REVIEW: Wilderun – Epigone

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Finland has so much metal that sometimes you start to assume that other bands are Finnish too. Case in point is WILDERUN – if you were hoping you could casually bump into the band members at The Riff in Helsinki, you might be disappointed to learn that they are, in fact, an American progressive metal band. Regardless of where they are from, they are most certainly one of the most refreshing progressive metal bands in the scene these days. Their previous album, Veil of Imagination,” got them signed to Century Media Records and was literally everywhere on the metal world’s lists in 2019. If you haven’t had the chance to listen to them yet, you’re in luck because the band is releasing their new album, “Epigone,” on January 7th, 2021, promising a good start to the year!

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word epigone means a less distinguished follower or imitator of someone, especially an artist or philosopher. According to singer Evan Berry, every song on “Epigone” grapples with that idea in some sort of way. The creative process of each artist may be different, but in its essence, a lot of artists go through similar struggles. While the concept of the tortured artist may be somewhat of a stereotype, there is somewhat a continuous turmoil connected to creating art. As an art major and visual artist, the ideas behind this record really hit home and form somewhat of a foundation for this listening experience, as the entire album transforms into a journey that feels like it’s telling the tale of an artist creating; not linear, it has highs and lows, softness, harshness, and can go from light to dark within a matter of seconds.

In comparison to “Veil of Imagination,” “Epigone” starts off in a melancholic, soft way, with beautiful sounding acoustic guitar strumming. As it progresses, Evan Berry‘s mellow vocals blend in perfectly, along with subtle orchestrations, which transform into something quite else. “Exhaler” is perhaps a somewhat more minimal song for the band, clocking in at only 4 minutes. It has a somewhat folky undertone that doesn’t overpower the song.

Next track, “Woolgatherer” continues in a similar way. The transition between these songs is so smooth, it’s barely even noticeable. It starts off with mellow keyboard tones and Berry‘s vocals, very simple. Several layers are built up around this, from pizzicato violins to strings, until eventually a strumming guitar is introduced. The song is built out of different sections: heavy, soft, all working together and flowing beautifully. The most impressive thing about this track is the jazzy drums from Jon Teachey and bass tones by Dan Müller, which, once in a while, are more apparent depending on the section. After one-third of the song, all hell breaks loose and we’re introduced to the heavier, darker side of WILDERUN – woohoo, all aboard the hype train! After a few twists and turns (read: growls and blast-beats), the song shows a bit of a different side, with some ambient dissonant tones that are mostly there to create atmosphere and connect the song to the next one in line, “Passenger.”

“Passenger” was released as the first single off “Epigone” and from its first notes, I was pleasantly surprised. This song encapsulates the WILDERUN spirit nicely, with dynamics to die for. In the beginning, there are also female backing vocals here and there harmonizing with Berry, which give it that extra punch. The orchestrations for this song are truly phenomenal, no surprise there, considering orchestrator Wayne Ingram is a huge talent (of note, he has worked for film composer Hans Zimmer’s Bleeding Fingers Music).

In much a similar way, “Identifier” continues, first softly, gaining more strength until it plummets full force. Midway through, the song plays around with different moods and becomes a feast for anyone who respects rhythmic twists and turns. A case has to be made about the guitars in this track too, for a lot of the times, they add flavor by soloing as an added layer. “Ambition” is an ambient intermezzo that somehow creates a dark layer in between the songs and is necessary to start the journey into the impressive “Distraction”-suite. This track is divided into four different parts and at least in my opinion, is best to be listened to as a whole (I’m looking at you, Spotify Shufflers!).

The suite starts off with a somewhat calmer introduction to the immersive quest through soundscapes. What I mostly learned from “Distraction I” being released as a single, is that not only can TV-series have massive cliffhangers, but music can too! That cliffhanger being, of course, “Distraction II,” a truly killer song. It starts off in a really heavy manner, with orchestrations creating an ominous atmosphere, even though somewhat calmer sections are introduced, it mostly keeps its grim character throughout. Towards the end, chaos wells up and surrounds the listener, which can be quite overwhelming, but it softens out and ends with the repeated picking of one note, which then beautifully flows into “Distraction III,” which takes a softer start with chords being played on keyboards and Evan Berry singing deeply, quietly. This chapter truly feels like it could be part of a movie soundtrack, as it’s so immersive and it really feels like it paints a picture in your mind. “Distraction Nulla” was a complete surprise, because when you’d think that the album would wind down in a serene manner, it takes a turn and even adds a bit of blackened influences in the mix, which ends up in a whirlwind of sound that ends with feedback, showcasing that this band is just never done surprising listeners.

“Epigone” is yet another fascinating record by this progressive metal act. While there are perhaps some slight differences compared to prior records, the WILDERUN trademark sound is still unmistakably there. The production of this record is even better, as it somehow feels even more dynamic, while the bass and drums are more apparent in the mix this time around. There are still folky elements present in the sound, but they manifest in a different way than on the other records, as they sound somehow more subtle.

In general, WILDERUN is like a kaleidoscope to me. They also create beautiful and fascinating patterns that depend a lot on your senses. Every time you point a kaleidoscope to another place, you see something different, something equally beautiful and ethereal, which is similar to what happens when you listen to their music. Each time you focus on something else, you discover something new that you perhaps hadn’t noticed before due to the sheer number of layers in their music. “Epigone” is no different from that – it’s an incredible juggernaut of an album that you can’t just base an opinion on after one spin; it needs time to digest to embrace all of its facets. Even though we have literally just published our 2021 annual lists, I’m calling WILDERUN‘s “Epigone” as the top one of 2022’s top releases – and yes, I am aware this is the first review of the year, so maybe 2022 won’t be so bad after all.

Written by Laureline Tilkin

Tracklist

  1.     Exhaler
  2.     Woolgatherer
  3.     Passenger
  4.     Identifier
  5.     Ambition
  6.     Distraction I
  7.     Distraction II
  8.     Distraction III
  9.     Distraction Nulla

Lineup

Daniel Müller – Bass, Synths, Folk 
Jon Teachey – Drums 
Evan Anderson Berry – Vocals, Guitars 
Wayne Ingram – Orchestrations, Guitars, Folk

Label

Century Media Records

Links

Linktree