the significance of such sites. He calls for us to remember who we are, where we came from and as long as we remember the ancient customs and gods, they will always be living entities. The Ancient Gods will never Die, whilst we remember their names. Vocally O Hagan interchanges from typical Black Metal rasps, notable death metal grunting, and eerie melodic singing during the acoustic pieces. Not reaching the dynamics of the likes of Nemtheanga or Quorthon he does his job, and compliments the music fully! He makes reference to Irish folklore, uses the Irish language and does a notable job as an ideal Folk Metal front man.
Overall Impression — 8
Without any hesitance I proclaim loudly, that not only is this the best album Waylander have ever produced, it is a landmark in Folk Metal. This is Folk Metal with power, balls and pride. They don't hide behind walls of sound and manufacture, it is raw metal with folk spirit at it's best. The recording quality have helped them a lot, the epic moods, the lyrical material, the folk genius of Briggs, and most of all the honesty of the record. Thrash, Black and Folk are the three terms that come to mind. However, like many acts in the genre, the album loses it's impact about half way through, when the listener gets the idea and can predict what will happen next. The 10 minute epic, was very iffy, and I felt the mood and topic they were aiming to create has already been used by "Hosting of the Sdhe" by Primordial and "Erin Song" by Cruachan. They did not have the ability to nail an epic song in the manner the innovators of that style have already done. The album benefits on the early ideas of Cruachan, but take elements from bands all over extreme metal. But I have to mention Dave Briggs, the use of Fiddle, Uilleann Pipes, Whistle, Flute, Bodhrn and Mandolin worked extremely well. The Folk ability was something the band certainly lacked seven years ago, but have overcome and mastered with Honour Amongst Chaos. I also read they rerecorded Born To The Fight, that will be released in a special edition, that's a bad ass song and I can't wait to hear what they've don't with it. This is certainly a serious kick into the teeth to the likes of Eluveitie and certainly all the people that have doubted this group of Northern Gaels. But with the music is an important message that can reach all people. Respect your heritage and be proud of who you are.