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CD Review: Wilderun / Sleep at the Edge of the Earth

March 31, 2015 by  
Filed under CD Reviews, Daily Music News

Wilderun_Album_CoverWilderun
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
Reviewed by: B. Cross

Northeastern symphonic folk metallers Wilderun burst onto the scene with the release of their debut Olden Tales and Deathly Trails in 2012 (review here). After plenty of touring, songwriting, and life changes, the band raised funds via Kickstarter to record their next album, Sleep at the Edge of the Earth. (Full disclosure: I was a backer.) So how did it turn out? Read more

Spotlight Interview: Wilderun

June 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Music News, Spotlight Bands

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Boston folk metallers Wilderun recently played at Cook’s Cafe in Naugatuck along with Aether Realm as part of the “WildeRealm” regional tour, and the band was kind enough to sit down and have a talk with us about their history, American folk metal, writing pieces for an orchestra, and what the future may hold.

Interviewd by: Brian Cross

How did Wilderun get started?
(everyone points at Evan Berry, vocalist and guitarist)
EVAN – (laughs) Wilderun was my personal solo project for a few years; I was just writing tunes. I didn’t really have any direction for it. I started writing songs in 2008 and early 2009, and just wrote random stuff, probably for about two years on my own. In November 2011, I met up with Wayne (Ingram, lead guitars) as I’d been talking to him about working on the music. And Jon (Teachey, drums), as I needed a drummer.

WAYNE – I contacted you during my first semester at school because you put up a post saying “I’m starting a folk metal band!” I pulled off a tab and called you, and you said “Actually, I’ve already got everybody I need.” All right, cool, whatever. And then three years later, you said “Hey Wayne, remember how you were the only one who contacted me about the band? Why don’t we do that?” (everyone laughs)

EVAN – Exactly! It all came full circle after about three years. Wayne became the lead guitarist and orchestrator, because he’s a film scoring major. So I figured Wilderun needed some elaborate orchestration as opposed to the crappy keyboards I was using. We teamed up, and Jon was the drummer on deck for a while before it even got started!  I knew he’d be the drummer, as he also played in one of my other bands. As soon as me and Wayne really started orchestrating and getting serious about it, we decided to make a full band out of it, and Jon suggesting getting Dan (Müller, bass). In about early 2012, we had all four members and a complete lineup. We originally got together just to make a demo, but then as we were in the middle of working, it just made more sense to go all out and do a full-length as I had enough material to do it. We decided while rehearsing for the album that we wanted to do a show, so we played the Paganfest show with Turisas and Alestorm. At that point, we only played the songs live that we actually knew, and after the Paganfest show was over, then we worked on the rest of the album. In May 2012 we recorded the album (Olden Tales and Deathly Trails) at More Sound Studio in Syracuse.

Where did the band name come from?
EVAN – It came from a fantasy book, The Elfstones of Shannara. “Wilderun” was just the area of the land that was kind of like the Wild West of the fantasy world.

WAYNE – The secret’s out!

JON – Now everyone’s going to know! (laughs)

EVAN – I just thought “Wilderun” was a cool word, and since it was like the Wild West, it kind of fits with American folk metal.

Wilderun stands apart from most of its folk metal brethren by focusing on American folk tales rather than the more common European ones. How did this come about, and did you incorporate any folk tales from New England?
EVAN – Basically, with Wilderun the music came first. I had been writing a lot of songs, and over the course of orchestrating and writing lyrics we tried to find a more unique identity for the band. I thought it would be more interesting to pull some influence from folk tales and songs from our side of the ocean. The Scandinavian thing’s been overdone, and we’re not from there, so why would we do it? (laughs) The only song that’s directly related to something out of New England is “Storm Along,” an old tall tale about a giant sea captain.

Take us through a typical songwriting session.
WAYNE – Evan’s in school and writes all the stuff, then he contacts us. (everyone laughs)

EVAN – Songwriting is just me sitting in my room drinking coffee. That’s it.

JON – Lots and lots of coffee. The man has a problem. (everyone laughs)

EVAN – Just sitting there and wasting away with my guitar and keyboard, and being late for stuff. That’s pretty much it…but the orchestral sessions are a completely different story, which Wayne can tell you about.

WAYNE – Evan had written all of the music already, as far as the riffs and most of the lyrics and melodies. He had been writing the songs for a long time before he had met me, so it was more or less fleshing out those ideas. I had been studying orchestration and that’s what I love to do in addition to playing guitar. Evan would come over and I learned all the songs; using the melodies and what orchestral knowledge I had, I picked instruments to fill the melodies and harmonies, creating arrangements to evoke certain moods for whatever the song needed at the time. It took us about four to five months to orchestrate the whole album.

