Review: Wastewalker - Funeral Winds

Label: Independent
Runtime: 33 Minutes
Released: November 1st, 2016

Funeral Winds is the debut album from Sacramento-based melodic/progressive death metal band Wastewalker. Despite being mainly lumped in with modern tech-death acts by press and fans alike, this debut owes a weighty portion of its sound to the melodeath greats that came before them while adding in just enough tech and progressive elements to be their own unique animal. Just listen to the leading riffs of opener 'Hazmat Birth' and the melodeath influences will be more than readily apparent. Genre conventions aside, how does Wastewalker stack up against the competition in an ever growing pool of talented metal artists? The band features a number of notable names from modern metal, including Alterbeast vocalist Cam Rogers, John Abernathy from Conducting From the Grave, Sepsis's Nate Graham on guitar, Dire Peril's Justin Tvetan on drums, and is rounded out by Joel Barerra on bass.With this kind of pedigree, metal fans that have been in the loop for the past few years should know that they're in for something killer.

Funeral Winds is short and to the point, clocking in at a concise 33 minutes, but packing a wide variety of memorable song structures that would put many other metal bands and their bloated album lengths to shame (we're looking at you Allegaeon!) 'Hazmat Birth' rips right out of the gate with its techy melodeath stylings, building to an epic solo that spends its later half wailing over a simple chugged rhythm that never fails to get heads nodding along. Fleshwounds takes things a bit more to the tech side, including a break to a spacy progressive outro that gives Barerra's bass time to shine under a sedated jazzy guitar solo. 

Another brilliant point on the album can be found in the last minute of 'The Consumption' where the lead guitars build and build in speed-picked tremolos over the driving rhythm section, eventually breaking out on their own before the low chugs come back in along with Rogers' guttural growl. If that doesn't send a shiver up your spine, nothing will! Also of note here is the excellent instrumental 'Ad Victoriam' which follows a slowly building structure of clean guitars and swelling bass-runs before the distorted guitars comes in, following the same melody and morphing it into a quick solo before descending back into a simplified crunchy riff. Closer 'Immortal, I Create' continues Wastewalker's progressive bent, intermixing dreamy passages along with sharp blasts of brutality and tremolo-picked melodies that will stick in your head for days after listening, punctuated by multi-layered rasps and guttural vocals.

Funeral Winds is a triumph of a debut and deserves every bit of the attention it has reaped from the metal press and social media. The album has a good deal of crossover appeal as well, catering simultaneously to the tech-death and melodic death metal crowds with memorable songs and complex compositions that are exciting and fresh without ever reaching the point of self-indulgent excess. Unfortunately, as is becoming more common with independent releases these days, the official download of Funeral Winds does not come with a lyric sheet, and not all of the lyrics are posted on the Bandcamp page. This is admittedly a minor quibble, but with lyrics that seem as well thought out as the glimpses given through snippets and a lyric video, it would be nice to be able to follow along with some liner notes.  That aside however, Wastewalker have put out an album that deserves and demands your attention. Head on over to their Bandcamp page where you can preview the entire album for free, and if you like what you hear, don’t hesitate to hit the Buy button. Recommended.


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