Journeys into the WilderealmThursday, 2nd July 2015
Missing out on the first Wilderealm tour back in 2013 (the joys of moving into a new place and being strapped for cash), I had been kicking myself ever since. But as luck would have it, Wilderun and Aether Realm announced that Wilderealm II was happening at the end of June into early July of this year. Again, as luck would have it, there were two dates within ‘good driving distance’ (the “under an hour” scene can be rather spotty here in the Hudson Valley) so it was time to make up for that missing the first round.
Journey 1: Aether Realm/Wilderun/Under a Serpent Sun/The Green Invaders – June 30, 2015, Cherry Street Station, Wallingford, CT
The first time I’ve checked out a tour in the state of Connecticut, the small but intimate venue of Cherry Street Station was certainly an enjoyable one. An interesting set-up inside the place, a former train depot, the stage is built in below the bar. For the size of the place, the sound was fantastic and will definitely be a choice venue for concerts if the opportunity again presents itself.
Up first was The Green Invaders. A local deathcore band, they provided plenty of stomping breakdowns and brutal vocals. Not personally big on that particular style, but some melodies caught my ear in a few of the tracks, notably in the songs that were announced as newer, so the band has some potential as they continue to grow and develop their sound.
Wilderun actually took the stage next (most likely as it was a Tuesday night and the show started at 9PM) and after a little bit of technical difficulties getting the lights to work (they ended up playing without them), they began. With songs as lengthy as some of theirs (and a smaller set time), you have to make each one count, and Wilderun was up to the challenge. Opening with “How Stands the Glass Around,” one has to be surprised at just how heavy the music is when you see the band live, despite it’s fun, folky goodness. The band then shifted over to their excellent new album, Sleep at the Edge of the Earth, with the highlight of the set going to “The Garden of Fire.” Easily one of the band’s strongest tracks, it was just as immense and epic live as it was on disc. The way that it builds up to those fantastic clean vocals at the end is chilling (of course, the shirt with those lyrics now resides in my collection). The band finished up a rousing but short set with the energetic “Vaunting Veins,” and by this time had won over the small but enthusiastic crowd.
Aether Realm took the stage next, and hit the ground running with “The Magician.” They followed it up with the ever-excellent and shout-along chorus favorite “One Chosen By the Gods.” Needless to say, it didn’t take the crowd long to warm up to the band’s folky melodic death metal. Bassist/vocalist Vincent “Jake” Jones (who wears a bear-skin on stage) worked the crowd between songs by spreading the word of the ‘tiny metal hand’ and posing questions like, “Have you ever punched yourself in the asshole, just to feel alive?” As with Wilderun, Aether Realm’s jams seemed tailor-made for the live venue, with yours truly picking up a case of whiplash from the thrashy “Swampwitch” and bouncy fun of “The Chariot” in particular. Lisa Jablonski (Deadhand System) joined the band for some additional vocals on “Swampwitch” and a killer cover of Insomnium’s “Weather the Storm.” The band finished off their set with the epic “Oak,” only to give an even finer treat – the beginning of a new song in progress. Based on the little sample (and the band’s post-One Chosen by the Gods singles), it’s safe to say the band has another winner on their hands.
Lastly, locals Under a Serpent Sun hit the stage for a quick set (it was midnight by this point). Some progressive death metal served as a nice send-off to the night. Most of the song titles seem to escape me other than that of “One.” But the band’s material had a nice mix of heaviness and some interwoven melodies, so checking out the band’s demo on Bandcamp will happen sooner rather than later.
Journey 2: Yonder Realm/Windfaerer/Wilderun/Aether Realm/Valfreya – July 1, 2015, Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY
In all honestly, just getting to catch the fun and excitement of watching Wilderun and Aether Realm a second night would have been enough to make the trip to Vitus worthwhile. But the pot was made even sweeter by the surrounding bands – this was a fantastic folk metal line-up from beginning to end.
