Finding new bands to listen to is the main perk of doing this. I clicked on the name Wilderun knowing nothing about the band an hour ago, one play through of their new album, Sleep at the Edge of the Earth, later and I can safely say I’m a fan.
Initially billed as folk metal in the email, the swelling choir over acoustic leads built to what turned out to be an unexpected twist. Instead of racing off into the Ensiferum sound I expected (I’ve been listening to Ensiferum’s One Man Army a bit much recently), the opening of And So Opens the Earth (Ash Memory Part 1) doesn’t immediately charge off into full on metal. It heavies up eventually but it’s clear from the offset that this is going to be something different from what I’m used to.
It’s also slightly unusual to have the “epic” driven by guitar. It almost seems in the folk metal genre, we’ve forgotten the value of a good guitar lead. This isn’t to say it’s purely guitar driven though, there is the obligatory keys and choirs to add the necessary “oomph.” The Faintest Echo is a prime example of the combination, with finale of the song seeing the lead guitar building up to the keys for a grand sound.
Tracks like The Garden of Fire stand out primarily because when they go heavy they go heavy. Folk is cast aside and you get a sound that is almost reminiscent of Opeth when they go (went) death metal. This presents a striking contrast between the calmer folky interludes we’ve grown used to in the preceding tracks.
This isn’t the only Akerfeldtian moment on the album. Linger has a strong air of an Opeth ballad, though ballad doesn’t seem the right word to use for this.
Vocally, Evan Berry presents one of the strongest performances I’ve heard so far this year. The cleans range from soft to big powerful runs while the death metal is clean enough to understand yet dirty enough to give you good kick in the balls. The Means to Preserve is probably the best example of this on the album.
To call Sleep at the Edge of the Earth a folk metal album would be an injustice, not because it’s a bad genre (best genre if you ask me), but because there is so much else to it. While the folk segments are strong, the death metal and progressive elements are equally as powerful. You almost face an internal conflict over what you want more of. While the folk metal fan will be all over the start of the album, the prog guys will be lapping up the second half.
How this is only their second album I don’t know, and frankly I don’t believe it. That a band on album two can put something like this out really leaves no excuse for bands with an extensive back catalogue. The young bands of today are offering up some serious competition and bands like Wilderun are high in the pack.
As the intro track played and as I read the press release, I was frankly expecting a standard folk metal release. Heavy on the choirs, heavy on the fiddles, heavy on the forests. What I ended up with at the end was a million miles away from that. The Garden of Fire through to Means to Preserve impressed the hell out of me and that’s not to mention how much I enjoyed the rest. All in all, a very good day to check my email and a better day to be a metal fan.
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth is out now. Click here to go to their Bandcamp page.