Classic rock aplomb, 80’s heavy metal guile, a pro-level stoner metal sonic spread and a hit of modern heavy/doom metal’s revisionist anthemic focus all keep this band of falconers rolling forth ensuring the appeal of Evansville, Indiana-based quartet Faerie Ring is multifaceted yet honed to a point of seamless, soulful hi-fi heavy rock elegance. Cutting right to the quick of it these folks have what so many other stoney, heavy rocking and doomed sorta bands don’t: A good picker when it comes to the riffs that actually go to tape and nothing makes the cut here on their second album, ‘Weary Traveler‘, unless serving as key gusto in support of big, inherently memorable songs that slosh and buzz as they flow together. Though their combination of classic forms is curiously atypical to some degree the affect of the music is wholly recognizable as a heavy rock ’til heavy metal comedown viewed from ‘sword and planet‘ gazing eyes. For those in the know this record’ll be a stunning but not unheard of transformation rendered in real time, an admirable characterization of a not-so well known band stepping up, and for everyone else tripping the void between heavy metal and stoner/psychedelic rock it’ll be an inarguable highlight for the first half of the year.
That isn’t to say that Faerie Ring‘s debut LP (‘A Clearing Path‘, 2019) had gotten it exactly right, though. If you look past the bong rip noises and the fairly typical blues-driven stoner metal push-ups that’d driven that record they’d definitely been at a point of excess which’d worked up to a moderately tuneful, earnest enough result. A “riff record” always makes the cut to some degree, sure, despite pushing a load of big noise the personae of their gig nonetheless seemed a bit head-down, kinda shy in revealing itself beyond the murky rumble of its chassis. I guess it’d been appropriately affected, introverted per the stoner rock and doom metal conjoined headspace. The big surprise here today is that ‘Weary Traveler‘ changes that tune immediately, all the more intent on carrying some extra-distinct personality along the way with bigger riffs, bigger vocals, and songs that stick with an economized approach to the freshly applied force herein. The great success of this record is surprisingly the songcraft which works as well as it does for the sake of cinching up the note count on their riffcraft and editing these otherwise indulgent, expressive heavy metal pieces down to pure impact with just enough wiggle room for style points. It makes for a record that naturally outshines the pleasant mundanity of weed-type heavy music naturally by way of traditional heavy metal-tapped vision.
Money talks and people listen, or, at least the end product is occasionally easier to line up with at face value when you can feel they’ve invested in it. Part of thee glowingly considered creative vision coming to life so successfully on ‘Weary Traveler‘ is certainly the level of investment going into such a high value package, especially considering this’d been Faerie Ring‘s first venture into a professional studio. We could argue the value of studio time versus what magic a final rendering can do to create artificial space/resonances all day but it was clear that they’d come out of the studio experience having made full use of the access that comes with getting out of the home-jammed space and into the realm of designed sound and professional gear. The result is enormous without being obnoxiously “industry standardized”, transformative to say the least when setting LP number one next to number two. The rest of the package (cover art, etc.) has been carefully curated to live up to this accessible, boldly stated second appearance from the band.
Bigger-booted heavy rock music hasn’t always worked out when given a bigger production sound but in this case everything’s gone right per teasing out the already nuanced style of the group, the choices made appear to have assisted this transformation, an appropriately strong leap made, a step into the next thing and nowhere is this more obvious than when firing up opener/title track (“Weary Traveler”). You’d just as well think this was the wrong record to start, eh, with the kitsch mid-to-late 80’s post NWOBHM trot of the main verse riff and the Rhoads-esque guitar squeals hitting like a slightly moist palm down a dry stretch of plastic wrap as the chops intensify toward the two minute mark but we hit phasing, fuzzing break-out ~2:11 minutes in that changes the scene, streaks the neon lights a bit and gives us a hint of the still psychedelic lean of the band. The basslines begin roar, the reverb-dogged vocals echo off and really this first song is just the tip of the iceberg revealed as to how Faerie Ring lead craft the first three pieces on this album into one uninterrupted, beauteous side.
