If there’s one word that comes to mind when listening to WILDERUN’s Veil of Imagination, it’s “Ambition”. Through every billowing musical movement; each eloquent and unexpectedly cinematic twist and turn, the Boston-born quintet’s third album is a work of aural craftsmanship rarely attempted and seldom this well done. And to think that they’ve taken their heavily orchestrated prog-and-death-metal-tinged scores to the foothills of metal’s misty mountains, completely through their own efforts is nearly as inspiring as WILDERUN’s music itself.
“When we started the band, we wanted to be a folk metal band,” says vocalist and guitarist Evan Berry of WILDERUN’s rustic origins. Inspired by the pomp and grandiosity of Turisas combined with the darkness of Agalloch and other early influences that stretch all the way to American bluegrass music, WILDERUN set forth on a musical mission that has finally arrived at its apex. “Originally, we wanted to present folk metal in a more distinctly American way, delving into American folk history and folklore, exploring that world through metal. Even though that’s not exactly what we’re doing anymore, that sense of exploration still plays a big part in it.”
Not surprisingly, the seeds of WILDERUN were first sewn at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where Berry composed the band’s 2012 self-issued debut, Olden Trails & Deathly Tales in his dorm room; later, working out orchestrations with guitarist Wayne Ingram in Ingram’s Back Bay apartment. Taking their name from a mythic valley “Wilderun” in The Shannara Chronicles fantasy series, the band (whose lineup was completed by fellow Berklee alums, drummer Jon Teachey, bassist Dan Mueller and in 2014, lead guitarist Joe Gettler) settled into More Sound Studios in Syracuse, NY to record Olden Tales… Wilderun was quick to begin playing live: at first locally, grabbing slots on semi-annual “Paganfest” tours, but just as immediately, touring the US and Canada as soon as they had a record to promote. “As legendary as the local Boston metal scene is, we knew we wanted to reach a wider audience from the outset,” reflects Berry. “Since we knew we were doing something a bit niche, we knew we needed to go out and find those small pockets of folk metal fans scattered across the country. We really felt like we had something special to offer, and we wanted to get it out there in any way we could.”
By the band’s second album, 2015’s Sleep at the Edge of the Earth, the members of WILDERUN were already straining at the bonds of their Middle Earth-informed trappings. “When people think of folk metal, they typically focus on the Scandinavian scene,” says Evan. “There were a few unique outliers, such as Orphaned Land, but overall it felt like the metal scene had pigeonholed their view of ‘folk metal’ into a very narrow view of things like Vikings, battles and beer. I feel like it could have expanded itself way more than it did, but it started to feel like a parody of itself, and most of the truly unique folk metal bands rarely got any attention.” At that point, collective musical interests within the band were starting to shift. Ingram (who has worked for noted film composer Hans Zimmer’s Bleeding Fingers Company) and Muller’s attention began to turn to the more symphonic side of things as they both began to work on game and film scores which would begin to inform WILDERUN’s sound.
“Having the orchestration done in-house by both Wayne and Dan has been an ideal situation for us,” says Evan. “I think it’s helped to make the band and orchestra really fit together into one solid unit, and it’s also given us the freedom to explore some new and different textures. For example, up until the latest album, we hadn’t really touched synths because we were reluctant to interrupt that organic, folky nature vibe of our music. But once we took the time and had the courage to experiment with them it really opened up a new door of sonic possibilities.” The writing of Veil of Imagination became Wilderun’s reckoning moment. Given the complexity of the album’s slightly-over-an-hour of material and songs like opener “The Unimaginable Zero Summer” that clocks in just under 15 minutes, it must have been an intimidating prospect for the band members to begin writing of a record Decibel recently called: “One of the grandest metal LP’s of last year”.
“It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material and sounds we try to stuff into our music,” says Berry of the album’s writing process. Songs like “O’Resolution” go from sweeping movement to movement, a tempest of strings, growls and choirs. “Far From Where Dreams Unfurl” harkens back to the triumphant feel of the band’s earlier works. “I was really hesitant about that song,” Evan laughs. “The
Release Date: July 17th, 2020
other guys ended up turning me around on it. We had been shying away from things that were overtly folk metally but now I really love the way it stands out on the record.” The album’s stirring closer, “When the Fire and the Rose Were One” is a masterful statement in its own right. A tense, 12-minute balance of light and dark themes sparsely punctuated by the occasional vocal and underscored by piano and flutes. “Our process works in layers,” Berry explains. “We honestly don’t even consider the instrumentation and orchestrations until the raw composition of the album is complete. We make sure the songwriting ‘on paper’ flows well and feels cohesive and only then do we begin to add the colors and textures to help give it extra life.”
Bookended by quotes from 19th century English Romantic poet, William Wordsworth and wrapped in a cover painting by artist, Adrian Cox, Veil of Imagination is as much a thought-provoking philosophical deep-dive as it is WILDERUN’s musical masterpiece. “A lot of Veil is about losing your grip on reality, at least the true and beautiful nature of things,” Evan explains. “The main figure on the cover looks deadened compared to the beautiful world around him. The artwork conveys that struggle and longing to connect with the essence of the world.”
It’s from that delicate balance of musical extremes and philosophical yearnings that Veil of Imagination initially arrived in late 2019 to fan and blog acclaim. Self-produced and financed by the band itself, including a flawless mix from Dan Swano (Katatonia, Bloodbath) and mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Arch Enemy), Veil is testament to WILDERUN’s musical prowess and DIY spirit. Surprisingly, the album was initially passed on by most labels it was shopped to, forcing the band to release it themselves. Not surprisingly, they sold out of their first run of 1000 CD’s in just a few short weeks. “There was label interest but nothing came to fruition,” Evan admits. “We’ve had so many of our fans describe to us how WILDERUN doesn’t hit them at first, but there is something captivating that makes them want to come back. It seems to be on the second or third listen that the music really speaks to them. I don’t quite know why this is, since this was never our intention when making the music, but luckily, it seems that a lot of people find a deep enjoyment once they give it time. It’s a slow-burn, but eventually you get it.”
In early 2020, the band struck a deal with Century Media to reissue Veil of Imagination and give the band’s masterstroke it’s just due. For the five imagineers of WILDERUN it feels like the journey is just beginning. “It really boils down to still being in love with the sense of transcendence that certain types of music brings me,” the frontman admits. “That was the feeling when we started this band and it’s still that same feeling now.”