Wilderun
Epigone

I’m pretty new to Wilderun’s form of symphonic classical, folk, and progressive, heavy metal/death metal smash-up, with the reissue of 2019s Veil of Imagination being my first exposure to the band to which I then picked up their more folk-tinged prior records. I described the band as a mix of Opeth, Dream Theater and Blind Guardian ‘on Broadway’ to friends who had not yet discovered the band. And I still stand by that description as the band drops its new album and follows up to one of the most impressive albums I heard over the last few years. And now on one of the metal ‘majors’, they have released a much-anticipated follow-up.

I’ll cut to the chase, Epigone is really good, exceptionally good in fact. It still delivers the template of Veil of Imagination, but I have to say it’s not quite as good. It’s got all the things that made Veil so good, but never quite reaches that perfect level of brilliance in mixing absolutely rousing choral and orchestral arrangements (still arguably some of the best to grace these ears), proggy noodling and solos, and a touch of Opeth-ian death metal bombast. It’s possibly even more ambitious than Veil, and that might be what sets it back just a tad.

Despite clocking in at almost the identical hour and 6-minute run time as Veil, Epigone feels longer. It took me several listens to get through the album, and rarely could do it in one sitting. There is A LOT to sift through and A LOT of it is filler. Not bad filler, per se but for example, after the almost 5-minute,e acoustic introductory track “Exhaler”,  we get the 14-minute “Woolgatherer”, which itself is heavily acoustic for the first few minutes, the 10-minute “Passenger” and 11-minute “Identifier”. That is a lot to take in on the album’s front end, and while there are moments of pure musical bliss buried in that initial 30+ minutes, and that’s just it- it’s buried in there.

It’s almost 5 minutes into “Woolgatherer” that you get a brilliant death metal explosion, but then more lengthy introspection before another more fierce salvo 11 and a half minutes in. It’s a bit of a slow start for the album. However, “Passenger” delivers an early Opeth-ian stutter and stomp and graceful proggy wafts, blending perfectly together, highlighting how ‘on’ they can be when they get to it. And I hate to sound cliché, but yes, I want more growls. “Identifier” has one of the album’s best, longer-lasting actual riffs, with a cool

It’s not until the 4 songs that make up “Distraction” that things get a little more direct and immediate. Part I delivers a mid-paced dramatic intro  with a killer symphonic black/death metal climax, which I wanted more off before it transitions to part II which is the most direct, death metal sounding number for its entirety. Part III is a more sumptuous mid paced number that feels like the album’s natural endpoint before “Distraction Nulla” ends with a furious, dare I say surprisingly brutal, death metal closing cacophony. There’s a tacked-on Radiohead cover (“Everything in Its Right Place” and some versions of the CDF have another version of the opener “Exhaler”.

All that said there is still nothing on Epigone that gives me goosebumps quite like “O Resolution” or “Far From Where Dreams Unfurl” or even instrumentals like “Scentless Core (Fading)”, despite some of the best choral and orchestral use in metal. They could still use a little self-editing, and possibly end up as one of the genre’s truly elite bands when it’s all said and done.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 24th, 2022

Comments

  1. Commented by: Indignant_N00b

    These are almost my exact same feelings, right down to the same missed high points from the last album. The last piece, and “Nulla” especially, is my favorite part of this one, and hoo is it a long walk to get there


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