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Splinterskin - Wayward Souls

As rain falls and bells toll, a creaking log cabin door opens. Enter the world of Spinterskin, a fantastically evocative collection of tales from an enigmatic solo-project from Oregon, Ohio. With spectral, stark acoustic guitar playing Wayward Souls takes the form of ghost-folk. Splinterskin is a storyteller weaving tales of terror and menace. His voice has to be heard to be believed; a breathless rasp that rarely rises above a whisper. The largely acoustic musical accompaniment, whether in a Spanish or classical style or adopting a more traditional folk form is deftly performed. The recording is particularly lo-fi but the nature of its creation only heightens the atmosphere. You can picture him in his wood cabin; this strange bearded figure clothed in robes and rags his fingers moving swiftly around his old, battered acoustic guitar imparting these tales of death, decay and terror. His voice frosted in the chill night air. This really is a backwoods horrorshow.

Several tracks adopt familiar themes and narrative. On the 'Dancing Dead Men’ he sings of a toymaker whose hooded puppet creations awaken at night, over flecked guitar patterns and rhythmic tapping of bones. ‘A Horrible Night To Have A Curse’ concerns the vampire myth with the protagonist searching out the undead. Surrounded by lashing rain and peppered with sound effects of hooting owls, howling wolves and ravens call to illustrate the story it moves too close to Hammer House cliche here but a bigger part of Waywards Souls is given over to understatement and implied lurking terror. ‘Still At The Window Sill’ deals with an unseen presence. The sinister scrapes and taps of ‘Something In the Walls’ allows your imagination to run wild. The sprightly guitar work slipping in off-notes to signify the feeling of unease. One of the most fully realised songs is ‘The Skarekrow (October Roads)’, which takes the form of a traditional ballad; a haunting melody of fingerpicked guitar and accordion drone. Several instrumentals are interspersed throughout Waywards Souls. from the psychedelic folk of ‘Black Bird Sorrow Song’ to the dulcimer lead ‘Hoofbeats’.

Certain tones and melodies may compare to others but any comparisons would be a disservice to Splinterskin. Waywards Souls is a truly singular piece of work from a truly singular individual. The images and artwork that adorn Wayward Souls which, I guess, have been produced with the assistance of his family are effective and sympathetic to the nature of this release and the Cold Spring designers have done a fine job in realising it. Wayward Souls is unarguably a one-off. I have a weird feeling about this, as any subsequent releases may just blur any illusions I have about this strangely alluring project. For more information go to