By Nikita Alekseyevich Khrenov
How does one critique perfection? One can attempt to nitpick every last bit of a piece of artwork in order to discover fault, going mad in the quest to find the tiniest shred of a mistake or sloppiness. With 2019’s self-released Veil of Imagination, Wilderun has managed to achieve what very few artists could do in crafting the perfect album.
“The Unimaginable Zero Summer” begins the journey with spoken word followed by light acoustic strumming; Evan Anderson Berry’s dulcet tones enticing the listener before yanking them into ferocious metal riffing interlaced wonderfully with Wayne Ingram’s peerless orchestrations. Pained growls pierce through the instrumentation to paint a truly bleak picture only for the storm to clear and return to the serenity of Evan’s voice. The music swells once more but with uplifting energy; parting the dark clouds and shining light upon the unknown path that the listener is about to take, with cautious piano leading them into the next chapter.
The first track sets the stage for the listener with every song thereafter leading them down different twists and turns. “O Resolution” acts as a call to action with all members responding to Evan’s voice as the drums prepare for war. This flows seamlessly into the haunting “Sleeping Ambassadors of the Sun,” a slower song that sucks the listener into a deep, dark place.
“Scentless Core (Budding)” lures you into a state of curiosity before exploding into a Devin Townsend-esque wall of sound that flows right into the folky opening riff of “Far from Where Dreams Unfurl.” Here the band takes the listener back to the roots of their folk metal influence while still keeping a foot in their present progressive sound.
“Scentless Core (Fading)” brings everything back to ground level, letting the record so far really sink in and giving one a little bit of a break before “The Tyranny of Imagination” slaps them right in the face with and absolutely monstrous opening riff that would fit perfectly in Opeth’s Blackwater Park. Chugging guitars and overwhelming strings envelop the listener as dissonant melody guides them into relentless growls and headbanging riffage.
The album closes with “When the Fire and the Rose Were One,” a somber journey that hollows out the heart and closes out with a dissonant and haunting acoustic guitar strumming and keys that echoes in the ears long after the song has ended.
The band truly peeled back the veil and let their imagination flow through the music, creating a deep and dynamic body of work that reaches the pinnacle of musical perfection that unveils new themes and sounds with every subsequent listen. We caught up with the band on their East Coast tour at the Cellar on Treadwell in Hamden Connecticut to discuss the album. (This interview has been edited for length.)
So Veil of Imagination finally drops… You’ve had the material in the works for quite a while, letting it stew, fester. How does it feel to finally get it out into the world?
Evan Berry: It’s awesome.
Daniel Müller: Yeah. I mean like especially after we got the final mix and master and then we were just playing with it, seeing where we could shop it out and stuff. If we could garner any interest from labels or whatever and as soon as an album is done for me, I just want people to here it. I don’t want there to be this long promotional period and stuff. I know that’s how things work but I just kinda wanna know what people think, because by the time it’s recorded, we’ve already lived with the material for over a year.
Jon Teachey: It’s old news.
DM: The songs as they are on the album and have been in our heads have been that way for at least two years.
EB: It’s mostly relieving I would say but it’s exciting too. We recorded this album in February of 2018 so it’s been recorded for a long time and we were really excited about it when we recorded it and we were getting the final mixes and we were all stoked like, “Hey this is great!” The reason we didn’t release it sooner was because we were in talks with a few different labels. We were trying to see if we could get it released not-independently and those conversations get elongated and that whole process just took a long time and you don’t hear back from people for a month or two, and the seem really excited and then your hear back two months later and they say, “Sorry, we’re not gonna go for it.”
So we had that happen with a few different labels and it was a big up and down, so eventually we said “We’ve been sitting on this for way too long.” We were already thinking about new material so at this point it’s honestly just relieving, but it’s exciting because we’re now getting excited about the music, at least I am because I kind of forgot about it and now the album’s out and it’s like “Oh cool!” Now everyone else is listening to it so now I can kind of get excited about it again so, it’s nice.
JT: You ever keep a secret for way too long? So, then you can finally let it out? It’s audible blue balls being released. I mean it’s a real relief, it’s exciting to actually be able to talk about the stuff you know? I’m only in one music project so I’ve been twiddling thumbs until this thing gets released and to be able to experience the artistic satisfaction, yeah it feels really good to finally have it released.
