“World’s Blood is black metal of the American West.” Thus begins the description of this album by Profound Lore records, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t accurate. Another descriptor I’ve heard of this record from a friend is “Cormac McCarthy black metal.” I’ve been telling anybody who will listen that this is the American black metal album, the quintessential, archetypal release that demonstrates the unique mix of atmospheric tendencies, melancholic and drifting melodies, and meditative heaviness that I believe are, at the core, the contributions that this country has made to black metal as a genre.
Weakling, Wolves in the Throne Room, Cobalt, Krallice, Agalloch. All American black metal bands that have had a deep, defining impact on not only the genre as it exists here but the genre as it exists in general. All embody the aspects I speak of above, in some way or another: a sense of pervasive melancholy that lingers throughout their music, a heavy side used to dull the mind instead of sharpen it, tendencies to let their songs spool out in a free-floating drift. World’s Blood may not ascend Wayfarer quite to their rank, but if there’s anything that this album shows, it’s that Wayfarer knows exactly how to carve their own path upwards into this pantheon.
World’s Blood is also not a long album: comprised of three epics that fall into the typical 10+ minute pool of atmospheric black metal songs, book-ended by a pair that clock in at around five minutes each, it’s done before it can even hit the 45-minute mark. However, quality was clearly the higher priority here, and each track carries with it a sense of purpose. “On Horseback They Carried Thunder” sways back and forth between gloomy mid-paced atmospherics and a galloping assault that would impress even their most hyperborean peers, while its followup, “The Crows Ahead Cry War” takes its sweet time building but explodes into an unbelievably intense and honest fury before dying back down. “The Dreaming Plane” might be the single best black metal song I’ve heard so far this year: it starts off with a pair of resplendent guitar leads that build into a well-paced fervor. The song alternates between Wayfarer’s more atmospheric side and straight-up, no frills black metal in a powerful way, allowing each to match each other’s intensity perfectly. After a break to catch its breath, “The Dreaming Plane” builds back up and then roars with some of the loudest and most intense fury that this genre can muster. Indeed, hearing this track in context is more than worth the album’s runtime on its own.
Recorded with extreme metal auteur Colin Marston in his Queens studio Menegroth/The Thousand Caves, World’s Blood certainly carries with it a presence of mind that one would expect from an album that involved a member of Krallice and Gorguts; it is dusty and dry and polished while retaining a pervasively raw quality. Perhaps more than anything, the production is the single greatest identifier of World’s Blood as a black metal album defined by the American West. It operates in the exact sort of sepia tones upon which its cover draws, and the mix is both grounded in actual performance with the clarity of the drums and celestial enough to invoke the sheer splendor of the Rocky Mountains of Wayfarer’s home state of Colorado.
As someone who lived in the American Southwest for some time, I think the biggest compliment I can give to World’s Blood – one which it has certainly earned – is that this album immediately creates images of a terrain with which I am intimately familiar. This is truly black metal of the American West, unafraid to tackle with both the region’s bloody history and its unmatched natural splendor and find the links between the two themes in kind. World’s Blood doesn’t quite launch Wayfarer into the realm of an essential American black metal band yet, but it does display a band that knows exactly how to get there. There’s a subtle genius at play here, and I for one will be ready and waiting for whatever Wayfarer does next.
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World’s Blood is out now through Profound Lore. It can be found on their bandcamp, as well as streaming services.