When I think Boston, I think Red Sox, Dropkick Murphys, Good Will Hunting, and the Departed. Yes, I’m one of those idiots who throws on the overdone accent, re-enacts the “Are you a caawp?” scene, and blasts “Shipping Off to Boston” on Saint Paddy’s Day. But now, for the second time, Wilderun is here to overthrow my childish stereotypes with some culture and class. Sounding every bit as impressive and developed as their Nordic peers, this quartet may have topped their much lauded debut with Sleep at the Edge of the Earth.
Simply put, this album feels massive. Each of these 9 songs flows seamlessly from one to the next, playing out like a melodramatic musical or opera. It is clear that a ton of care went into the writing of these compositions. The overall sound struck me as a combination of Opeth’s proggy guitar hooks and alternating clean/death vocals with the more somber moments of Ensiferum. One moment you are being serenaded with a Damnation-esque acoustic ballad, the next you are bouncing to a Svartsot drinking song. There are even moments in songs like “Bite the Wound” that reminded me of BTBAM.
Aside from the aforementioned (excellent) guitar riffs, all of the other instruments make an equally engaging impact. I’m not just talking bass and drums either. Mandolin, melodica, autoharp, dulcimer, slide guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, violin: these are the tools of Wilderun’s trade. The way that these various sounds have been painstakingly melded into the fabric of each song makes me exhausted just thinking about it. And the resulting crescendos? Forget about it. If you have not yet heard “The Garden of Fire,” do yourself a favor and go to youtube now.
I do have a few minor qualms with this album that keep it from reaching the 90-100 territory. For one, the vocals at times venture a little too far into the cheesy symphonic power metal territory that just isn’t for me. Compositions, likewise, occasionally follow suit. It does not happen often, but “Linger” is the best example. Lastly, the drums sound a bit stifled and buried in the mix. With the organic feel of the other instruments, a little more presence a la Moonsorrow would be a nice addition.
But really, these complaints are nit-picking when held in comparison to all that is good and right about this album. Instrumentation is fetching, vocals are varied, and pacing is almost perfect. This is one of the more dynamic albums I have heard so far in 2015 with more peaks and valleys than the landscape on the cover art. In comparison to the other traditional albums in this style to come out (Ensiferum, Svartsot, Heidevolk, etc.), this is a clear favorite. If you want something a little more adventurous, you might try A Forest of Stars or Downfall of Nur. However, if you want some energetic, soundtrack-worthy folk metal, you have found it. It’s streaming on bandcamp and only $7 for digital.