Joe Gettler: I think it’s kind of exciting to get to have the album come out and then, just like go back and really listen to the songs again and see the different ways the songs come across. Even just the lyric video coming out it’s like “Okay, that’s a different way that I’ve heard the song before.” It like adds a new exciting layer to that sort of part. Working on the songs knowing that we’re gonna play them live and rehearsals, and I haven’t done the previous shows that these guys have done with the new stuff, but I think it’s super exciting to play the new material live, like we’re going to do today. I think that’s super cool and it makes me more excited about new material too you know? Especially after the break of not being so incredibly immersed in the album and then coming back to it and giving it the life that it needs is exciting.
Hell yeah, I for one am very happy it’s out. I think it’s blown a lot of people’s expectations out of the water. The comparisons to that one band that starts with the letter “O” has been thrown out for the past four years now.
JT: Ahhh, reaches for drink.
Alright, I’ll say it, Opeth. I was trying to avoid the drink.
*all take a drink*
Alright, I think a lot of that does come out in this record but I’m also seeing the folky, “Turisas” element coming out too. Have you seen a lot of the folk metal bands start to warm back up to the new record?
EB: I almost feel like, fingers crossed, this is the first record where the different fans of different genres and different other bands are coming together and not worrying so much about what mold it fits into. It seems like that’s what’s hopefully happening the most on this record. Yeah there’s clearly an Opeth influence and stuff like that, and the symphonic and folk metal influence, but it seems like regardless of what you’re into, maybe there’s something you can find on this record that you like. Maybe the other two record were more specifically in one camp or the other that would alienate some people. Hopefully this album is the broadest as far as the audience can be, and it seems like that’s the case so far. Seems like people from all walks of metal or whatever you wanna call it are kinda just like “Okay, it’s cool.”
What do you guys think?
JT: I’ve seen a couple comments online that kind of say that “Far from Where Dreams Unfurl” is a comeback and I thought that myself like “Oh cool, we might have some material to play towards the original fans.” Yeah, I definitely think there’s a best of both worlds’ situation going on.
DM: I think a lot of it is like, Sleep [at the Edge of the Earth] was a much bleaker record and I think this record is a little less so. It kind of emotionally bridges the gap between Sleep and Olden Tales [and Deathly Trails a bit. People might wanna pop on Olden Tales and have a good time because it’s an overall pretty good time-y record and this one can fulfill a lot of those needs while still retaining the dynamic and emotional range that exists on Sleep.
JG: I think my perspective is a little different since I came in later in the Wilderun game you know? I always sort of felt like the stuff we were doing was just us being musicians and that was the dish we cooked at the time, and that’s how I view the previous two records. When people are like “Wilderun is a folk metal band,” I’m like “What do you mean?” you know? Like I get it, obviously that makes sense, but in general I don’t read a shit load of comments or anything. I definitely see what’s going on, but my focus is always more on what we’re doing right now and what we’re trying to do. I remember mostly we don’t really talk about “Oh let’s do some more folk metal-y shit in this part” — it’s more like we’re thinking of one sort of vibe, so it’s a little bit more musical than us just trying to fit into these little weird boxes in parts of the tunes. I feel like this is just what we cooked man.
It’s like you guys let things flow and let it come out and the folk just happened to come out.
EB: Yeah, I would say that the mentally was that when we made Olden Tales and Deathly Trails we were pretty clear at the time we were like “We’re doing a sort of folk metal thing.” We tried to make our own spin on it and add our own colour on it, but it was obvious we were doing the folk metal thing. I’m totally proud of that record and we still love playing and listening to it, but I think that as time has gone one, like Joe just said, we’re thinking less and less about what it is and it’s like, do we like the melody? Do we like the riff? Do we like the ineffable vibe that is created by this part? Then we stick with it for those reasons and because we have so many varied influences whether it be symphonic or folk or progressive metal, you get glimpses into any one of those things but it’s not like a big conscious effort to be like “This is the folk metal part and this is the prog part” it just naturally comes out that way.
I can imagine that’s a massive relief to everyone to be able to write what you want.
EB: I think that just comes with time and being in a band. I think any band that begins that you’re more concerned about public perception and genre mold that you’re gonna fit into and then as you keep writing and playing shows and keep going you realize that it’s going to be more satisfying to you, and actually create a better product if you don’t worry about that stuff as much an just let it flow. The influences will come out no matter what and that’s fine and cool, but the overall product will be better if you’re not worried as much.
