Wilderun – Epigone (Album Review)

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Free flowing thoughts beget elaborate structures.

The world can change a great deal over the course of a decade, and the same often holds true for bands that have stuck it out for as long. Yet this could be seen as an understatement when considering the wild evolutionary leaps that Bostonian folk metal masters turned progressive metal trustees Wilderun over the course of ten years as a fully forged band and four highly impressive LPs to their name. Though originally conceived in 2008 by vocal helmsman and multi-instrumentalist Evan Berry, it would be the release of their 2012 debut album “Olden Tales & Deathly Trails” that would establish them as New England’s most interesting response to the folk metal craze spearheaded by the likes of Ensiferum and Turisas. But the passage of time has seen this highly adept quartet (which was briefly a quintet in the latter 2010s) embark on a very different stylistic path, and their latest full length studio expedition “Epigone” underscores that fact almost to a fault.

For those who might not have checked in with this New England powerhouse’s studio output since the early 2010s, the days of erecting elaborate arrangements out of America folk tunes in a manner comparable to Wuthering Heights and Tyr are all but over. In its stead is something that is equally as extravagant, but far more nuanced in its approach, often emerging in a formula that is quite drawn out, multifaceted and asymmetrical in character. Obvious comparisons to the likes of extreme progressive metal proponents such as Persefone and Opeth become difficult to avoid given the continued presence of melodic death metal elements in the equation, though in total these songs are a bit less stylistically distinct, often employing dense ambient keyboard, jazz ballad and trance music elements to bolster the high-impact moments. The result is something that not be accessible or recognizable to those who remember the days when this outfit toured the east coast with Aether Realm.

If nothing else, this album is definitely geared towards those with a long attention span and a penchant for taking one’s time. Case and point, the opening acoustic romp “Exhaler”, which carries some dense orchestral flourishes, but exudes a serene character that when combined with Berry’s soft crooning vocal approach, comes off as a drawn out affair that seems to be pointing to something heavier, but sticks to territory that’s light even when compared to Cynic’s latest output. In many respects it functions as a prelude to more kinetic material, yet with the onset of the 14 minute long progressive slough “Woolgatherer” it still takes nearly two minutes for the balladry to cease and decibels to reach beyond a mild whisper. Be this as it may, the wait proves to heighten this epic’s impact factor, and an impressive assortment of biting extreme metal elements intermingles with the band’s remnant acoustic folk music style to construct a highly elaborate and dynamic feat of sonic architecture.

In many respects, this album functions as a textbook exercise in progressive metal development, but with the caveat of the past sound morphing it into something fairly different from the likes of Dream Theater and Threshold. The prime element of distinction is a greater emphasis on atmospheric contrast rather than technical extravagance or odd rhythmic twists, and while by no means is lead guitarist Wayne Ingram a slouch in the shredding department (he often channels Petrucci’s technical prowess when soloing), his and Evan’s riff work play a co-equal role with the massive symphonic passages, quirky ambient moments and humble acoustic counterpoints that litter extended jams such as the aforementioned “Woolgatherer” and “Identifier”, as well as the shorter sonic chapters that make up the five part song cycle that follows the latter. Then again, one would be remiss to downplay the highly impressive displays of pure metallic fury with a rhythmically nuanced edge that is “Distraction II” and “Passenger”.

Though a far cry from where this band began, “Epigone” is by no means an album that contradicts the expansive folk metal demeanor of Wilderun’s earlier offerings. If anything, this is the sort of album that one would expect from a band that began with a progressive mindset and has simply taken it closer to its logical conclusion. One might even be tempted to say that this album marks where this quartet shifted from being a folk metal band that thought in progressive terms to a progressive band that uses the folk sound as a point of distinction. There may be less in the way of overt hooks, and the general scheme of each song leans a bit more towards a jazzy jam band template, but between the chaotic moments and the grandiose instrumental backdrop it’s an album that will still appeal to all of their established fan base while also likely roping in a lot of Opeth fans. It’ll be interesting to see where this Massachusetts outfit goes next, but if this extended opus is any indication, the sky is the limit.

Released By: Century Media Records
Release Date: January 7th, 2022
Genre: Progressive Metal

Musicians:

  • Daniel Müller / Bass, Synths, Folk
  • Jon Teachey / Drums
  • Evan Anderson Berry / Vocals, Guitars
  • Wayne Ingram / Orchestrations, Guitars, Folk

“Epigone” Track-listing:

  1. Exhaler
  2. Woolgatherer
  3. Passenger
  4. Identifier
  5. Ambition
  6. Distraction I
  7. Distraction II
  8. Distraction III
  9. Distraction Nulla
  10. Everything in Its Right Place
  11. (Bonus – only on CD & digital)
  12. Exhaler (Synth Mix – Bonus – only digital)

8.9 Excellent

Once standard-bearers of Northeastern U.S. folk metal turned progressive musical connoisseurs Wilderun rival the eclecticism of Opeth and Ne Obliviscaris with a colossal 71 minute sonic introspective journey to usher in 2022

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8.5
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1 Comment

  1. Great review of a great album but slight amendment in that Joe Gettler handled the lead guitar duties on this album before departing the band. Wayne is on lead guitar going forward. Hope that helps. I discovered this band after Veil of Imagination and have loved them since. Hearing how their sound has progressed over just 4 albums is inspiring.

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