Album Title: Epigone
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 7 January 2022
I’m going to level with you. I am possibly the only fan of heavy music on Earth who didn’t enjoy ‘Veil Of Imagination’, the third full-length release from Wilderun. It featured highly within many ‘album of the year’ lists in 2019 but was demonstrably absent from mine. Many readers thought that maybe I might have made a mistake, but I hadn’t. As is my way, aside from the occasional exception, I only review albums that I want to be positive about at manofmuchmetal.com. That’s going to change a little in 2022, but at the time, it meant that ‘Veil Of Imagination’ did not get reviewed.
I am not going to be one of those people who just turns their nose up at something and says ‘it’s rubbish’ before moving on without any kind of qualification. I’ll always try to be constructive and explain why I’m not a fan. In the case of ‘Veil Of Imagination’, there’s no denying the incredible levels of talent on offer; the album was grandiose, complex, challenging, epic, and bold. For these reasons, I fully understand its appeal. But, for me, it lacked the kind of melodic intent that I want from my music. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a melodic album, just that I didn’t warm to the chosen melodies. Very folk-heavy, and technical, none of the songs contained that moment of magic that hooked me in. Instead, for all its myriad qualities, I found the songs meandered without grabbing me around the throat. I still feel much the same way.
Nevertheless, when news of a new album emerged during 2021, my initial thought wasn’t ‘I’ll ignore it’, it was ‘I wonder if it will be the album that will click with me?’ And so, here we are, my first review of the New Year, offering my thoughts on album number four by the Boston-based symphonic progressive extreme metal band Wilderun.
Entitled ‘Epigone’, it is adorned with a most beautiful cover, both ethereal and whimsical in equal measure. The artwork alone would have meant that ignoring this record was never really an option for me. Add to this a production that is equally as strong and powerful as that which accompanied its predecessor, and we are off to a great start.
Following on from what many consider to be a masterpiece is arguably one of the hardest tasks for a band to tackle. What makes the job a little easier for Wilderun, is the fact that they remain a tight entity having been together for a fair while now. As such, Wilderun remains comprised of Evan Anderson Berry (vocals, guitars, mandolin, keyboards), Daniel Müller (bass, hammered dulcimer, synths, orchestration), Jonathan Teachey (drums), Joe Gettler (lead guitar) and Wayne Ingram (guitars, keyboards, orchestration)
Additionally, Wilderun have not appreciably changed their approach for ‘Epigone’, so I would suggest that fans of ‘Veil Of Imagination’ will find much to drool over on this new record. It is still a massive beast that covers an incredible amount of musical ground. The textures, dynamics, and atmospheres are breath taking to be quite honest, just as they were before. The way that the songs never sit still, taking the listener on that most cliched of things – a journey – is still absolutely accurate and one of the big strengths of this talented outfit. The blend of progressive rock, classical, folk, and technical death metal remains at the core of the bands sound too, with gentle acoustic passages juxtaposed by brutal aggression as and when the mood takes them. The nods towards the likes of Opeth also remain, but I’d suggest that there is a greater individuality and identity within the nine new tracks here.
I’ve heard a few rumblings of disquiet on social media in the lead-up to suggest that fans are not necessarily so enamoured by what they have heard via the officially released tracks. What I would say for certain, is that judgement should be reserved for the full and final product. ‘Epigone’ is most definitely not an album to dip in and out of; it is a complete body of work that is best enjoyed in this manner, to allow the ebb and flow and the storytelling to take full effect. If you fail to listen from start to finish, you definitely lose something, at least in my lengthy experience with this record, anyway.
And, having spent such an inordinate amount of time properly concentrating and listening to the music, getting under its skin, and generally getting to grips with everything, I can finally say that it is starting to click with me. I’m not going to sit here and say that it will definitely find its way into my year-end ‘best of’ list because such a statement would be way too premature. However, it is way more enjoyable for me than ‘Veil Of Imagination’ ever was. I still wish that the guys would spend a little more time delivering a few knock-out melodic sequences that stop me in my tracks, but there is certainly a greater sense of melody on ‘Epigone’ to these untrained ears.
To pick out a few highlights in this regard, I’d have to reference the sweeping grandeur of “Woolgatherer” at the 1:45 mark, such is its elegance. It returns a couple more times throughout the gargantuan 14-minute composition and each time I lament that not more is made of this wonderful melody. ‘Passenger’ features a deliciously melodic solo at the 4:15 mark that leads into a more whimsical section that I rather like but again, at nearly ten minutes in length, as good as the song honestly is, could there have been a touch more show-stopping melody? I certainly think so.
‘Identifier’ however, begins in a more memorable fashion with a lovely little melodic motif that’s led by the lead guitar, and which crops up sparingly throughout the song, another that extends into double figures. And then, towards the end, we’re treated to another beautiful soundscape that’s further embellished by a lead guitar solo. I want more of this, please gents. If there were more passages like this, I’d be awarding top marks right here, right now.
What I can also detect, is an even greater emphasis this time around on contrasts, but with a leaning more towards quieter, introspective, and dark music. The heavy, extreme passages deliver a satisfying potency, as the mid portion of ‘Distraction II’ or the cacophonous conclusion to ‘Distraction Nulla’ both ably demonstrate, but it certainly feels as if Wilderun wanted to explore more subtle sounds and textures on ‘Epigone’. Delicate moments, either by virtue of gentle orchestration or acoustic guitars litter the compositions, with the opening track, ‘Exhaler’ being a full-on acoustic affair. Indeed, it’s not until well into ‘Woolgatherer’ that we hear the first hints of extreme metal heaviness. That said, the opener, whilst gentle and serene thanks to some beautiful orchestration, it conveys the dark, sombre overtones that permeate much of the record as a whole.
What is absolutely without doubt is the talent of the musicians within Wilderun. I’m no musician as you all know by now, and so the level of ability from every member of the band is utterly bewildering to me. It’s so good in fact, that it feels unfair to single anyone out. That said, the orchestrations courtesy of Ingram and Müller are rather stunning, adding a depth, elegance, and power that many other bands would kill for I’m sure. In essence, ‘Epigone’ is all rather wonderful, and I am finally feeling somewhat converted to their cause. I know I sound like a broken record, but I still want more magical melody. That aside, there’s little else to find fault with and so thanks to Wilderun and ‘Epigone’, 2022 has begun in a very strong fashion indeed.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: