I love westerns. Whether it’s the all-time classic The Good, The Bad & The Ugly or the brutally unapologetic Unforgiven, the genre always works as an instant comforter for me. And like the movies themselves, the soundscapes associated with them have their own special hold on me. Who does not love Ennio Morricone’s genre-defining works throughout the 60s and 70s? Unfortunately I have never had much luck in finding metal that dares put a foot into western territory. Sure, there was Dezperadoz with quite a few funny moments on 2000’s The Dawn Of Dying, and a really solid telling of Wyatt Earps story in The Legend And The Truth in 2006, but neither of those records could be considered truly awesome metal records to stand the test of time, and after that the band lost steam rapidly. Also, for fans of more extreme metal, Dezperadoz is probably a little bit too weak of an offering.
Now Wayfarer, that’s another story. Here’s a band that can both deliver hard and gritty black metal, and wears its western folk influences with confidence. To my shame I have to admit that I am not overly familiar with the bands first two records, Children of the Iron Age (2014) and Old Souls (2016), but I did stumble upon and quite enjoy their third full length World’s Blood (2018). So when I saw that they have a new release upcoming, I gladly saddled up and got ready to head out west.
A Romance With Violence is a 45 minute long epos that spans across 7 tracks. Well, 5 main songs plus an intro and an intermission. The Curtain Pulls Back is a neat instrumental introduction, the slightly out of tune keys over the crackling of old wax cylinder records perfectly set the scene. Then it is time for the double feature The Crimson Rider (Gallows Frontier, Act I) and The Iron Horse (Gallows Frontier, Act II), both excellent tracks that showcase the unique blend of well crafted black metal and atmospheric western style folk passages that define Wayfarer. I really like the dynamic, Wayfarer perfectly mix outbursts of energy filled with blast beats with addictive grooves and slowly building and unwinding atmospheric passages. The band paints a bleak and gritty picture of the wild west here.
For track number 4, Fire & Gold, the band takes the foot off the gas and treats us to some more laid-back acoustic and clean guitar sounds, combined with clean vocals and ethereal organs / synths. A dreamlike song that works as a nice breather, before Masquerade Of The Gunslingers drags us back into the mud of a bleak and somber landscape. At the halfway point the song slows down for a bit, before launching a final assault.
Track 6 is instrumental Intermission, another breather, another piece to the soundscape of this musical story, before Vaudeville kicks in. The album closer is more folk than black, with much acoustic guitars, lots of clean vocals, and brilliant grooves along the board, but neatly fits into the bleak mood the rest of the record has been setting up. It is such a beautiful work of ups and downs and leaves me equally drained and satisfied. A glorious conclusion to a brilliant record.
A Romance With Violence is good. Extremely good. The songwriting, the dynamic, the riffs, grooves and performances of each instrumentalist, the vocals, the production, the living up to the promise of the premise… 2020 has been a strong year with some brilliant black metal releases so far, but Wayfarer will definitely land on my “best of the year” list. Now excuse me, I have to go grab a whisky, roll myself a cigarette and spin this record yet another time.