Last Tape Before Doomsday: Shane McCarthy (Wayfarer/Stormkeep)

Welcome to our latest semi-regular Decibel feature. Here, talented musicians from across the metalsphere provide us with their Last Tape Before Doomsday (yes, that title is indeed a nod to the under-appreciated doom band Worship)—a 10-track mixtape of essential songs that shaped their lives.

Whether he is holding down the bass amongst the melodic black metal bluster of Stormkeep or leading the charge (as vocalist and guitarist) of the dusty Americana-led black metal of Wayfarer, Shane McCarthy stands as one of the leading players in contemporary USBM.

Those familiar with McCarthy’s deftly melodic yet biting guitar-work alongside Joe Strong-Truscelli in Wayfarer will not be surprised by some of his choices for his Last Tape Before Doomsday. McCarthy’s tastes showcased here run a gamut of styles, from progressive death (Death/Opeth) and black metal (Enslaved) to groove-powered U.S. doom (Corrosion of Conformity) and the gothic soul-punch of cult act Fields of the Nephilim—the latter’s influence, especially vocally, is very evident on Wayfarer’s latest and greatest LP (number three in Decibel”s 2023 Top 40), American Gothic.

Not only that, McCarthy’s appreciation of his local folk music is highlighted by the inclusion of a 16 Horsepower classic, and such historical storytelling as subsumed into metal is captured by the powerful Primordial track “The Coffin Ships”—an epic founded upon the tragic reality of those who died on lengthy voyages when leaving famine-ruined Ireland for the hope of a new life in America in the mid-1800s early 1900s. Wayfarer’s unique sound houses similar gripping sentiments as this “American Wake.”

Death, “Flattening of Emotions” from Human (Relativity Records, 1991)

“Chuck Schuldiner is the all time king of extreme metal songwriting. Always a few years, several concepts and approaches ahead of everyone else, Death made this type of music something more. Human is the perfect bridge between the ‘death metal’ voice they had created and established on the first couple of LPs, and the more progressive mindset of later output. But above all else this was a perfect example to a young musician about how to never worry [about] what was going on with what anyone else is doing, and just to focus on moving things forward. This track pulls you right into the future of metal and welcomes you to the album.”

Enslaved, “The Dead Stare” from Below the Lights (Osmose Productions, 2003)

“Another band that was never afraid to push boundaries. One of the earliest bands in the realm of black metal I became attached to, and still to this day, one of the most interesting. This record hit hard for a young metalhead, and again it was the elements that couldn’t be pinned down that made it the most intriguing. This particular song showcases both the black metal riffing abilities as well as the unorthodox but entirely effective approach they had to taking the genre to new and fascinating places.”

Corrosion of Conformity, “In the Arms of God” from In the Arms of God (Sanctuary Records, 2005)

“This scene of New Orleans sludge bands was riddled with a few pretty incredible songwriters, and stuff such as the first Down, Crowbar and this era of Corrosion was a big deal for me as a young musician and metalhead. I love that the sound and texture of a place was so thoroughly channeled into well thought-out albums, and this record was the peak of the Pepper Keenan fronted CoC era. A lot more than meets the eye here, and it still holds up today.”

Children of Bodom, “Kissing the Shadows” from Follow the Reaper (Spinefarm, 2000)

“As a kid learning guitar in the mid-2000s, there was no [greater a] shredder out there to aspire to than Alexi Laiho. I’m fairly sure every member of Wayfarer spent a portion of their youth working through learning these leads and solos—and really any song from Follow the Reaper or Hatebreeder could end up on this list. But, this one is just a touch darker, and one that bears coming back to. R.I.P., Mr. Laiho, you inspired a generation of longhairs to learn how to actually play those things.”

16 Horsepower, “I Seen What I Saw” from Sackcloth -N- Ashes (A&M Records, 1996)

“16HP, Wovenhand and the music of David Eugene Edwards will forever define Colorado music in my eyes—and this music is absolutely essential to the development of Wayfarer. They took the sounds of American folk and country music and brought them to such a dark and expressive place, that changed the outlook of what this music could be. Simply put, without them and bands like SCAC [Slim Cessna’s Auto Club], Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots and more, there would be no Wayfarer as you see today. This song kicks off one of the best albums of all time.”

Opeth, “Bleak” from Blackwater Park (Music for Nations, 2001)

“Transitioning from listening exclusively to bands like Pantera and Slayer to the broader reaches of metal, Opeth broke the mold for me—as they did for all of us in Wayfarer—of what heavy music could be. The dynamics, thoughtful, layered songwriting, and the raw melancholy on display through these massive compositions illustrated just how limitless the genre could be to a young person just getting into trying to write songs. Opeth, especially around this era and the years immediately before and after, were an essential template for all of us, and Blackwater Park still may be the apex. This is a perfect song to show someone who may think Opeth is just a ‘70s[-inspired] rock band.”

Talk Talk, “Eden” from Spirit of Eden (Parlophone Records, 1997)

“Credit to Isaac [Faulk] for this one. This came at a time where I think myself and maybe a few of us in the band were looking for something we couldn’t quite describe in music, something stripped down to a bare essence but powerful in its minimalist genuine expression. Somewhere between [2018’s] World’s Blood and [2020’s A Romance with Violence] Isaac brought this record into the fold of inspiration, and I think I have honestly looked at songwriting in a different way ever since. An absolutely beautiful and powerful album that feels so human the whole way through.”

Fields of the Nephilim, “For Her Light” from Elizium (Beggars Banquet Records, 1990)

“Long before we donned the pearl snaps and explored an American Western lens on extreme metal, Fields of the Nephilim—one of the best and most overlooked post-punk bands of the exploding 1980s British scene—were the first to bring their vision of the West into dark music. This album Elizium is a perfect release, feeling like one thing from the first note to the end, and painting their psychedelic Sergio Leone-inspired world so powerfully the whole way through. This song is the perfect introduction to it.”

Nevermore, “No More Will” from Dreaming Neon Black (Century Media, 1999)

“An American band from the ‘90s era of Century Media that still has no peer and no equal, Nevermore is still criminally underrated as a metal band who entirely built their own sound and approach to metal. Spanning virtuosic shred and heavy metal-driving guitars to expressive post-punk via Judas Priest infomed vocal-lines, this is a one-in a-lifetime band—and holy shit could they write a song! The whole Dreaming Neon Black album is a melancholic vision of loss, and this heart wrenching song caps it off near the end. Every metal player should listen to this band and wonder why they never dared to create something so singular and defined.”

Primordial, “The Coffin Ships” from The Gathering Wilderness (Metal Blade, 2005)

“To cap off the list, here is a song that will never not put goosebumps on my skin. A massive influence from the word go for Wayfarer, Primordial manage to build a fairly simple take on dark, black-adjecent metal that is so genuine and so effective. I think the biggest takeaway from this in relation to creating a sound for Wayfarer is that I cannot think of another metal band that captured the deep-rooted tragedy of a place more than Primordial does with their native Ireland. This iconic song caps off what I still believe to be their best work, and it is just as haunting on the hundredth listen as it is the first.”