When Wilderun released their excellent Sleep at the Edge of the Earth album back in 2015 I was spellbound by the sheer artistry and at the same time flabbergasted to find out that it was self-published. Here was a band from Massachusetts masterfully blending death metal with prog and folk metal and hitting it straight out of the ballpark on what apparently was only their second effort. Thrown into the melting pot were big choirs, death metal growls, orchestration, folk instruments and big riffs and the result was mesmerising. How could a fantastic band like this not have been picked up by a big label? Sleep at the Edge of the Earth was showered in praise though, so it was sure to happen any time soon.
Fast forward to 2019 and the band is still unsigned, which is just patently absurd. Apparently unperturbed, Wilderun has set on to forge their third album, Veil of Imagination. Not content with making Sleep 2.0, they have taken all the elements that made the previous album such a delight, ramped them up to eleven and somehow managed to create an even better album. The distinctively European folk metal elements have been pushed to the background in favour of a more Turisas-ian bombast. The men’s choirs are omnipresent this time and bigger than they were before. The Opeth influences are still there, most overtly present in the massive, fourteen opening track The Unimaginable Zero Summer, but after that Wilderun crafts a soundscape that is more their own. Immediately clear however is that the orchestration plays a bigger role this time around, sounding bigger and more lush than before. A good example of this is the combination of brass and the fluttering strings at the start of Sleeping Ambassadors of the Sun, conjuring a vibe not unlike the opening of the Star Wars films, where John Williams’ score invokes a sense of wonder as the camera pans to a new and unknown planet. The tone that’s set right there at the beginning carries through the entire song, which crescendos from big, chunky death metal to big choirs and back throughout its entire six-and-a-half minute runtime.
Veil of Imagination is a fiercely dynamic album when it comes to songwriting. From the almost fifteen minute long opening barrage of orchestral, progressive death it effortlessly segues into the hugely bombastic O Resolution!, which features a big chunky main riff and a booming men’s choir belting out verses that changes from a huge metal sea shanty to something intimate and melancholy and back again. Evan Anderson Berry is able to move from soft, desolate vocals to an impressive death grunt in the best Mikael Åkerfeldt tradition whilst often also reminding of Falconer’s Matthias Blad in his delivery. It’s also an album that will demand attention from the listener, and will only unveil its secrets and subtleties if you spend time and effort to it. The most straightforward song here is undoubtedly the brilliant Far from Where Dreams Unfurl, which is the most accessible when it comes to having a regular verse/bridge/chorus structure. The rest of the songs are more layered and complex in nature.
Clocking in at just over an hour, Veil of Imagination is on the long side, but never feels it because of the enormous variety in material and the meticulous attention to detail. The Tyranny of Imagination, for example, starts as a mid-tempo stomper with a meaty main riff before speeding up to an orchestral death metal gallop. It then comes to a halt with some progressive guitar noodling before breaking into a spectacular solo and a spectacular apotheosis that’s big on keys and choirs. It’s larger than life stuff, and it’s far from the only example I could give you. It’s an absolutely sensational record with so much stuff happening left and right that the fact that things never fly off the rails is impressive in itself. The songwriting is absolutely stellar and miles beyond Sleep at the Edge of the Earth, with the orchestral arrangements and the band itself forming a perfect symbiosis. Also helping things is that this is a very lush sounding album. A full band with orchestral elements and choirs could easily turn into a muddled mess on cd, but Veil of Imagination luckily sports a crystal clear production that really helps all the elements to breathe.
Wilderun’s third album is another home run, greatly expanding and improving upon the previous album, and it will be interesting to see where the Americans head musically after this. In the meantime, it would be a crime if they remain overlooked by the big labels. Veil of Imagination is one of the most impressive, creative and downright best albums I have heard in a long time and any band this good deserves some serious support when it comes to helping to get their art out there.
Label: self-published, 2019
- The Unimaginable Zero Summer (14:32)
- O Resolution! (06:35)
- Sleeping Ambassadors of the Sun (06:31)
- Scentless Core (Budding) (03:33)
- Far from Where Dreams Unfurl (08:28)
- Scentless Core (Fading) (05:21)
- The Tyranny of Imagination (09:21)
- When the Fire and the Rose Were One (11:51)
- Evan Anderson Berry – Vocals, Guitars, Piano
- Dan Müller – Bass, Synths, Orchestrations
- Jon Teachey – Drums
- Joe Gettler – Lead Guitar
- Wayne Ingram – Orchestrations
Review by Ralph Plug