Wayfarer - American Gothic (Profound Lore Records)
They cast a long shadow over the town as they ride in under a burning western sun. Many citizens run in whatever building they can find, locking the doors behind them, while a small posse of locals stay outside to meet the new arrivals. Black clad, menacing, yet familiar, it is hard to tell if the four strangers are friend or foe. "Who goes there, and what do you bring with you?" the mayor calls out, a slight tremble in his voice.
The answer is simple: this is Wayfarer, and you are about to experience American Gothic.
Perhaps this rhetoric is a bit grand, but one listen to opening track "The Thousand Tombs of Western Promise" are sure to bring this scene to mind. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, the quartet have spent the last twelve years forging an incredible blend of blackened folk metal with Americana influences leading up to this, their fifth release to date.
While comparable in some ways to bands such as Panopticon, Uada, and Agalloch, Wayfarer is their own unique experience that demands repeated listening. Again citing "The Thousand Tombs..." the sinister blackened riffs meld seamlessly with chiming slide guitar. Likewise, the infectious melodies of "The Cattle Thief" keep the nine minute track epic at every moment.
At the core of the album, "To Enter My House Justified" calls to mind images of a showdown between bandits and the law, or long journeys over mountains and deserts to a far away outpost. Switching gears, "A High Plains Eulogy" begins with a haunting Hammond organ before giving way to a dirge of sorts paired with mournful clean vocals.
Indeed, this track may serve as the defining one on an album lyrically centered on the death of the American Dream where hopes and aspirations are replaced by corporate tyrants, crooked officials, guns-for-hire, and the remaining honest working families. No wonder then that "Reapers On the Oilfield" and "Black Plumes Over God's Country" would be perfect on a metal version of the There Will Be Blood soundtrack.
Though the era of robber barons and oilmen is gone, current events hint that not much has changed. Corporations reign supreme while workers and communities still carry the weight of the success of others. To that point, American Gothic is both enjoyable musically and culturally relevant; an expertly crafted take on modern and historic experiences.
The Metal Mayan review:
In literature, there are a handful of opening sentences that set the stage for the story ahead and are immortalized for how well the lines are placed. For example, most people know the lines "Call me Ishmael", and "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times", even if they haven't read the complete works of Melville and Dickens respectively.
As far as world building goes, the opening of "The Thousand Tombs of Western Promise" does exactly this by opening a portal in time to dusty towns, lonesome prairies, and families just trying to get by. Paired with "To Enter My House Justified", the reader in me was as thrilled by American Gothic as the part of me that lives for metal.
With Wayfarer, BlackBraid, and Panopticon releasing new albums in 2023, it is an incredible time for blackened atmospheric/folk metal in the U.S. To see the two former bands hit the road together in the near future would be immense as their latest albums have been nothing short of masterworks in the genre.
Visit your local record store and pick up American Gothic, out now on Profound Lore Records.
Advanced copy courtesy of Breaking the Law PR and Profound Lore Records