Waylander: Kindred Spirits

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Waylander: Kindred Spirits
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Waylander: Kindred Spirits
Folk Metal
Listenable Records
August 14th, 2012
Release length: 53:48
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Waylander is a Folk Metal group that seem to have fallen by the wayside ever since their 1998 debut album Reawakening Pride Once Lost. Both that and their follow-up, 2001’s The Light, The Dark and the Endless Knot had seen more of an underground distribution, leaving a near seven year gap between that and their Listenable Records premiere, Honour Amongst Chaos. With more of a wide impact being made, Waylander return with their next offering under that label titled Kindred Spirits. But, is this another impressive Celtic influenced Folk Metal offering or not?

Well, one thing is for sure: The digital audio quality definitely has its ups and downs. The Folk/Celtic elements (bodhran, mandolin, whistle) sound crisp and simply fantastic, often sticking out quite well for good reason. The vocals also have a nice level of sharpness to their rhaspy approach, bringing a good deal of energy to the performance that, sadly, isn’t always felt in the music. The atmosphere the audio makes also sticks out well as an often burdening, dark and stormy environmental tone, but the rest does end up feeling a bit lifeless. The guitars are a little on the cleaner side, which is fine, but end up much lower in the mix, and don’t really have a good deal of enthusiasm most of the time, though neither does the whistle, and even the bass. The latter is at a much louder level with a deep rumbling that does aid in making the guitars impact a little less than positive. Unfortunately, the drumming is the biggest let down. The snares sound great with a decent tightness and the volume at an appropriate level that you can make them out without being too overbaring. The clicking bass kicks sound nice, but not always used to their full potential and end up a bit weak at times from it. Some of the cymbals sound great as well, and those are the ones that really stick out more at the forefront of the recording, though the other half are washed out and used largely to fill the background. This can cause the two to conflict horribly, and, like during “Of Fear and Fury,” can even sound as if your speakers are giving you static and fading in and out. Of course, this is a rare extreme.

Due to the way the audio is, there are few songs on Kindred Spirits that really make a strong impact on the listener. “Echoes of the Sidhe” is one of them, and does a good job of welcoming the listener to this world. The music sounds heavy, despite still being a bit restrained, utilizing tight, faster material to hit your pretty hard. The energy behind the performance also helps to make things a bit edgier, which works in the band’s favor given that this isn’t the most unique Folk Metal song you’ll come across, though the subtle uplifting atmospheres from the whistle around the chorus really stick out. There are a few parts that slow things down, such as the closing, but the first toned down passage shows that the simpler material can have far less a bite than the rest. “Lamh Dearg” is another engaging track, though the main fault comes at the hands of the volume level to the main cymbal being used through the song. Other than that, the track has a very heavy sound that ushers in some of the most burdening tones the album will find, and the mid-tempo pace is infectious with random spurts of quicker material, and a chant-worthy chorus that will stay lodged in your head for quite some time.

“Grave of Giants” also makes for an interesting quality offering for different reasons. This unplugged performance finds acoustic guitars at work with a nice softer sound that compliments the Folk/Celtic instruments quite well to weave a natural, passionate environment. There is some spoken word narration that, unlike its first appearance on “Twin Fires of Beltine,” really fits the legendary approach that the band is taking. The slow build to richer music gradually increases the drumming and layers some of the Folk instruments. This helps to keep your attention sharp without dropping the beauty that the song has already established. The only real fault here is that it doesn’t seem to reach its full potential. The track is more of an interlude than anything, which is depressing given the potential that it has to being one of the most important compositions of the release. Sure, there are other tracks that incorporate this unplugged idea, such as the title track, “Kindred Spirits,” but it never lasts.

Unfortunately, there’s also a number of songs here that are hindered by the audio, as well as other reasons. “Of Fear and Fury” isn’t really a bad song, and again the burdening, ominous atmosphere does come through well, but sometimes the cymbals being hit can move a bit too slow to match the beat the pounding bass kicks are going for, not to mention also have a very conflicting sound between crisp and washed out parts of the kit that make it hard to listen to sometimes. The same can be said for “Twin Fires of Beltine,” though these issues are not quite as dominant. Again, the track is fine, and had the production issues not existed, it would have made a fine song to kick back and relax to, focusing more on a calmer, yet still serious Folk Metal output. Unfortunatley not all of this can be said for “Quest for Immortality.” This one is just rough to sit through, as it sounds like two different songs meshed into one. The guitars sound great, especially for the guitar solo, and go at a mid-pace, but the drumming seems to fit a quicker song all together and in no way match the beat. This is sad considering the washed out sound really doesn’t play here at all. The promise it does have shines through during the quicker sections that really do confirm the band wasn’t quite on the same page with one another the entire time in the studio. Sadly this issue does seem to crop up here and there, but not always as bad. “Kindred Spirits” has a brief section with off-beat drums, but that ends up being the least of it’s worries. The mid-tempo pace isn’t too engaging as the music itself is just good due to being hindered largely from the aforementioned audio problems. This also does hurt the atmosphere, which seems to want to go towards a darker, burdening tone, but simply seems transparent with a slight hue from how loud the bass guitar is.

Overall, Kindred Spirits is album you are going to want to love, but simply can’t. There’s just too much going wrong to overlook. The audio quality doesn’t help the mid-tempo passages, the timing can be off with the drums, half the cymbals if not more seem washed out, and many songs can end up sounding lifeless, making headbanging, or even just bobbing your head along or tapping your foot to the beat rather rare past the first few songs of the effort. It’s clear what Waylander was trying to do, and in most ways these problems are obviously not their own creatively, but rather everyone involved in approving the way their music sounds on the final product. Fans of Waylander won’t be too let down, but there’s no denying there will be a struggle to listen to it at full volume despite wanting to enjoy these Celtic influenced Folk Metal tones the way they deserve to be.

01. Echoes of the Sidhe – 6:09
02. Lámh Dearg – 7:00
03. Twin Fires of Beltíne – 5:49
04. Of Fear and Fury – 6:48
05. Grave of Giants – 2:14
06. A Path Well Trodden – 6:07
07. Quest for Immortality – 5:38
08. Erdath – 7:26
09. Kindred Spirits – 6:37
Overall Score: 6/10
Waylander (band)
Waylander (logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by Listenable Records via Clawhammer PR.