The gapless, buzzing plunge beneath the bigger doom riffs that introduce “Silver Man in the Sky” hits like part two, chapter two, scene two beyond “Weary Traveler”. One riff after another, hand over fist this second piece is all about what is around the next corner, admittedly a beast you might see coming but a well-writ line of rhythms developing moment by moment nonetheless — The big one hits around ~2:45 minutes in. This carries on to the point that this particular song stuck with me as a fixation from the first listen, partially because I’d thought the first two songs were one great big one ’til I took a closer look but mostly for the sake of it being a bit of a surprise beyond the sort of floaty first piece which’d only implied the stoner/doom undercurrent of Faerie Ring‘s previous album. A couple of new effects hit the bass, a whip cracks, the turntable catches a bump and we’re back to what is arguable more of a stoner/doom metal influenced main riff on “Never Rains at Midnight”, one which fuses more clearly with the traditional heavy metal pull of the opener and makes good on both ideas in fine enough fusion. Side A is structurally, stylistically a complete thought built from simple yet memorable pieces that each exist solely for the riff in the moment but manifest a larger string of high fantasy narrative as a unit. The elegance of this half of the album was all the more stunning for its design, much less the consistently catchy kick through that’d gotten me there. In plainest terms, the “on boarding” for this record is greasy slick, easy to pick up and take a ride on.
So many colors… — Where Side A boats continuity of vision, catchy pieces which are all set in a linear yet charged push Side B acts as a boon of varietal showcase, a far more eclectic trio of songs overall. “Endless Color/The Waltz” is the first two pull us back back the roots to a bounding doom metal riff towards the heavy psych and stoner metal influenced rub one would expect from Faerie Ring at this point. A two part psychedelic doom metal piece with a long-winded bugout deep into its second half, this is likely the first song on the album to give major pause for how effectively it turns the tables on the tone set by the first half of the record. The tenth generation Sabbathian jam of it all pins all worlds together but this song is unhinged, swinging hard as often as it is drifting off in psylocibin’ thought. This is basically what every great heavy rock album needs, different shades, different sounds, an experience which finds its own profundity in relative exploration.
This second half likewise eases between songs in a seamless manner, giving us an ass-shaking kick into “Lover” to take the lids back up after the dreamscape “The Waltz” turned into. This song showcases some of Fu Manchu-esque waddle n’ doom of the group implied on ‘A Clearing Path‘, hauling it biggest as we reach the ~1:37 minute mark and for my own taste that is the last hurrah of an album that generally doesn’t miss. Not to downplay “Motor Boss”, it does a fine job of playing ’em off stage in a huge way, just as “Weary Traveler” warmed things up to start. They’d done well to cut it off right then and there as ~40 minutes is just enough time and space to flex these big ideas and let it all sink in on repeat rather than in any further variation. The full listen is solid enough that on repeat is where ‘Weary Traveler‘ sits best; Though it isn’t perfectly cyclic spin in motion the complete exploration within avoids any filler and anything too off-color or irritating that might’ve lost the plot.
It should be well enough belabored at this point that I’ve been impressed by this otherwise deceptively straight forward stoner/psych-doomed heavy metal record and, of course because it makes the argument that a complete and masterfully curated package might help a full-length album experience sing to fresh eyes and ears but doing all the right things won’t amount to much unless the songcraft is soundly effective. Faerie Ring‘ve checked all the boxes here between the unforgettable cover art, the varietal trip they’d sent me on, but the major fealty built here comes from catchy and/or experiential pieces with easily read appeal. I guess how well it matches your own criteria will depend how the lyrics and themes hit you, ‘Weary Traveler‘ doesn’t seem to have a lead of serious meaning behind its general plot and this might not do well by folks who’re expecting deeper meaning from a record that endeavors to feel great when you’re wearing it. It’d stuck with me from the first listen and continues to hold up months later. A very high recommendation.
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