Irish WAYLANDER are a band that I am thinking about with mixed feelings. Their debut “Reawakening Pride Once Lost” may not have been a masterpiece of Celtic Pagan Metal, but surely was a promising debut with some outstanding songs. Then the awkwardly titled “The Light The Dark And The Endless Knot” saw a departure of some kind from the Celtic roots, seeing the band embrace more of a Death Metal influence while greatly reducing the Folk content of their songs, more or less killing the album for me. That happened in 2002 and now they are back with their third strike, titled “Honour Among Chaos” and I was curious to see, which direction they were going into this time around.
Thankfully I can announce that they have re-found their roots and are offering us Celtic influenced Pagan Metal once more, with whistle, mandolin and bodhran, mostly rough, but also some accentuating clear vocals, now how about the quality? Well, going by furious opener “As The Deities Clash” with its almost eight minutes, the Irishmen have used the six years wisely and are back on track to break into the spearhead of the Irish scene, mixing sweeping more or less epic Black Metal passages with Folk interludes and the original instruments, having energy and power, despite the flood of bands of this style, WAYLANDER manage to stand out with this! Now many bands of this style use keyboards to further the atmosphere or simulate the Folk influence and instruments, but like basically all Irish bands that I know of, everything is handmade here and I feel that it shows, because it gives the album a more organic feel.
Just like “Reawakening Pride Once Lost”, WAYLANDER are not out for the immediate catchiness of many of their genre colleagues, but provide us with a more defiant, proud mind frame, not the “come and join our merry jig”, but rather the “warpaint at the edge of the forest” type, which is a nice difference in terms of mood. “Beyond The Ninth Wave” is my personal favourite, starting out with a long bagpipe, then shooting out a rather superfluous blastbeat section, before settling into a powerful mid-paced gallop with whistle, which once more stands defiant against the onslaught of the forces, the banner flying in the wind as the opponents falter while trying to breach the shield wall, I think if the Celts had this music to back them up in their fight against the Englishmen, far more people would speak Gaelic these days...
Five out of nine tracks surpass the 7-minute mark, so it is obvious that this band does not believe in the blitzkrieg way of making music, but rather opt for the more epic approach, which backfires on a few songs, because they seem a little too drawn out, losing their focus a little, but while “To Dine In The Otherworld” is one of these instances, the song itself is great, with whistle, intricate mandolin play, kind of tribal drumming and then grim battle-like atmosphere, a quiet centre piece with clear vocals, while “Elemental Chaos” has these melodic, fast outbreaks with the underlying flute/whistle that just enchant you. And “Brú Na Bóinne” does not only bear a Gaelic name, the song itself is, too, with clear vocals and purer Folk Metal.
A classic Kris Verwimp cover artwork adorns the front of “Honour Among Chaos” and his works fit the style greatly, just like with SUIDAKRA, their German brothers in mind, and while the production gets a little muddled here and there, one thing is clear: WAYLANDER are back with a vengeance and they are on their way towards the throne, they are not quite there yet, but the first wall is scaled and they have momentum and definitely enough originality to stand out from the dozens and dozens of other bands playing Folk/Pagan/Viking Metal!
(Online January 30, 2009)