A band strong in stature within pagan metal and even more powerful in sound, Irish Celtic black metal tribe Waylander have released their fourth album to show that even after near twenty years they still prowl at the fore of the genre. Kindred Spirits is a vibrant and rippling beast of a release which is true to form for the band. One can argue that the album has nothing particularly new to offer nor is trying to explore or push the boundaries of the sextet but with a strength and compulsive air as deep as the Celtic mythology inspiration, it is a release which more than makes the time in its company rewarding.
The album is the second from Waylander via Listenable Records and follows up Honour Amongst Chaos of 2008. Since forming in 1993 the band from Armagh has drawn the fullest of acclaim and followings, their first demos Once Upon An Era in 1995 and Dawning Of A New Age the following year, leading to some announcing them as being one of the forefathers of the Pagan/Folk/Celtic Metal scene. Their first two albums Reawakening Pride Once Lost and The Light, the Dark and the Endless Knot, 1998 and 2001 respectively as well as their live performances, increased their stock and standing. The line-up changed over that time but was stabilised and at full force by the third album, whilst the release of Kindred Spirits shows the band still hold a place at the fore of the genre with its bulging muscles and exquisite melodic touches.
The album opens on a real high with the surging and pulsating twin attack of Echoes of the Sidhe and Lámh Dearg, two songs which rile up the senses into a feisty eager state. The first is a song rampant with air flailing energies from first note to last. Riffs barge through the ear with crisp and heavy intent whilst rhythms barrack with a ravenous keenness to leave one excited for the melodic caresses from the tin whistle of Dave Briggs, his mesmeric skill taking one into a warm absorbing world. The song does not attempt to explore new ventures but simply brings the most riotous and pleasing sounds with an accomplished skill highlighted by the thrilling heavy metal guitar play.
Whereas the opener looks at the enduring beliefs in old Gods and the higher plains of existence things find a fuller heat and intensity with Lámh Dearg, a song about the conflict in Northern Ireland with its title meaning Red Hand, the symbol of the northern province of Ulster. The track is harder with an explosive edge compared to its predecessor though the melodic charm still permeates the raging riffs and powerful theme. The vocals of Ciaran ‘ArdChieftain’ O’Hagan as always growl and bruise the sounds but here have an even more intense breath to their dark presence whist the drums and bass of Den Ferran and Michael Proctor make for a towering spine to what is a great track.
Through tracks like Twin Fires of Beltíne with its near concussive attack, the stormy atmospheric Of Fear and Fury, and the raging Quest For Immortality, the band take chunks out of the senses with skilled enterprise and unbridled aggression, the last of this trio a vibrant blend of hungry energies and shifting imagination. As mentioned the album does not really give anything new to play with but simply offers well groomed yet riotous ideas and sounds brought with the strongest passion and craft.
Just as it started, Kindred Spirits ends with two impressive tracks. The first Erdath starts with a resourceful melodic weave for the ear before exploding into a swarming corruptive maelstrom of aggression and aural spite. The song is insatiable, ravaging the ear with corruptive riffs and venomous melodic invention. The track twists and turns through unpredictable and fully intriguing avenues to emerge as the one track where the band risks trying new departures and results in it being the best on the album.
The title track closes things up and though it returns to the established well of the band without any experimentation or further true adventure involved it is still a track which hits the sweet spot through the combative rhythms, inciteful guitar invention, and melodic whispering within the heavy and intense sound.
With Kindred Spirits and its bounty, Waylander show they are still more than capable of creating music to inspire and satisfy, just without the strong element of danger the genre needs.
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