Album Review: Wayfaerer “In The Name Of Emptiness”

Album Review: Wayfaerer “In The Name Of Emptiness”

Ukraine-born, and long-time U.S. resident and citizen Alex Shalenko is a veteran in the American metal scene. I first met Alex years ago when he fronted his band Midgard in Colorado. What always has struck me about the guy is his pure, honest passion for metal. Every time I have dealt with him he has come across with a great attitude and above average intelligence. I bring all this up because I think it has contributed to the way he has presented himself artistically over the years.

A guitarist, vocalist, and writer, Alex has always possessed a deep well of creativity. With that I believe he has always stuck to what he likes and fits him, rather than try to be something he isn’t. Wayfaerer is a one-man project, with Alex playing all guitars, handling the vocal duties, and programming drums. Of course real drums are always preferable, but it’s difficult enough putting a band together. Getting to the finish line with an album is a whole other beast, and I admire anyone who can do it, especially on their own.

I assume Alex also created the cover art and layout –all of which are excellent. I love the dark simplicity. It’s classy.

Opening track Solitary Reign (The End of Days) quickly takes the listener right where Alex wants them: Back to the glory days of traditional Scandinavian melodic death metal. His command of that old European sound is unmistakable. Obviously it is in his blood. I’m a huge fan of Scandinavian metal, but I have to admit I was a late comer. For example, I did not fully experience a band like In Flames until Clayman was released. Wayfaerer’s sound shares much more in common with their earlier albums, along with other similar bands of the same time period. I think that era had more of a traditional cultural influence on the music than later years, and Wayfaerer does a good job making you think it came from the same period. Even though the “death metal” tag is added to the genre, it bears little resemblance to classic Florida death metal or even Scandinavian death metal such as Grave or early Entombed. Riffing is much more melodic and anthemic, favoring single note fluidity to chorded chromatic brutality. In my opinion, the only thing typically extreme about the early melodic death metal sound is often the vocals. To the non-metal music listener they could be described as coming from an evil gargoyle. However, Alex does a good job mixing these types of vocals deeper into the mix so they don’t overpower the melodic guitars. That being said, Alex has a fine clean vocal style as well, and displays it at times on Forsake The Infinite, Isolated, In The Name Of Emptiness, and the percussion-less acoustic guitar song Call The Void. He has a knack for writing memorable vocal melodies.  Additionally, his lyrics throughout the album are poetic and above average.

The first four tracks on the album have a crisper, louder, thicker guitar sound, but from that point on the guitars sound a bit muffled in comparison. It’s not bad, just different, and the songs come off perhaps sounding older.

The Scarlet Crown has an old black metal feel to it, and the mix is of a lower quality like some of that genres’ older material.

I find the programmed drum sound to be a bit too mechanical at times, but is not unexpected. Some of the high hat and ride cymbal sounds are too overbearing in places.

Alex would probably have benefited from having a second person co-producing the project, but that goes without saying for any artistic work. This is, however, Alex’s brainchild, so getting someone else involved, if even just for their ears and opinions is a whole other headache. With the artist having complete control in a one-person project, the approach is subject to flaws that may not be noticed by the artist (For example, I questioned whether the guitars were in tune in a few places). For that reason, such a project completely lives or dies on the shoulders of the artist. I self-published a book many years ago that I had slaved over again and again in the year prior. Even with my focused, tedious efforts I still managed to miss about twelve typos. I believe when it comes to art and entertainment (maybe drawing/painting aside) we are never better alone than as part of a team. That being said, for all the negatives that come with a one-man approach, in the end an artist -especially a self-financed one- has every right to do whatever they want creatively and enjoy the results, flaws and all. I think Wayfaerer is an excellent start for a first time, one-man project. Alex had a vision and I think he accomplished what he set out to do in every way. The music is honest and catchy and I think the album would appeal to fans of the genre.