 What challenges did you face while recording the album?
DAN – Time! (everyone laughs)

JON – Yeah, not enough rehearsal time.

DAN – Luckily, we were able to rehearse during school.

JON – It still wasn’t enough! (laughs)

DAN – There was still a bit of learning going on inside the studio. We had a little under two weeks to record the entire album, including folk instruments, vocal harmonies, and all that. It took time to get the foundation; the rock instruments like the guitar, bass, and drums. Then it was a matter of figuring out where the folk instruments would go, where the gang vocals would go, all of the harmonies. Trying to cram that all into two weeks was probably the most difficult thing about it.

WAYNE – There were also a lot of elements we recorded in the studio that weren’t necessarily rehearsed beforehand. We had practiced as a band getting the metal part tight, but when it came time to do the mandolin? There are only four of us; it’s like not we had a dedicated mandolin guy. We had to figure it all out in the studio, and make sure we played it well. But it was fun! It was a good time.

Olden Tales and Deathly Trails features mandolin and autoharp alongside the expected guitars. Are there any other traditional folk instruments you’d like to use on the next record?284321_350770755015366_1105028020_n
EVAN – Dobro!

JON – Yes!

DAN – Absolutely! (everyone laughs)

WAYNE – Unanimous decision.

EVAN – We’ll have a dobro on there, and maybe a banjo. I think that’s about it. Well, maybe some spoons.

JON – Dude! I will be all over that! (everyone laughs)

EVAN – Typically, we’d like to get a slightly more concrete, solidified folk instrument sound on the next album. I think the first album worked out really well, but we want to be a little more focused. It was kind of on-the-spot experimentation for the first album, which worked.

JON – Grabbing random instruments from Dan’s house?

EVAN – Yeah! (laughs)

WAYNE – When I was orchestrating and arranging the thing, I said it would be really rad if we could get an autoharp. And Dan’s like, (lower voice) “Uh, I have my Grandpa’s.” Dan had all of this cool stuff, but he never said anything until it came up! (laughs) “I’ve got a hundred-year-old dulcimer, I guess we could bring that.” (everyone laughs) That’s my Dan impression. It sounds nothing like him.

There’s some diverse musical influences present on Olden Tales and Deathly Trails, but what really inspired you to play folk metal in the first place?
JON – Good question.

EVAN – That’s a tough question.

DAN – Babes! (laughs)

WAYNE – Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, man!

JON – We’re obviously in the right musical genre to get the babes.

EVAN – Yeah, we’re in it for the money. (everyone laughs) That’s why were started playing folk metal! The money and the fame! That’s pretty much all I can say. (keeps laughing)

JON – Really, it’s for the music’s sake. For the love of that music, and that’s what we are. It sounds like such a clichéd answer!

EVAN – Honestly, I’d really have to think about that question. It’s hard to explain!

DAN – It’s a great escape. The whole folk metal vibe, with fantasy and tall tales, it’s a way to step out of your own head and enjoy the moment.

EVAN – Especially working with some of the old folk tunes and stuff. Learning those songs and reading about their history and where they came from, and then creating our own lyrics around them. It was interesting to learn about old stories and tales and reinterpret them ourselves. That’s not necessarily musical, that’s just kind of old tales and history, which is fascinating.

Wayne, you mentioned you’re studying film scoring. What composers inspired your work on the orchestral parts?
WAYNE – Alan Silvestri, number one. He’s my favorite. The orchestral side of the album is really cool; obviously metal is just awesome, but when you add the whole other element of what an orchestra can do? Think about it: when you write something orchestral, it can take anywhere from a small quartet to a hundred people to play what you wrote. There’s a bunch of things that inspire me when writing orchestral music; there’s an incredible amount of teamwork towards a collective goal. The orchestral stuff I came up with for the album, especially on “Suncatcher” and “Storm Along,” if they were to be played by a real orchestra, it would be upwards of a sixty- or seventy-piece orchestra. To think that it would take that many people to do it? To be a part of something that’s so much bigger than yourself really entices me. It’s a big step outside of what you’re capable of, and relying on other people to pull together their talents and resources to make it happen. That’s really inspiring. You don’t become “the guy that made the thing,” you’re part of this whole group of people that made the thing.

What do you see as the most important aspect of your music?
WAYNE – Babes. (everyone laughs)

EVAN – Man, this is another tough question. It makes me think…

WAYNE – The next question is how many babes. (everyone laughs)

JON – I would say…making the most mediocre drum parts possible. (everyone laughs)

EVAN – Okay, I’ll try to give a real answer to this. I think the most important thing with this band is that we wanted to play epic, symphonic music from the get-go, but our main goal is to try to take that style of music and progress it in different ways than haven’t been done before. Especially with the new songs that haven’t been released yet. We’re just trying to take as much of a progressive approach to folk metal and symphonic metal as we can. That sounds a little pretentious, but it’s just basically about experimenting with different styles and genres and melding it into one cohesive unit. That’s the most fun, and I think that’s the most interesting music: the stuff that tries to add new things to a sound. That’s what we’re trying to do.

