Usually I don't believe the hype. In fact, I've grown quite hostile to it, because in most cases the real thing doesn't come close to adding up to the wind-driven claims of how great a particular band happens to be. So, when I started seeng people talk up Wilderun I was hesitant. I didn't knee-jerk into opposition, because the people making the claims weren't fickle scene kids who shit their pants over a Ghost song. These were musicians I knew and admired that were saying, no, seriously, they're really good.
I didn't get a chance to hear them until we shared a stage with them... if you could call it a stage, really. It was a postage-stamp sized corner of a dive bar in Philadelphia with a severely underpowered PA, so meager that Wilderun couldn't even run their orchestration tracks and had to play raw. For a band who heavily integrates orchestration into their music, this can be a significant challenge. Yet it was one they conquered with ease and rueful smiles. As the speakers bled horrific feedback into their faces and the band all winced in agony at varying points, the compulsion of their brand of seafaring folk metal still shone through the wall of noise.
They got to play three songs.
It was enough for me to buy their CD, though, and it's one of those purchases that has paid me back in more ways than I can articulate.
This self-released album is the culmination of work by guitarist/singer Evan Berry, who started the project in 2008 and recruited drummer Jon Teachey, bassist Dan Miller, and guitarist/vocalist/orchestrator Wayne Ingram to turn a one-man project into a full band. A side note- one of the things I noticed a lot about my limited time with Wilderun is their chemistry. Sometimes bands can be a hodge-podge of members who fill the need in the moment but it's nice to see a band that doesn't look like a team of mercenaries. Anyway, this band from Boston finally came together to meld amazing storytelling, American folk music and tales, and original, flawlessly executed metal into one cinematic score that will keep you entertained for days on end.
Try as I may I have not been able to find a flaw in this gem. Olden Tales has the precise balance of a gyroscope. No element is too present or too sparse. It feels like an album and not a collection of songs; the flow is incredibly smooth and the current of the songs is unbelievably strong. Listening to this is effortless and because of that, your mind is free to wander. This album stimulates my imagination like few have in my 40 years of life.
Because this album is executed so well it's hard to find the right words to tell you how it sounds. The performance is amazing, the orchestration works on every level, and yet, I've heard several of those songs without orchestration and they are still just as powerful. The production is such that everything can be heard, nothing is overcompensating for anything else. The metal elements may seem a bit dialed back at first but then you realize that it's done so to give much more depth and space for the songs as a whole to shine.
I could go on complimenting Olden Tales & Deathly Trails forever. I could keep writing until I run out of laudatory adjectives and then start inventing new ones. I usually don't gush over albums like this, but when I tell you it hasn't left my CD player in two months, I mean it. And I've looped it over and over again easily a hundred times. And when I am not listening to it, I am hearing those songs and melodies in my head taking me away to a different world. If an album can do that, you know it's worth getting... and seeing them live? Well, that's an experience in and of itself, that's why I posted the live video above and not just a link to a studio track.
Enjoy this one, fellas.