Metal!

Wayfarer Creates Its Own Metal Subgenre

Wayfarer plays the Bluebird Theater Thursday, March 17.
Wayfarer plays the Bluebird Theater Thursday, March 17. Courtesy of Wayfarer
Denver’s Wayfarer is hard to describe. The band typically bills itself as “Black Metal of the American West,” which is an intriguing tagline, but it doesn’t properly define what listeners are in for when they play any of the act's four albums.

There is a good helping of black-metal elements in Wayfarer’s music — grating vocals, blast beats and tremolo-thick guitar riffs, to name a few — but there's also a tinge of Americana and sounds associated with Southern gothic music. Sprinkle in some ragtime reprieves and haunting ten-minute-long tales of death and doom in the Old West, and Wayfarer can best be described as a one-of-a-kind “black metal” band that has essentially created its own subgenre.

“That’s something we’ve always struggled with, to be honest. It's tough to pigeonhole. It’s always better to let somebody experience it and decide from themselves,” says vocalist and guitarist Shane McCarthy.

For over a decade now, the four-piece band, made up of Isaac Faulk, Jamie Hansen, Joe Strong-Truscelli and McCarthy, has been melding all of those seemingly unrelated influences and ingredients into what has become a unique sonic stew. Wayfarer's latest release, 2020’s A Romance With Violence, is by far its most complete and fully realized album to date. Outlining life in the unforgiving Rockies during the turn of the nineteenth century across seven songs, A Romance With Violence is more of a theatrical drama than a modern-day metal LP. But the band hasn’t had the chance to tour and bring the songs to the masses until now.

Wayfarer is playing A Romance With Violence in its entirety on Thursday, March 17, at the Bluebird Theater. Denver bands Snakes and Midwife are also on the bill. Dreadnought’s Kelly Schilling, who provided vocals on the Wayfarer track “Vaudeville,” will make a guest appearance.

Wayfarer is a “live band,” McCarthy explains, and A Romance of Violence is “one whole story” that’s best experienced from front to back, which the band is only doing twice this year. The Denver date follows a sold-out New York City show; then Wayfarer is back on the road for a Death Rides West spring tour in April.

“It’s been a patience game of waiting and letting this album fully come to life with the live shows,” he adds. “This Denver show is the most important one of all. We have grown up in the influence of all the music history here, specifically with the Denver sound stuff.”

That “Denver sound” McCarthy mentioned is much like Wayfarer — hard to pinpoint.

“It’s something that’s a little elusive to describe. It’s a capturing of a feeling more than any specific element. It obviously draws from some Americana and folk wells, but it has a certain haunting feeling — to me, anyway — an almost gothic kind of quality that separates it from other folk and Americana country,” he says. “It’s hard to put into words. You just know it when you hear it. To me, that’s the most important thing that’s ever happened musically in Colorado. That, to me, is the sound of this place, this state and this land. I think we try to harness it, but it’s been very important to us to do it in our own way.

“We want to draw as much of that into ourselves as we can, and then write the music as we would write it," he continues, "and we would see it and let it go its own direction from there. To create anything that stands any test of time or feels any certain way, it has to be genuine and come from you in a real way. That’s been the goal.”

George Cessna of Snakes is also Slim’s son, which makes him a direct descendant of one of the Denver sound originators. McCarthy says he and Cessna have wanted to do a concert showcasing the city’s current sound for some time now.

“We’ve actually had this planned for a couple of years, to do a show like this. We wanted to tailor something specific to this [album]. To him, this is like the Denver sound now,” he says. “That’s where our mindsets are with this show. I just really hope to do it justice. It’s been a weird purgatory state of talking about doing things for a long time.”

Wayfarer, 8 p.m. Thursday, March 17, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. $20-$22.
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