'Kindred Spirits' - Waylander (7/10)
When it comes to the oft-attempted realm of folk metal, Waylander’s “Honour Amongst Chaos” remains one of my favourite examples. Finding a striking balance between the traditional sounds of Celtic folk and the aggressive edge of extreme metal, Waylander are up there with Primordial as one of the best metal acts Ireland has to offer. Being as how we had to wait four years between albums for “Kindred Spirits”, there’s been some great anticipation for this record. Best summarized in two words, Waylander don’t disappoint with their fourth full length. Once again, the battle cry sounds out in a fury of chugging riffs and Celtic whistle. It doesn’t seem to knock “Honour Amongst Chaos” from its throne, but the band’s latest serves as a strong offering for anything wanting folk metal the way it was meant to be.
One of Waylander’s greatest strengths has always been the sense that the folk elements really seem to fit the band’s metal mold, and this trait is plainly evident here. “Kindred Spirits” takes no time to get started, erupting with a chugging riff and signature whistle overtop. The Celtic whistle plays a fairly significant role throughout the album, offering a strong melodic contrast to the heavily riff-oriented blackened style that makes up much of Waylander’s metal roots. Although the Celtic instrumentation stills plays a central role in the way Waylander crafts melodies, there does seem to be more of a metallic edge to “Kindred Spirits”; that is, the folky aspects are a little less overt than they were in the past. The Celtic culture is very much alive on “Kindred Spirits”, but listeners shouldn’t expect anything of a mellow sort here. Once the riffs get going, Waylander rarely yield.
Although the sound and style is epic, it’s worthy of mention that “Kindred Spirits” is largely made up of concisely structured songs. Although they tend to rest around the seven minute mark, Waylander sticks to a formula of rhythm-oriented riffs, melodic choruses and the occasional break into a fully Celtic mode. The quality of writing stays fairly consistent, although “Echoes of the Sidhe”, “Twin Fires of Beltine”, and the excellent title track all win a special commendation. This consistent success aside however, “Kindred Spirits” is held back by its homogenous writing style. Although many of the melodic and folkish moments are memorable, the songs are rarely memorable in their own right. There are few surprises in store for a listener once they get wise to the band’s regular structure. “Kindred Spirits” never gets boring, but there is the concrete feeling around halfway into the album that the songwriting could have used some added variety to boost it to the next level.
There’s a lot of great things about Waylander’s fourth album. Ciarán O'Hagan’s vocals have never sounded better, and the album is remarkably solid from start to finish. It would have been nice to hear the band innovate and recharge their sound some more than they did, but “Kindred Spirits” shouldn’t disappoint fans of the band and folk metal at large. Although Waylander never lose touch with their Celtic influence, they manage to stay heavy while doing it, and that is something I think many so-called folk metal bands seem to miss out on. I think “Honour Amongst Chaos” will remain my favourite album by the band for now, but Waylander have impressed here once again.