An earlier show (again, the ‘middle of the week’ theme), Montreal’s Valfreya took the stage to an unfortunately quiet St Vitus. But the band’s music didn’t take long to engage those there (and soon coming in). The band’s upbeat take on folk metal had a mixture of heavy as steel parts as well as some more ‘danceable’ material (at one point vocalist Corinne “Crook” Cardinal got offstage and started dancing with members of the crowd) with vocals that switched between clean and harsh. There was a cool symphonic element to the band as well, giving it more of a feeling of grandeur. Before the last song, the band gave out foam swords to the audience for a rather fun ‘wall of death’ battle. A cool idea, which definitely made its point of getting the growing crowd quite active in the set. The band is in the process of making a new album (they did play a new song after all), which should be well worth exploring once it’s available (for now, you can find them on Bandcamp).
The crowd was looking better already as Aether Realm took to the stage. As with the night before, AE’s set was full of energy and the band’s charisma and stage presence easily won over St Vitus. Plenty of headbanging and chanted fist-pumps (as well as some tiny metal hands) were returned to the band, with “One Chosen by the Gods” and “Swampwitch” seeming to garner the most feedback. The choice cuts of the band’s set from CT remained intact, other than “The Chariot” sadly being dumped due to time constraints. Thankfully there was still time for that excellent little teaser of things to come to close out the set. One can only hope that the band can continue to pump out some new music soon. These guys should be going places.
Wilderun followed suit, as still more people made their way to the venue (not a bad turn out for a Wednesday night). Time constraints again rearing their ugly head, but Wilderun still managed to fire off four cuts of their American take on folk metal to a captive audience. Starting off with “And So Opens the Earth,” the band then went to live staple “How Stands the Glass Around” and “The Garden of Fire” (both just as riveting as the night prior). The biggest treat of the night was getting to hear “Storm Along” (personally speaking, the best song off their debut album) to finish their set. It may not have the heaviness and headbangable riffs of “Vaunting Veins,” but it is a real sing-a-long treat, particularly the end of the song and the live version was spot on fantastic. As with Aether Realm, the level of audience participation showed that word is getting around about the band and they have what it takes to get to the next level.
Of the bands to play, I had the least prior knowledge of New Jersey’s Windfaerer. But they made a huge and lasting impression to say the least. The band’s more blackened take on folk metal is heightened by violinist Ben Karas. The violin parts evoke feelings that can be menacing, haunting, and ethereal (and never seeming like a gimmick) and Karas’ playing style made it hard to look away. But the rest of the music mirrored those feelings and made for a powerful performance. The band played a mixture of new material (“The Everlasting”) and old, and seemed to have the audience in the palm of their hand. If their performance is any indicator, September’s independently released Tenebrosum is going to be one to keep your eyes on.
The last band of the night was New York’s Yonder Realm. Having featured their recent The Old Ways in a Bandcamp column, it was great to see that the band held up quite nicely in the live setting. “Crows” being a highlight in the set, Yonder Realm’s combination of a solid metal base to which the folk elements are incorporated gives it a lighter feeling without dis-servicing the ‘metal’ side. Sadly, playing last meant that a significant number of people left (it being a weekday and all), but those who remained were the die-hards, some of whom even managed to incite a bit of moshing.
At this point of posting, there is only one more date remaining on the Wilderealm II tour (in Boston, MA). If you are on the East Coast, hopefully you didn’t miss out on this one as Aether Realm and Wilderun aren’t exactly touring machines. Even despite this fact, both bands have been developing a following, which is a rock-solid indicator of both bands abilities and work ethic as they don’t have any PR services to help spread the word either. It’s all word of mouth (or Internet, so to speak), so if you haven’t checked them out, there’s no better time than the present (particularly if folk metal is your thing). Check out the links and music below, and maybe you’ll find your new favorite band. And in doing so, perhaps we’ll eventually get to a Wilderealm III tour. One can dream right?