New York’s Waydown Wailers’ pending fourth album Miles of Roads promises to be their best release yet. It isn’t hard to imagine that’s the case based on their new single “Firefall”. This threatening ode to a famed upstate New York park where several odd occurrences have happened over many years, including missing travelers and compasses behaving in strange ways, is a great subject for a hard rock workout. Songwriter and B3 Hammond organ player, as well as backing vocalist and occasional guitarist, Joe Thomas penned the right kind of lyric for such a song. It’s rife with dire warnings and descriptions of the land’s frightening effects on the mind.
They’re almost doom metal lyrics. The band never plays them for comedy, though there’s a hint of the absurd in the way that they structure the song. It has an unusual trajectory with ongoing stuttering distorted guitar riff and lead singer Dave Parker’s vocals following the guitar step by step. They stretch out during the instrumental breaks but, again, in an unexpected fashion. Anyone expecting them to unleash torrid lead guitar work will be disappointed.
They serve the song rather than their individual egos. Despite the lack of typical hard rock histrionics, “Firefall” packs a wallop. Thomas’ aforementioned B3 playing gives the cut an extra sonic dimension and a hint of menace befitting the subject matter. There’s a grinding quality in the song as well; Waydown Wailers are a band unafraid to fill their songs with an uncompromising musical crunch.
The vocals have a literal, yet plaintive feel. Dave Parker doesn’t have a classically beautiful singing voice, the material furthermore doesn’t call for it, but he has enough of an ear-catching vibe that it’s accessible to a wide range of listeners. The presence of Christian Parker’s B-Bender guitar, a rare instrument in modern rock bands, brings another welcome dimension to the track. The presence of a talk box isn’t common for modern rock bands, but thankfully Waydown Wailers never got the memo. It further accentuates the song’s unique flavor.
They are blazing their own trail. Waydown Wailers are traveling through recognizable territory, there’s no remaking the songwriting wheel heard here, but their take on the style is far from paint by numbers. The song’s video has that distinction as well. They play the subject matter with a little bit of humor during the promotional clip, but never so much that it trivializes the track. It’s a five-star visual interpretation of the track that’s largely built as a performance clip, but the storytelling aspects worked into the video are a welcome change from more run-of-the-mill efforts.
This is a band that deserves your notice. They’ve been at it for a while now and others recognize their value, attested to by opening for acts as diverse as ZZ Top and Lady Antebellum, among others, but haven’t yet reached their peak. “Firefall”, however, rates among their best material and shows a band continuing to grow and expand its range. Waydown Wailers are finding their way with each new release and Miles of Roads, based on songs such as this, may be the moment that raises their profile like never before.