All Creation Undone- Why Wayfarer?

Wayfarer/Rot In Hell Split cover by Glyn Smith

Wayfarer/Rot In Hell Split cover by Glyn Smith

Every so often amongst various groups of friends who are primarily into hardcore, or indeed any other harder/heavier genre of music, a common topic surfaces, best UK band. Now it would be really easy to think of other incredibly good current and defunct UK bands you could bring up at this point. Especially given that I only started going to hardcore shows in about ‘06/’07 twinned with the much more extensive years of experience in Corehammer Crew let alone the wider scene. I’m sure there’s hundreds of incredible relic demos stored in plastic storage boxes in attics across the country that would be incontestable contenders the title. Part of me toys with giving it to the soul swallowing Electric Wizard, the belligerent horror of Bradford’s Ironside or maybe the frenetic onslaught of Closure. But on this subject I always say that for me it’s got to be Wayfarer. This whole article maybe taken as some sycophantic super fan girls perfume stained love letter to any of the members of Wayfarer, or indeed anyone, that might read this and for that I apologise and also thank you for being that band. I’d think enough of my mates would know of my utter hatred for brown nosing.

It would be daft for me to try and expand on the fact this band was a straight edge band for a number of reasons including the fact I don’t think I’d have enough knowledge of that whole area to qualify and because my interest in them doesn’t have anything to do with that ethic. I mentioned in a previous article that my mam always bought me up on a lot of theology, myths and legends, especially Norse and Anglo Saxon stuff and my da was pretty fanatical that me and my brother read Tolkien’s work when we were younger. This is why I think it’s more than just Wayfarer’s musical and lyrical content that I get off on, I think it’s all the references to those things that I absolutely buzz off just as much. So to in no way to down play whatsoever the bands other sterling releases, because fuck knows they’re full of back to back ragers too, I’m going to explain my thought process using their LP ‘I: The Days Have Gone Down In The West’ as an example. It’s named after a Theoden quote, if that’s not already drawn you into giving it a listen then I’d stop reading this article, it’s not for you. The artwork is a dark, brooding grey and gold affair by the one and only Big X Tom (Tom Stanley) of an ancient helmet a top a decaying skull and the track listing on the back draws even more heavily from that Anglo Saxon and Norse myths. Probably best given my pre disposition to prattle on about music artwork that I leave the summary at that other than to mention how many good artists they’ve worked with like Tom himself, Sin Eater, Give Up and Glyn Smith. At this point you know the sort of thing you might be in for and the musical contents of the album deliver. It’s a metallic masterpiece to my mind.

I: The Days Have Gone Done In The West cover by Big X Tom

I: The Days Have Gone Done In The West cover by Big X Tom

The opening track is just insanely atmospheric, in the same way you could almost argue some of the instrumental interludes on a Nile album are harder that some of the actual songs. Named after a section of Beowulf it features Seamus Heaney, one of my favourite poets, reading his translation of that same section of the text. Heaney was heard to comment that Beowulf was part of a deep oral history of story telling and that its true intensity came from it being heard not read. If this wasn’t obviously true enough a slow doleful riff builds in the background accompanied by the ripple of symbols. Under half way through the track Heaney’s sample ends with the line ‘and so he walked about the earth lamenting his unhappiness day and night until deaths flood brimmed up in his heart’ and the drums drop in, paced and relentless snowballing into a track that’s completely evocative of the whole theme. Ragnarok, whose title’s link I’d hope wouldn’t need an explanation, follows. Darker and already more intense it spirals quickly and as the drums pound in there’s a guttural ‘urgh’ from Max that punctuates the song and indicates your cue to start head banging/kicking everyone in the pit to the rest of the track. By the time the words ‘All creation undone’ are ringing in your ears you’re reaching for the skip back button to hear it all again.

