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Wilderun : Olden Tales & Deathly Trails : Metal albums reviews

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Wilderun : Olden Tales & Deathly Trails, brief review

Wilderun :  Olden Tales & Deathly Trails

Band name: Wilderun

Often times I've wondered what would it have been like if a band like Turisas had been founded in New England rather than Finland. While this obviously didn't come into being, a band from Boston called Wilderun have gotten about as close to making it so as possible, while simultaneously avoiding the trap of becoming an overt tag-along singing about Nordic tales. This is a band that has taken a Northern European style and moved it in a direction for easier accessibility to an American audience that hasn't encountered it before, utilizing the same general arrangement and stylistic techniques as their Scandinavian influences, but borrowing from less obvious (or more so depending on one's perspective) source material.

The actual musical content of this album is not so much original from a compositional standpoint, as one will note the traditional origins of such names as "The Coasts Of High Barbaree" and "Storm Along" (the latter the subject of numerous tall tales centering on a character from this band's own native Massachusetts). Nevertheless, one can't help but be impressed by the elaborate nature of the arrangements that have been put together, much of it rivaling the complex layering heard out of the Hollywood score approach of the likes of Epica and Therion. The technical department is not overtly showy, but also impressive and gets to about the same level of busyness as Wuthering Heights, while also avoiding the convoluted tendencies of Tyr. In other words, there is a lot going on, but not so much so that the listener forgets that these are folk tunes.

The earlier comparison to Turisas does not only extend into the album's symphonic tendencies, but encompasses the entire approach taken. Although these songs are fairly long and involved, the melodic material and vocal lines are very easy to follow and process. Evan Barry has a very rich baritone voice that mostly tends towards a husky clean singing approach with a side-order of beastly bellows that come off as a bit of a mishmash of NYHC belching and early John Tardy shouts. The whole of the album comes off as slightly ballad-like, as frequent employment of acoustic instruments and softer interludes tends to lighten the blows struck by the metallic assaults in their midst. There is also a general sense of a mid-tempo, Viking feel in line with Bathory's post-black metal albums "Hammerheart" and "Blood On Ice", particularly during the heavier parts of the introductory instrumental "The Cracking Glow" and most of the aggressive parts of "Storm Along".

There are two undeniable high points of this album, though as a whole it is strong and lends itself to continual play from start to finish. The first is the extended reinterpretation of "The Coasts Of High Barbaree", which twists and flexes a basic sea shanty theme into a 7 minutes plus celebration of how metal can do wonders to a song that I had gotten sick of hearing since middle school. The basic theme is stated straight out on a couple of isolated sections, but the really strong parts of this song are when the vocals go toneless and allow the instruments to build up the atmosphere, shifting back and forth between a glorious symphonic backdrop and occasionally veering off into extreme metal territory. The second is the up-tempo, thrashing revamp of "How Stands The Glass Around", which parallels a number of faster songs heard out of earlier Ensiferum and is catchy enough to pass for power metal. This is the sort of song that can be heard over and over and still never get old.

Perhaps the greatest charm of this album is that it manages to leave a strong impression while working entirely off of existing material. It can be safely argued that there is no earth shattering genre breakthrough here, nor anything that is built completely independent of existing material, and yet it has a freshness and vitality to it that inspires hope of more to come. Pretty much any fan of the folk metal genre from Falkenbach to Alestorm will be able to get into this, though it is a bit less informed by the black/melodic death metal influences on the sub-genre than many of the bands cropping up of late. A good nickname for it might be "The Bostonian Way", as a sort of foil to Turisas' "The Varangian Way".

Album: Olden Tales & Deathly Trails, review

The bands country origin: United States

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