Denver-based extreme-metal quartet Wayfarer's new album, A Romance with Violence — which is available now via Profound Lore Records — is their most ambitious to date. Its seven dusty, wind-swept tracks perfectly encompass the group's self-described sound: "black metal of the American West." "Through the music, the album aims to tell stories," guitarist-vocalist Shane McCarthy says, "if not always by words but by feel."
With that in mind, Revolver asked McCarthy what five albums have been the most influential to that music and feel. He said of his list, "This stretches from the formative years of the project's teenage inklings to the modern iteration of the band, and is definitely in no sensible order." See below.
Opeth - Still Life
This was a band that blew wide open what music, and metal, could be for me at a young age. Opeth was a common ground for all of us in the band, meeting when we were still fairly young. It's hard to narrow it down to one album of the "prime era," and Blackwater Park was my first taste, but Still Life is the one that has stuck with me the most over the years. It's got such a clear identity — immense and personal, with memorable riffs and haunting passages coming together to create a singular thing. Everyone's favorite comedian Mikael Åkerfeldt is at his songwriting peak here, everything is purposeful and resonant — very inspiring as a young player to figure out how to flesh out such a defined and unique "musical vocabulary" as they had. The guitar work is outstanding, it's the first record to feature the Lopez/Mendez rhythm section that still sits as one of the best all time, and the album where Åkerfeldt stepped fully into his own as a vocalist. Too sappy for some, but I was here for it then and I am here for it now.
Primordial - The Gathering Wilderness
This record! Primordial is a band I was initially drawn to in looking for something a little darker, with more grit and less cheese in the crossing worlds of metal and folk. As a person of Irish descent with an interest in the country's history, I was pulled right in on discovering them. The band has a strong and unwavering catalog, but this particular record is the one I'll take to the grave. There is a certain sense of "reserve" to both the songwriting and the production that perfectly captures the essence of a few hundred years of history and tragedy into a sound. The whole thing comes off very genuine and understated, with the music and the lyrics coming together to paint a really poignant picture. It sticks with you long after the listen. This type of storytelling through sound was always a big inspiration.
16 Horsepower - Sackcloth 'n Ashes
This album is the Ur-text of the "Denver Sound," "Gothic Country" type of stuff that Colorado is home to, and still the most steadfast of classics. It's an odd occurrence that a band of this ilk driven by a strange gospel faith would resonate with so many people of more "extreme" tastes, but it's truly one-of-a-kind. An intersection of folk, country, Americana and rock through an inexplicably dark lens, this band — along with David Eugene Edwards' work in Wovenhand and their contemporaries — hit such a deep chord with me as a young person who mostly listened to metal at the time. It changed my world and I had to know everything about it. This LP still remains one of my most-played records, and a staple for tour drives on the open plains. It's one timeless track after another, from the unorthodox approach to its instrumentation to DEE's mad preacher howls burning into your brain. The album is loaded with riffs and thick with atmosphere while presenting itself plainly. Edwards is a big inspiration of mine vocally. The legacy left in our home state and across the world by this band and the small circle around them is one to revere, and certainly blazed some of the paths that we explore musically as a band.
Death - Human
Sadly discovered posthumously as a kid taking guitar lessons and just about to start high school, Chuck Schuldiner from those days on was always a musical hero of mine. My first exposure was a beat-up used copy of Leprosy, followed shortly by the other end of the spectrum in The Sound of Perseverance. From there, the gaps were filled in, and while it's again hard to narrow it down to one record of their always-ahead-of-the-curve output, Human is the perfect crossroads of the old-school brutality, the progressive leanings, and general forward-thinking metal that was explored across their career. Chuck's ever-evolving vision being fleshed out by none other than the Cynic guys and Steve Digorgio still seems too good to be true. But we have Human, with a clearly still hungry Schuldiner working aside incredible musicians setting out to make a heavy, ripping death-metal record with an approach bordering on intellectual. Everything from the riffs (no one wrote better riffs), the jazz-prog flourishes, the cover art, the lyrics which raised actual questions — everything was just fully there on this record. Death was a band that with every single release was two steps ahead of everyone else in the world of "extreme metal," pushing boundaries and exploring new territory that everyone else would be left figuring out for years to come. As a young person trying to learn how to write sick riffs and create your own band, there was nothing higher to look to than Death and Chuck.
Fields of the Nephilim - Elizium
Fields was a later discovery for me, but definitely one that left a mark. I, along with all the guys in the band, are fans of a lot of post-punk, darkwave and "death rock" goth stuff, but Fields of the Nephilim exist on their own plane. Elizium is a masterwork, and to me, it's the definition of "atmosphere." Everything about the album just lives and breathes a feeling of the world it creates. Each song gives way to another and you don't notice or care, because you are enraptured by its dusty and surreal post-apocalyptic feeling the whole ride through. It's like it gives you a nostalgia for a world you never lived in. I appreciate that a band like this is composed of musicians not afraid to play their instruments. Guitars roar and wail and have real hooks as well as sliding noise, memorable bass lines creep in throughout the record, with percussion a constant pulse while Carl McCoy's definitive drug-like narration guides you through the whole thing. Fields of the Nephilim were a band who went all-in on what they were doing, from their pseudo-west attire, to the occult-bizarre artwork, to the singular experience of their music. They created something palpable, and I can never get enough of it. It certainly holds an influence on our own dusty excursions.