Wilderun, a folk metal quintet hailing from Boston, has made waves in the underground in this past decade. Immediately, they began separating themselves from generic folk metal bands by reimagining colonial folk tunes in the style of symphonic metal, contrary to more common European pagan/viking themes. While the band is still in the underground without a label, they’ve grown a cult following from their two previous albums, and Veil of Imagination, their newest release after four years, has led many to wonder what the band will do next. As it turns out, they had set their sights set on an even bolder, grander, more complex album than ever before.
Gone are the days where Wilderun would do little more than play simple folk tunes with the addition of symphonic metal, and this can be interpreted as a bittersweet gesture. Their “find a folk song, play it as a metal song, add orchestration” direction made for very catchy tunes to sing along to, even if they arranged orchestration on their albums with as much complexity as they possibly could. I was a little saddened to realize that this wouldn’t be the case, as the band members apparently sat down one day and said, “Never mind the colonial songs. Want to create a symphony?”
The listener is instead greeted with an epic. It’s still metal, it’s still symphonic, and it still uses instruments that don’t normally conform to metal, but no longer does the band conform to simple verse-chorus song structure. Instead, they attempt to embrace progressive metal and change the mood of the song every twist and turn, like the highs and lows of a roller coaster. They’ve also expanded the length of their album to accommodate these changes. Although their previous albums were already formidable at around 50 minutes, this one breaks an hour with only eight tracks.
It’s clear from the beginning of the album that the band is striving for an epic sound, starting with its inviting gesture of acoustic guitar and violin but abruptly throwing them away for a violent and heavy first track. Evan Berry’s deep vocals are reminiscent of what one would hear in a standard death metal song, and the metal instruments – guitars, bass and drums – comply with the dark feel of the album. But behind all of that, orchestrations arise from the mix, playing contrasting notes of sweetness and melody. The strange mix of majesty and destruction somehow works perfectly, and this is the atmosphere present for the majority of the album.
Both sides of this atmosphere get their own turns to shine. For example, many tracks will have a piano or strings interlude, completely departing from the violence of metal. The beginning of “O Resolution!” highlights Wilderun’s signature “symphonic folk” sound, while vocalist Evan Berry shows just how well he can sing when he’s not trying to make extreme growls. Then there are moments like “Sleeping Ambassadors of the Sun,” where it really sounds like some sort of enormous beast waking from hibernation, or consider “The Tyranny of Imagination,” a very violent song that keeps the metal forefront. Each song has a moment of calm, a moment of torment, and a moment in the middle, never keeping a steady pace or tune.
There’s no way to easily differentiate one song from another because of this, which will most likely disappoint many listeners, as it disappointed myself. However, this album beckons for more than just one listen. The journey the listener takes when tackling this album is far from predictable and naught of disappointment. Far surpassing any folk metal album from this year, and possibly contending for my personal Metal Album of the Year, I highly suggest giving this album more than one listen – so long as you’re prepared for something more than just killer riffs and catchy choruses.