Wilderun – Epigone
Oh, Wilderun. When I discovered them back in 2019 when we received a promo copy of their record “Veil of Imagination” it finally became clear that living below a rock was not for me. You’re missing out on too much of the good stuff! Their mix of a folky sound (which was even more present on their previous two albums), beautiful melodies, shattering death metal passages and an epic sound pushed to glorious heights by a masterful orchestration was just my thing.
“Veil” was indeed what finally put them on the radar for many music fans, and it brought them a much-deserved deal with Century Media Records. And while I love most of the album, I always felt it lacked a certain flow and seemed like beautiful pieces stitched together with a little lack of attention to the whole (and more so, the more I listened to it). Still, it can be considered their masterpiece and ended up on many a best-of list for 2019 (mine, too).
Writing a follow-up to such a success is never an easy thing. Will you try to ride the wave and create a part 2? That usually doesn’t work. Will you change direction completely and disappoint the fans of that sound? The Boston-based five-piece band did none of that for “Epigone”, but decided to build on the sound of “Veil”, while generally taking a wider approach, implementing elements that are more prominent on their previous albums such as the more folky parts and more acoustic sections that were less present on “Veil”.
That choice is no coincidence, according to singer and guitarist Evan Berry: “I revisited a lot of songs and demos that I had written a few years back. Some of it was originally intended for a different project. A lot of it was written during the first and second Wilderun records. And a lot of it predates the band itself.”
The result does not disappoint. “Epigone” feels more connected than “Veil” did, it certainly is laid out more carefully and it makes more generous use of dynamics and contrast.
There are more calm and atmospheric songs (such as the intro ‘Exhaler’ and the interlude ‘Ambition’) and these elements also appear more often throughout the other songs, which highlights the more introspective nature of “Epigone” as the band also described before the release of the album. And who would be surprised by that, after two years that have given many of us more time to listen to our inner voices and feelings than we would have imagined. At the same time, those calmer passages enhance the impact of the more epic parts which of course are indispensable in Wilderun’s music.
Wilderun – Passenger (Radio Edit) (Click here if the video does not play)
A good example is the 14 minute piece ‘Woolgatherer’, which has a beautiful build-up throughout the song, features groovy, rocky parts, some great sections for Joe Gettler to shine on lead-guitar and finally explodes into fully orchestrated epicness in the second half.
Tight at its heels comes ‘Passenger’, the song that to my ears is the closest to “Veil” and with its driving force and catchy elements marks the centrepiece of the album. The orchestration by Wayne Ingram and Daniel Müller is the best I’ve heard from them, the contrast of clean singing with female backing vocals and growls is once again masterfully made without falling too deeply into the “beauty and the beast” trap. A sure fan favourite, and rightfully so.
The more prog-rock based ‘Identifier’ with its folky melodies and instrumentation marks a welcome change of pace and mood and features some more beautiful additional female vocals (I’m not sure by who) before taking another turn into a darker direction with growls and some heavier metal parts.
Wilderun – Identifier (Radio Edit) (Click here if the video does not play)
‘Ambition’ with its ambient sounds and samples marks the transition into the final epic in 4 parts, ‘Distraction’, which feels like it could be the score to a short movie, with purely orchestral sections, atmospheric soundscapes and full-blown death metal passages. What usually makes up a single Wilderun song is stretched out into 4, which gives all the elements more room to breathe, grow and develop – a very welcome, different side of Wilderun which I personally would like to hear more of in the future.
Wilderun – Distraction I (Click here if the video does not play)
“Epigone” feels more like a single entity than “Veil of Imagination” did, and while it might not be not as chock-full of huge epic moments as its predecessor, it might turn out to be more rewarding in the long run. In any case, Wilderun proves that they are far from repeating themselves. Instead, they are developing their sound, extending it, thus making “Epigone” a worthy successor to their 2019 success. It is a great start into 2022 for sure!