The newly devised Angry Metal Guy forums, in collaboration with the great guys at Metal-Fi, have had very mixed results. On the one hand, I now have a place where I can discuss metal with people from all walks of life – rather than just my superfluous IRL ‘friends’ whose metal credibility crashed and burned when they thought Bullet For My fucking Valentine was kvlt, a great ‘underground’ discovery. On the other, it has been apocalyptic for my productivity and bank balance. It goes to show the great diversity of music which regretfully flies under the AMG radar and reinforces the point made by Steel Druhm that we have a great fucking readership. Though some disagree (notably Kronos the miserable bastard), this had already been a stellar year for music prior to the forum’s establishment. Now that it’s here, I can only curse Refined Iron Cranium for further condemning my pauper monetary status.
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth is imperious. Boston’s Wilderun have crafted something so majestic that I can already confidently assert that it will be jostling for first place in my Top 10 o’ 2015. Heavy, melodic and symphonic, yet more than the sum of its parts, Sleep at the Edge is an Opethian metal album, but with grandiose orchestrations and a healthy wedge of Turisas folk. I have AMG’s explicit blessing to compose a “gushy” review, and fair warning: gush I shall.
Despite the very slick execution which ensures the material immediately sinks its hooks into the listener, there’s a lot to consume and consider with this album. It subtly coalesces extremity, classical and folk, genres which aren’t necessarily subtle themselves, leaving an overarching grace which transcends the grandeur of its composite parts. I cannot overstate how excellently the orchestrations are integrated, elevating the metal instrumentation to new heights without supplanting the core. The symphonic spectrum is utilized, from brass on “And So Opens the Earth” and “Bite The Wound,” through wind on “The Means to Preserve,” to strings on every track, even reaching a harp on “Linger.” The album reaches its heavy apex with “The Garden of Fire,” the opening to which leaves little room for doubts over Wilderun‘s metal cred. Evan Berry’s growls resonate with savage intensity, while his cleans are appropriately emotive. His phrasing and delivery on “Linger” evoke Mikael Åkerfeldt so convincingly that one could almost be persuaded he performed guest vocals. So while not exactly original, this testifies to Berry’s conviction and execution.
Moreover, the diversity of sounds and textures never feels extraneous or redundant. The song-writing is incredibly precise such that the album avoids stagnation. I frequently criticize records for overly-exuberant editors but there’s not a second here that I’d rather wasn’t. Everything fits together like an elaborate puzzle, carefully arranged via Pro Tools rather than the shitty jigsaws of Venetian flower markets you used to receive from your gran (just me?). Wilderun demonstrate great dynamic awareness in their constructions, with progressive songs and logical structures which ensure the aggressive peaks and subtle troughs are accentuated. The juxtaposition of “The Garden of Fire” with “Linger” at the core of the album is brilliant in this regard, twinning the heaviest track with one of the lightest.
Though it’s clear that Sleep at the Edge functions brilliantly as a collective, an album which flows within itself, no song is contingent on another for meaning or quality. Each is memorable, even the understated conclusion which could easily have been a forgettable classical piece to frame the core. It’s the calm after the cacophonous conclusion to the prior track, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Particular note also has to go to “The Garden of Fire:” its opening sounds like unwritten material from Ghost Reveries, including what would have been one of the record’s star riffs. Indeed, the supreme clean vocal transition at 0:47 of “The Faintest Echo” has recalled me far too many times and foregrounds another great song. But one could easily defend almost any track as the best and they wouldn’t be wrong (aside from the fact that no opinion can be correct or incorrect).
The album sounds good too. I accessed an ALAC copy via Bandcamp which is appropriately rich in detail. The mixing balances affairs expertly, giving priority to the particular instrument carrying the focal melody while allowing other instrumentation to flesh out the compositions and augment harmony. I really am nit-picking when I say this since it sounds more generous than its dynamic range of 7, but a fuller range would better distinguish individual tones and afford further refinement for which Wilderun evidently strives. There isn’t much more I can say which hasn’t already vehemently spewed forth from my frothy, gnashing mouth, but you owe it to yourself as a fan of heavy metal to own this. Time will tell if my opinion ticks over into the hallowed halls of 5.0/5.0 (if White Wizzard can make it, so can Wilderun), but I really love Sleep at the Edge.