The second track Deor shares its name with one of the great Anglo Saxon poems, another staple from my formative years. In it the poet relates his own fall from grace and popularity to the troubles of other figures from history and myth at the time including among others Theroderic, a ruler of the Germanic Goths and Welund, who created Beowulf’s armour. This track would be my favourite on the album if not for one that appears later, musically it’s another great combo of a captivating building intro followed by a furious breakdown and a riff sure to give you a bangover. Lyrically I might be giving it too much praise or reading far too much into it here but it’s really cleverly linked to the context of the poem. The poem is a lament at the scop becoming replaced in his position in his society but continually comes back to the fact that the people referenced move past their difficulties with the line ‘that passed away, so may this’. The Wayfarer song seems to be focus too that such concerns are fleeting with lyrics like ‘I am left, I will endure.’ This track is exactly the reason I find the band so interesting I think. It isn’t just a throw away reference in the title to the poem but the poem’s been read, understood and incorporated into the song.

Next up on the record is Watcher On The Barrow, if the title wasn’t summoning a strong enough image to mind the lyrics and music definitely do with an even more epic instrumental intro it suckers you in. You get a lot of hardcore bands who have that one song with their name in it like a little signature track and this works in kind of the same way in that the ‘abandoned wayfarer’ gets a mention. I would think, given the last tracks reference, that this song, and indeed the bands name, are a nod towards another Anglo Saxon poem ‘The Wanderer’ in which the subject is cast out from his masters hall and left to wander the land with no place to belong but again I could be reading too much into the whole thing. Fimbulvetr brings the album to a close and is my favourite track of the lot. Not to bang on about the references in this album but you couldn’t choose many more flawless ones than Fimbulvetr (Fimbulwinter), which translates as The Mighty Winter, and was the prelude to a lot of the events of Ragnarok in Norse mythology, an age of winter in which great wars enveloped the land. Given the target audience of this blog if that very sentiment isn’t wetting your whistle then nothing is. Again the track doesn’t disappoint, the intro’s made up of rain falling and a violin while a sample of Prince Nuada of Hellboy plays over the top leading into a crushing metallic riff, a relentless war drum section, a raw bass that builds atmosphere and then it crashes back in with Max roaring ‘Desolaaation’ as the song heads for a faced paced mosh part. During the second half it peters again and the violin returns but this time you’re linked full circle to the records title as you hear Theoden’s voice, cue sweeping guitar outro.

Chance are if you’re into hardcore and are from the UK you know all of this record inside out anyway, hence the somewhat brief description thereof, but if you haven’t or are from further a field I’d urge you to listen to them. Or indeed if you had heard them I’d listen again. Obviously saying one band is the best is like saying Hobnobs are better than Digestives. Yeah sure to a lot of people that more complex oaty flavour is more their thing but you quickly surmise quite a few very odd people think you’re wrong and Digestives or even Gingersnap’s or a Chocolate Bourbon are better. It’s all a matter of personal taste. That’s why this album and band is important though, it’s a heady mixture of preferred music, theme and reference that I’m drawn to time and time again. Sometimes I even consider my wiping my Ipod and just putting Wayfarers catalogue on it I buzz of it that much. Whether is me over interpreting this band or not there’s more than enough I believe for anyone to get off on with this band and this record.

Wayfarer set captured by Sam Wilkinson

Wayfarer set captured by Sam Wilkinson

You could site so many elements of their other work like some of the punishing beatdowns on other releases as well as plenty of other mythological/historical references and sick samples. Hell knows for as many subtleties and nods as there is on this album I didn’t even get round to mentioning there’s probably as many again that I missed. But this album just perfectly encapsulates everything this band will always be to me.
There’s plenty of Epic Metal bands that reference Lord Of The Rings, fuck even Gorgoroth were named after a plane of malevolence in Mordor. On that note there are untold amounts of Viking Metal and Black Metal bands that reference the whole Norse thing plenty of times. But for every cringe worthy mead hall chorus in the former and for every eloquently dark reference to Niflheim in the later of those they all miss that poetic vibe that Wayfarer evoke and none of them could ever go in as hard. Without them if you’d told me that there was this Cleveland-esque band that would basically sum up so much of my influence in childhood and all the time between then and now I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I may have misread this completely as well but I feel despite their only recent(ish) departure they seem to be one of those bands that have been all too quickly forgotten and now, to quote The Wanderer, all of this earths frame shall stand empty.

And that’s why Wayfarer.

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