Waylander - Honour amongst chaos 4/5

Reviewed: 9-26-08


1. As the deities clash
2. Walk with honour
3. Beyond the ninth wave
4. Galloping gaels
5. To dine in the otherworld
6. Usurpers of our legacy
7. Taker of heads
8. Elemental chaos
9. Bru na boinne

If ever proof was needed that getting signed up and knocking out a couple of CDs doesn't necessarily mean that a band has made it, it comes in the form of Northern Ireland's folk metal pioneers Waylander. Now in their 15th year together, 'Honour amongst chaos' is only their 3rd CD, and comes a full 7 years after the preceding 'The light, the dark and the endless knot'. The band members must find themselves wondering where the time has gone, and it is a real shame that incessant label and line-up problems have held back the progress of what was a very promising outfit. But to cast aside all that doom and gloom, the good news is that the massive delay between CDs has not blunted Waylander's abilities, and 'Honour amongst chaos' is a damned fine example of epic celtic metal.

Clearly from the blacker end of the folk metal spectrum, this is not music for those of a lighter disposition, or indeed of a short attention span. Frontman Ciaran O'Hagan spends most of his time howling baleful black metal shrieks, but on the odd occasion things will soften up and he adopts a resonant, sombre tone that is usually accompanied by increased traditional Irish instrumentation, mostly provided by the band's multi-tasker, Dave Briggs. One of the newer members of the Waylander line-up (usually to be seen fronting neighbour band Runecaster), he brings a great deal of depth to the songs without ever sounding over the top or comical, mostly making use of the tin whistle and bodhran to accent the Celtic aspect of the band's sound. The final song on the track list, "Bru na boinne", sees the greatest use of these instruments. O'Hagan uses only clean vocals on this track as he repeats a hypnotic chant over hurtling guitars and violins, and the CD closes on a windswept, atmospheric note.

The metal end of the songs varies between more black metal influences in blasting drums and dissonant tremolo picking in the more aggressive songs, while a couple of the more direct numbers such as "Galloping gaels" run on more straight-ahead thrash riffs. The complexity of the lengthy songs is greatly helped by the abilities of guitarist Saul McMichael (with some assitance from former member Gareth Murdock), whose weaving guitar lines and melodic solos in turns contrast and harmonize with the traditional instruments to impressive effect.

With a comparatively slender total of 9 songs running well past the hour mark, more than half of them are over 7 minutes long, with one even breaching the 10-minute mark and meandering around between several heavier and more wistful passages. A few of these longer efforts don't feature any sort of sing-a-long chorus that would be expected in more common equivalents of this sort of music, and require a bit of patience to be fully absorbed and appreciated.

With a comeback this successful, Waylander can hopefully now start making up for lost time and really begin to progress they way they should have done several years ago. 'Honour amongst chaos' is not only a great CD in its own right, but a real triumph for a band many will have written off as dead and buried. Let's just hope we see a 4th CD before 2015, because they have so much more to offer.




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