Well, this is it. There have been discussions and wonderings of when American folk metal was going to become a thing and I guess it is here. Though the black metal act Panopticon sort of took the mantle of bringing folk struggles and quasi anarchism into the metal arena, Wilderun fully embraces American lore and turns it into something that oddly sounds like European folk metal. No matter. Wilderun attempts to dive deep within the lush burrows of the American countryside to celebrate the diversity of the United States with a record full of oddly fitting genres but seamed influences.
The fact that Wilderun is still independent and/or unsigned is a testament to the capabilities of a band to have the ability to create high and well crafted production despite not being supported or distributed by a label. Though this happens more times than not, Wilderun’s second record Sleep at the Edge of the Earth possesses the scope and grandeur of typical power metal records with a depth of instrumentation sequencing that is near astounding. The album opens with a particular lush arrangement of acoustic folk instruments such as the sleepy dulcimer and is near intoxicating in its ability to be something that is completely unattached to heavy music. Though the band uses these flairs throughout a record of power and folk metal, the instrumental tracks that open and close the record are a surprising highlight. These moments also prepare one for the steps about to be taken.
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth showcases the band’s ability to write music, which is almost ill fitting given the size of the record. The first half of the album is broken in a four part suite titled Ash Memory, with three long odysseys filling the back half. “Ash Memory” is an important component for the album as it introduces the band’s penchant for the seafaring tempo, which runs as a guiding light through each song. This shanty/victorian era flavor stands up surprisingly well against music that toggles between harsh vocals and ultra moody sorrowful wails. One could think of Opeth doing a Civil War reenactment. I am laughing at how much I would want to hear music based on that description.
At it’s heaviest, Sleep at the Edge of the Earth never becomes oppressive or anything past atmospheric. “The Means to Preserve” is perhaps the band’s heaviest moment, but even with the harsh vocals and chugging guitar riffs there are still backing symphonies and wild guitar solos to soften the blow. I thought about discussing the timidness of the band, but Wilderun makes music that fits their capabilities, and their skill set rests in a near theatrical display of American folklore and history.
Wilderun operates from a very sparse area of heavy metal. In fact, if one would like to think of them out in some sort of earthen shack nestled in the forest between two towns, I would not begrudge you that image. Sleep at the Edge of the Earth was almost flooring in its capabilities to please from a band that has yet to be heard by a majority of metal listeners. People sometimes want American folk metal and here is a band that dresses as if they stepped into the streets of 1900-1920 armed with autoharps, banjos, and mandolins. Listen, it is not going to be dead-on with its themes, but there is progress being made.
Album: Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
Released: April 7th, 2015
Score: 7/9 Hammers