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Wayfarer Mixes Metal With the Denver Sound to Explore Western Violence

Wayfarer's new album, A Romance With Violence, takes on the lore of the West.EXPAND
Wayfarer's new album, A Romance With Violence, takes on the lore of the West.
Elizabeth Marsh

When the members of the Denver band Wayfarer started writing songs for A Romance With Violence, they wanted their metal record to be like a big, bloody Western film, exploring the region’s folklore and legacies of brutality.

The album, which dropped in mid-October on the Canadian imprint Profound Lore Records, opens with “The Curtain Pulls Back,” a brief piano piece that sounds like something from an Old West saloon. Then the band delves into black metal with “The Crimson Rider,” a song about a mysterious outlaw who inflicts violence across the West and then ends his own life. That’s followed by “The Iron Horse,” which frontman Shane McCarthy describes as a metaphor for the violence of the transcontinental railroad expanding west, destroying everything in its path: “It’s like using the railroad almost like a Horseman of the Apocalypse, like a harbinger of all this violence.”

McCarthy, drummer Isaac Faulk, bassist James Hansen and guitarist Joey Truscelli all came of age in Colorado in the early 2000s, hearing about legends and lore of the Old West, watching Westerns and horror films, and listening to black metal.

“That’s our local folklore,” McCarthy says. “Definitely what the rest of the world associates with this part of the U.S. in particular. That’s what people think of as the Wild West — the cowboys on the plains and all that really romantic imagery. But deep down, all the stories, all the films — it’s just unbridled violence, and it’s usually at the cost of entire groups of people.”

While McCarthy and guitarist Tanner Rezabek were kicking around riffs under the name Wayfarer as early as 2006 while attending Standley Lake High School in Westminster, they didn’t actually get around to recording a demo until 2011, with some help from Truscelli. Faulk and Hansen came on board in 2012. After Rezabek left in 2016, Truscelli took over as guitarist.

“What brought everybody together is we were all heavily into Opeth and a lot of the European bands like Enslaved and Primordial, Moonsorrow and stuff like that,” McCarthy says. “We were also into some of the black-metal stuff and more adventurous melodic stuff, and even some of the folk metal around that time.”

While still in high school, McCarthy was introduced to the Denver Sound through Wovenhand, a band formed by 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards nearly two decades ago. McCarthy found out that Wovenhand had played with a few metal bands that he liked. He gave the group’s 2006 album Mosaic a listen and was hooked. McCarthy then worked his way into earlier gothic Americana albums by 16 Horsepower and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club.

Although Wayfarer started off as a straightforward metal band, McCarthy says the influence of the Denver Sound seeped in over time as his bandmates also became fascinated with the style.

“I think I maybe drilled it into their heads a bit more over time just because, especially the first couple tours, we were on these very long drives, and I’d often play [Denver Sound] bands,” McCarthy recalls.

Over the past eight years, Wayfarer has toured across the United States, Mexico and Europe, sharing the stage with acts like Arma, Saor, Krallice, Primitive Man, Falls of Rauros, Dark Buddha Rising and Thantifaxath.
McCarthy and company also opened for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club and Wovenhand, and over the past few years have gotten to know Slim Cessna and SCAC bandmate Jay Munly.

“Those people are just really great, genuine people and have supported us,” McCarthy says. “They’re just easy to get along with. So we’ve kind of befriended a lot of them, and now they seem to be into what we’re doing, which is really gratifying, having grown up here and been into the whole world that they’ve created. It’s really cool to have those people who are still masters of the craft be into what we’re doing and, you know, wanting to play shows with us and things.”

McCarthy notes that on 2018’s World’s Blood, Wayfarer had wanted to nod to Denver Sound acts, weaving gothic Americana into metal. But with A Romance With Violence, that influence is even more noticeable.

“It wasn’t a conscious decision, but it was kind of happening naturally,” McCarthy says. “We just decided to embrace it and let it happen. But our whole thing is, we don’t want to just do a genre mashup. That can be really kitschy and gimmicky, with people saying, ‘Oh, it’s like this, but it’s crazy because they’re also doing this.’ And it’s just something to share on Facebook and be like, ‘Look how crazy this band is,’ and then you move on. There’s no substance to that.

“Our whole approach is to have all of those influences always present simultaneously,” he continues. “When we’re writing a heavy part of a song, it’s still coming from that mindset, just like when we’re writing the more atmospheric, acoustic parts of a song, where those might sound more directly like that material.”

McCarthy says that even the black-metal sections are informed by the Denver Sound, creating a thread even when there are blast beats or ripping guitars.

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“There are still some voicings and overall themes that are based on the same things,” he explains. “It’s like there has to be kind of an overall vibe — not something thrown in for the hell of it.”

A Romance With Violence closes with “Vaudeville,” a concluding melodrama in three parts. The epic ten-minute song, with its dynamic ebbs and flows, might be the album’s best example of combining black metal with the Denver Sound, as well as recalling Ennio Morricone’s scores for Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns like A Fistful of Dollars and Once Upon a Time in the West. McCarthy says that while they didn’t intentionally borrow any specific lines from Morricone’s scores, the musicians were inspired by the composer and filmmaker working together to create an atmosphere and tell a story, and they translated that into their music.

“In a film, you have those arcs where it has these intense moments and more reflective moments,” McCarthy elaborates. “We were writing songs that tell the story, in a way. The lyrics, if you read them, will more directly tell a story, but the music itself should do a good enough job of telling the story on its own. It takes you through that whole arc.”

For more information, visit Wayfarer on Bandcamp.

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