Wilderun – Epigone (Century Media)

Wednesday, 5th January 2022
Rating: 9.5/10

Just after the release of their third album, Veil of Imagination, one of metal’s most puzzling unsigned acts finally landed a label home at Century Media Records.  So despite three albums of excellent folk meets progressive meets ‘what have you,’ Epigone represents the release that is bound to put Wilderun on the map for more metal fans.  Continuing their streak of crafting music that is more individual and even less easy to categorize, Epigone is a beautiful album that is going to wow those who the band hasn’t been exposed to thus far, and still somehow impress those who have been veteran fans.

Never a band to stay put, Wilderun has gone from more traditional folk metal-esque beginnings into something more eccentric in tone.  Surely, the prog label will stick (because it always does), but it doesn’t do the music justice.  One thing the band has always expanded upon with each release is that of the orchestrations, and Epigone represents their pinnacle to date.  From the opening acoustic moments of “Exhaler,” the band all but whisks you away into a surreal landscape that demands your attention for its sprawling, epic runtime.  The orchestrations make it feel like a completely different world – one with different palettes and colors according to the song, from beautiful and enticing to  moments of more explosive metallic heaviness.  It’s sweeping and cinematic, yet the orchestrations still make way for the rest of the music to sit in its proper location.  It simply pops in at the right moments to give a bit extra to the songs.

It’s a very well-rounded record, and despite the cliched nature of saying it, there’s a certain maturity to it.  It’s as if the band forgot to care about if each track was ‘metal enough,’ and just let the songs flow.  Sure, there’s still death metal inclinations from time to time (such as the thrilling blastbeat-ridden climax of “Woolgatherer”), but there’s no moment where it feels ‘heavy for heaviness’ sake.  It makes it tough to really get down into the nitty gritty with favorite tracks, as it really feels like this is a release to sit down and really absorb in one go if possible.  The album is partially made up of the ambitious four-track “Distraction” after all, which ebbs and flows with somber elegance, even as it ramps up the heaviness.

Despite it’s heaviness at times, the overall impression of Epigone is one of beauty and grace.  It’s an entirely personal album, especially considering the times that it was created, and truly invites the listener to share an hour in an gorgeous soundscape that isn’t easily forgotten.  Wilderun have always been an ambitious act, and they continue to exceed expectations when they design a new release.  Epigone should be the release that finally sees them emerging as one of metal’s most unique treasures.

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