Review: Splinterskin - Wayward Souls (2009)


artist: Splin­ter­skin
release: Way­ward Souls
format: CD
year of release: 2009
label: Cold Spring
dur­a­tion: 44:49

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

Ohio-based musi­cian Splin­ter­skin released his debut album on Cold Spring last sum­mer, a full-length piece filled with moody and unnerv­ing dark folk. The many short pieces on this record breathe an atmo­sphere of forest nights, creak­ing walls, and spir­itual hor­ror that is the lifeblood of that typ­ical dark nat­ural æsthetic that has developed over the past 15 years or so.

The musical base con­sists of fin­ger­picked acous­tics, some­times calm, some­times frantic and quick, with mys­tical and dark chords that form the melody of this record. Samples of nature sounds and other way­side encoun­ters emphas­ise the con­text of the lyr­ics that deal with vari­ous sub­jects. Fore­most are tales of ter­ror and dark folk­lore: wooden pup­pets with a life of their own, hid­den creatures, old gods. An at times wel­come vari­ation is provided by more per­sonal reflec­tions on tracks like “The Skarek­row (Octo­ber Roads)”,  one of the best tracks on the album.

Cri­ti­cism can cer­tainly be lev­elled at pre­cisely these æsthet­ics. You have to be in a cer­tain mood to appre­ci­ate these grim tales and the demen­ted storyteller voice of Splin­ter­skin, though that isn’t a prob­lem in itself. Rather, both the musical and lyr­ical stakes seem to be in atmo­sphere only, while the under­ly­ing sub­stance is rather mea­gre, a down­side that occurs reg­u­larly in this area of them­at­ics.

Still, what is there is con­sist­ent, moody and express­ive, an enjoy­able trip through magical autumn woods that will please lov­ers of dark folk in the vein of bands like the Empyrium of give or take ten years ago, espe­cially with a touch of dark atmo­sphere added.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. Chant­ing Bells Call Shad­ows (1:45)
2. Dan­cing Dead Men (3:42)
3. The Crum­bling Cabin (2:06)
4. Some­thing In The Walls (2:56)
5. Moon­light Rain (2:49)
6. The Thing That Wasn’t (2:00)
7. Broken Down Hearse (1:46)
8. Still At The Win­dowsill (3:33)
9. Hoof­beats (1:40)
10. The Eyes That Hide (3:31)
11. The Skarek­row (Octo­ber Roads) (3:20)
12. A Hor­rible Night To Have A Curse (4:15)
13. Black Bird Sor­row Song (0:47)
14. The Man On The Porch (3:13)
15. A Trail Of Trees (2:42)
16. Way­ward Souls (3:52)
17. Dan­cing Dead Men (Reprise) (1:01)