Wilderun Demonstrate Their Singular Audacity On “Epigone” (Review)
Epigone commands respect. On their newest album, Wilderun play with a court marshall’s authority, astute intentionality, and a concretely-defined vision, crafting an album that is hyperbolic in sound and mighty enough to earn hyperbolic praise. There’s also an “Everything In Its Right Place” interpretation, which is vaster than what’s to be expected from a Radiohead cover. Yet it illustrates Wilderun’s wide-reaching cartography on Epigone. The record is a world to live in, a place to breathe in and explore. It has the same appeal as getting wrapped up in a book and being unable to set it down.
A careful ear will find traces of other progressive metal acts in Wilderun, most likely due to Jens Bogren’s involvement. His mixing talents have graced numerous progressive metal and death metal works over the past two decades. However, these potential comparisons and namedrops don’t accurately convey Epigone's approach nor its high quality. They point in the right direction inasmuch as saying that Singapore is close to the equator—technically that's helpful, but it doesn't communicate much.
Instead, the easiest summation is that Wilderun accentuate their folk and progressive rock channels with grizzled fanfare bursts. Those few excursions into death metal are sublime, like at the beginning of the 20-minute, four-track suite “Distraction”. But more than that, they represent Wilderun’s bombasity, contrasting the darkest moments against Epigone’s equestrian promenades. Suffice it to say that the group knows when to blow loads, and do so intelligently.
It'd be difficult to play Wilderun’s combination of progressive metal, folk, and symphonic metal - with traces of death metal - and not surrender to ridiculousness. There’s a necessary ambitious buy-in that one has to shoot past Saturn, else their multi-phasal, orchestrated evocations will be undercooked. This can lead to flowery musical prose where the attention digresses from the music itself. Thankfully, Wilderun overcome this with unbreakable faith in themselves. While there is the requisite splendor and wanderlust that come with the territory, Wilderun impress more with their poise. Epigone is a confident album; quietly assertive yet never bashful.
There’s also an emotionalist core to Epigone. It’s driven to explore the human condition, evident in how Wilderun conclude “Distraction” with a celebratory climax. They vibrate with optimism, but they don’t give Epigone a saccharine happy-ever-after. The record ultimately closes with an unbridled outburst. Wilderun seed the idea that maybe their escapist fantasy isn’t pure bliss.
That’s likely due to the album’s foundational concept. According to bassist Dan Müller, much of it is a self-analysis in reaction to the limitations of the global situation. Yet, Epigone isn’t selfish. Wilderun provide shelter in their expansive world via a pathway to a new terrain. Fortunately, this terrain isn’t laden with Splenda. There are enough lurking death metal incantations that round out Epigone’s high spirits.
Epigone's digestibility is a vital component. The band comments that the lead single “Passenger” is the most immediate song on the album, but that accessibility extends to Epigone in its entirety. The large tracks provide space for Wilderun’s concepts to expand without suffocating each other. There’s enough breathing room for multi-layered choir vocals to stand beside plucky acoustics, crushing percussion, and prolonged denouements. These elements aggrandize nearly every track out of necessity rather than showmanship. And yet, it’s apparent by the conflicting moods that the group deals as much with suffering as they do with triumph. Epigoneis, after all, the album that Wilderun proclaim deals with the artistic process the most. Thus one can assume that the ravines, columns, marshlands, and mountains that Wilderun erect act as stand-ins for creative pendulum swings.
There are an untold number of intricacies, both observable and under the hood, operating here. However, the most important takeaway, disregarding every slab of humanity Wilderun imbued into Epigone, is that it smashes. It lays pipe. It’s bursting with life and lust in the face of distress.
Epigone released January 7th via Century Media Records.