Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is the debut album by US folk metal act Wilderun. Originally a solo project of their lead vocalist, guitarist and mandolinist Evan Berry, Wilderun became a full band in 2012 and released this album in September the same year off their own back.
On one hand it may seem that Wilderun are a group that wear their influences on their sleeves. They play a style of folk metal that was described to me before I heard them as Turisas crossed with Ensiferum, and that is pretty much what you get with Olden Tales & Deathly Trails until you take note of the rest of the description that was given to me; that Wilderun is a more progressive combination of the above. Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is, you see, a more eclectic approach to the folk metal genre than most, combining progressive structure with symphonic and folk sounds, folksy vocals and atmospheres, with doses of extreme metal that can come across as either black or death metal in nature depending on the section of the music at the time, although it is mostly death metal you’ll hear on this side of things.
The resulting sound makes Olden Tales & Deathly Trails a contender for ‘metal album with the most epic sound’ award 2012. In fact although there have been a lot of amazing albums this year the only other contender for that title would be power metallers Pathfinder and their album Fifth Element, although it’s pretty clear to me that Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is the more successful album in terms of quality and ambition.
You’d think though, based on the amount of influences being drawn together for this album that it would be difficult to class, but honestly it isn’t. Although there are parts of the music where it is withdrawn, Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is obviously a folk metal release at heart. You have traditionally styled folk instrumentation, the folksy guitar leads that bands such as Wolfchant and Heathen Foray have utilised, folk styled symphonic parts in addition to the more regular symphonic sounds that actual symphonic metal bands are known for, folksy clean vocals and the general atmosphere of all seven of the tracks has a folk sort of quality and structure to it.
Of course, Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is also equally describable as a progressive metal album because of its eclectic nature, which mostly comes from a varied structure, but the album isn’t as outright progressive in the way that progressive metal bands like Dream Theater are. Although with the descriptions I’ve given so far it doesn’t need to be spelt out, Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is far from a ‘vanilla’ or ‘traditional’ progressive metal album. Actual progressive instrumentation is present, but it is not the apparent driving force behind the album. That is very clearly folk since there is very rarely no hint of it at all.
Although there are plenty of growling vocals to be found, which are pretty good death metal styled growls, it’s the clean vocals I like most about Wilderun’s music. I think they are where the main Turisas reference comes from, as Even Berry’s tone and style reminds me a lot of said band’s Mathias “Warlord” Nygård, only Berry I think has a stronger growl to accompany the excellent folksy clean vocals. As with Turisas’s music the vocal style is absolutely perfect for what Wilderun is doing. I do quite like the growling sections in the album, but I also have no doubt that Berry could carry a whole album with just clean vocals.
With every song on the album an excellent composition in its own right Olden Tales & Deathly Trails is a high quality debut offering from Wilderun. It numbers among the best debuts of the year and rightly deserves a place at the high end of people’s best of year lists and an exceptional grade rating from this review.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))