WAYNE – Also, something that I feel is exciting about the album is that it’s not relying on themes from Scandinavian cultures. It’s relying on themes from American culture. I think it’s progressive to have this style of music talk about things from other places; there’s a whole western hemisphere that can do this, too, and has interesting tales.

EVAN – We definitely can’t deny our influence from all of the previous folk metal bands and black metal bands that existed, because we love all of that music. But we knew that we wanted to try our best to take a new approach to it. Not to deny our influences, but to try to put a new spin on it whenever we can. That’s the most interesting thing for us.

Beyond the current tour, what does the immediate future have in store for Wilderun?
EVAN – We want to keep playing shows, and we have more material for another record, but I don’t know exactly when that’s going to be out. Definitely within a few years, hopefully sooner rather than later. Whenever we can put it together, there’s going to be more music, and we’ll keep playing when we can.

JON – More tours!

WAYNE – And hopefully a West Coast tour sometime!

For more on Wilderun:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
and read our review of the show here

Concert Review: Wilderun, Aether Realm, Lightsbane & Xenosis at Cook’s Cafe in Naugatuck, CT

June 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Concert Reviews, Daily Music News

wilderealm_tour_poster-600Wilderun, Aether Realm, Lightsbane, & Xenosis
May 31, 2013
Cook’s Cafe
Naugatuck, CT
Reviewed by: Brian Cross

What happens when you sandwich symphonic folk metal between metalcore with a melodic death touch? One hell of a diverse and entertaining show, that’s what. Let’s not waste time, and get right to it.

Xenosis opened up first, going full throttle in delivering a blistering performance. These New Haven metallers mixed brutal riffs and breakdowns with some serious melody lines and just a hint of djent. No slow songs or other nonsense would suffice to kick off an evening of extremity, and Xenosis made sure everyone was paying attention in a matter of moments.

Next up was Aether Realm, bringing their breed of extreme metal all the way from North Carolina. They often proclaim that they are not from Finland, but that’s only because their sound could easily be mistaken for one of Scandinavia’s best. From “Swampwitch” to “One Chosen By the Gods,” the band stormed through their set of blackened symphonic folk metal with the force of Thor’s mighty hammer. Lest you doubt their credentials, lead vocalist and bassist Vincent “Jake” Jones performed while draped in the skin of a goddamned bear. If that doesn’t tell you that these guys treat folk metal as serious business, I don’t know what will. Aether Realm truly killed it with with searing riffs and skin-flensing solos; Odin himself would indeed be proud.

Boston’s own Wilderun followed up, as part of a regional tour with the aforementioned Aether Realm known as “WildeRealm.” Despite both bands playing folk metal, they couldn’t sound more different. Wilderun leans more towards the melodic and sweeping orchestral side of the folk metal genre, but that’s no slight against them. Furthermore, they eschew the expected European folk tales in favor of those found right here in America. Their performance featured songs like the heavy yet atmospheric “Suncatcher” and the majestic “The Dying Californian,” with everything punctuated by impressive songwriting and musicianship to match. Alternating between clean vocals and death growls is a natural fit for their music, never once sounding forced. Wilderun are forging new territory in American folk metal, and their set proved that they are masters of their craft.

Bringing it back home was our headliner for the evening, the local legends known as Lightsbane. Their melodic death wall of sound finally pulled the last of the stragglers away from the bar and right up front. A twin guitar assault pummeled the audience’s senses, but their sense of humor is what really sets Lightsbane apart: the Ansonia band played songs dealing with such heady subjects as dead cats and Meat Loaf’s daughter. Whether the lyrical content accurately reflects these themes is largely irrelevant; their metal is nothing to be trifled with. Lightsbane proves that you can take your extreme music seriously, but still be laid back and have a great time.

Finally, kudos must be given to the soundboard operator at Cook’s Cafe. (I would’ve gotten his name, but he seemingly disappeared by night’s end.) He was an expert at getting the mix just perfect, which allowed all four bands to sound their absolute best. Every note, riff, growl, and drumbeat was clear as a bell. Seriously, the sound here was better than I’ve heard in most clubs and larger venues. It was a shame that more people didn’t show up, but it was their loss. There’s no finer way to spend a Friday night than experiencing some live metal!

Xenosis and Lightsbane are here to stay, and for the rest of you around the East Coast, make sure to check out the “WildeRealm” tour when it stops in your area (view the remaining dates here). None of these bands disappoint, so prepare yourself for quite an evening.

*Stay tuned for our interview with Wilderun