Wilderun
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth

Folk metal so often gets bogged down by excess layers of cheese, bombast and pretentiousness that it rarely moves me or finds a way into my listening rotation. But every now and again a style of metal that generally falls outside my comfort zone proceeds to blow me away and forces me to rethink my stance on the particular style or genre in question. It’s exactly the situation I find myself in regarding the remarkable sophomore album from Boston’s Wilderun. Formed in 2008 Wilderun released their debut album Olden Tales and Deathly Trails in 2012 before knuckling down over the past few years to write and record this glorious second movement. Evoking such heavyweights as Turisas and Ensiferum in the folk metal realms, along with a hearty dose of classic Opethian prog-death and acoustical come downs, Wilderun deftly craft these influences into their own unique and dashing formula. A formula that skilfully balances the band’s symphonic components with searing blasts of death metal aggression and drama fuelled crescendos.

Sleep at the Edge of the Earth is an epic and triumphant masterwork juxtaposing ridiculously catchy folk melodies and symphonic and progressive elements against a backdrop of traditional metal instrumentation and an altogether deathlier delivery. There’s so much to absorb and unlock to fully appreciate the depth and subtleties on offer, yet the hooky immediacy of the material grabs the listener from the get-go. The compositions flow seamlessly from one fluid movement to the next as Wilderun deliver song-writing variety in spades while constructing a cohesive narrative arc. Lush orchestral elements and a wide array of instruments including the mandolin, autoharp and melodica are deftly integrated into Wilderun’s heady mix. Meanwhile the music’s heart-wrenching melodies and Evan Berry’s dynamic vocals convey a myriad of stirring emotions that prove difficult to shake. Berry possesses a killer dual combo; with emotive cleans blending just the right amount of drama and necessary restraint, while his deep growls resonate with immense power and conviction. Berry also handles guitars, mandolin and melodica, and his skilful playing and the uniformly tight performances of his bandmates shines brightly.

Drifting from haunting melancholy and soft acoustic passages to powerhouse death metal surges and triumphant gallops of folk metal glory, Wilderun traverse an unpredictable and decidedly progressive path but never at the cost of cohesive and memorable song-writing. “Dust and Crooked Thoughts” cuts a solemn figure on the mood-setting opener, seguing into the acoustic strumming and dramatic build-up of “And So Opens the Earth”, the first in the superb four part Ash Memory sequence.  From here onwards Wilderun keep the fires raging through dynamic songs that vary in length but sustain a unified standard in quality and consistency.

Transitionally the album is exceptionally well executed and paced, from the acoustic driven folk balladry of “Hope and Shadow (Ash Memory Part II)” and the epic “Linger”, to heavier multi-faceted cuts like the twisty dynamics of album centrepiece “The Garden of Fire” or the symphonic drama and fearsome aggression of “The Means to Preserve”. Sombre melodies and enchanting clean passages litter the album and hold plenty of emotional weight and beauty, but Wilderun’s heavier metal urges and riff-driven instincts are always close to the surface. Songs like the muscular prog-death of “Bite the Wound” counterpunch with authoritative metallic force and groove while still retaining a strong melodic bent.  Really I’m having difficulty finding any significant drawbacks here. Even the crisp, heavy and organic production job fits the band perfectly, with only the drums sounding a tad thinner than I would prefer.

There are few moments more satisfying as a music writer (and fan) than being blindsided and absolutely floored by a previously unknown musical entity bursting out of the woodwork and delivering an album of the emotional depth and magnitude of Sleep at the Edge of the Earth. Wilderun deserve to be heard and Sleep at the Edge of the Earth is an artful explosion of creativity and progressive folk-death excellence that stands as one of 2015’s finest albums.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
July 15th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Zach

    This album is Fantastic! One of my favorites this year.


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