Alright, let’s get further away from the serious stuff and have some fun. You guys like to drink?
JG: Who told you?
We’ll keep this to Veil since it’s brand new. I wanna see if you guys can pair your own specific tastes in beer to the album. Not every track, let’s say maybe like 3 or 4 beers or drinks throughout the course of the album.
EB: So what drink does this album feel like?
JG: “Tyranny” feels like a black IPA to me.
DM: I was gonna say Doomsauce maybe.
JG: Yeah, some shit like that for sure.
JT: I’d say this whole album is a Sex on the Beach.
JT: It matches the colour palette.
JG: That’s a cool question.
DM: I’m personally an apple juice and water kinda guy.
Oh don’t you even, don’t you even.
JT: He’s the father over here.
EB: I mean I don’t know.
Take some time, let’s make it a group effort.
EB: It’s a complicated one.
Is it complicated because of the sound or because of all the types that you drinks you enjoy?
DM: Definitely all the thousands of drinks.
EB: Yeah, ummmm, the first thing I go to is just the drinks that I was drinking when I was recording vocals but that was a totally personal thing. I actually very specifically drinking Trail Magic Pilsner from Tree House while recording most of the vocals, so I think I associate that beer with the record because I was drinking that. I don’t know if that beer lines up musically with the album.
JT: This is just you trying to get a Tree House sponsorship.
EB: True, yeah.
JT: I see what you’re doing.
JG: I think maybe Backwoods Bastard by Founders. You have to take it slowly because it’s like 12% or something, it’s really rich, a barleywine —
JT: *Thumbs down*
JG: *to Jon* You suck ass.
JG: Yeah Jon cuz you can’t fuckin’ slug it down in a second. Yeah what, you want fuckin’ lemonade?
JG: Jon can get an I.V. with barleywine, but I might actually die.
JT: I might actually want a lemonade.
JG: That is kinda interesting you bring that up though because I think if there was a beer that could encapsulate the record it would e something that comes in a bomber that you’re probably supposed to age for a couple of years.
DM: You’re probably supposed to share it with other people because otherwise it might be too much for you alone.
EB: I totally agree with that and say…so the best barley wine I’ve ever had is Very Special Old Jacket by Revolution Brewing out of Chicago. That beer is absolutely insane, and I guess if we’re gonna get all corny about it, it’s like super rich and super dense and it’s hard to drink all at once but it’s also really sweet and caramelly and I’m trying to think of how to relate that to the album.
JT: It’s because you’re really sweet.
JG: Another thing I feel like is always related to the Wilderun material which also kind of works in this scenario is that the kind of music that we write…you can’t really just listen to it in the background and get it you know? You can’t just put it on and be like “Yeah I heard it.” You kind of have to sit there and really listen to it and pay attention to what’s happening and gather everything for yourself and feel what it is, and I think that’s the same thing with these powerhouse beers that are like 12% and shit.
EB: A barrel aged barleywine takes a minute, you gotta let that shit sit. You gotta sip it slowly, you can’t’ just be drinking it at the beer.
DM: You can’t just swig it while you’re painting your house.
Alright, I dig it. So this is the inevitable question that comes to every interview…
JT: Oh God…sorry.
We already know the answer to that one.
DM: That’s after the interview.
JG: I don’t like Applebee’s.
So there was a lot of hype built before you announced Veil, and you and Jon happened to be hanging out with instruments, and possibly put up a picture of it. Obviously, it’s in the very early stages and you don’t want to let too much out of the bag, but how has the progress on any possible upcoming material been going?
EB: Good? It’s basically all over the place right now. Like I said before, we recorded the album a year and a half ago and I think that the way we all work is that we can’t really just sit still and not start working on new stuff. I’m writing stuff all the time on my own and these guys are wanting to work on shit too, so I honestly don’t think we know what the next record is gonna be. We have a bunch of different ideas floating around and I honestly think we have a couple of different albums floating around. Some of the stuff we’re working on might end up on one, some might end up on another, I don’t know.
JG: I feel like even though we were working on Veil I feel like we were in the studio constantly talking about a record afterwards.
EB: We’re always doing that, we’re impatient as hell like “Well, what’s the next shit?”
JT: Especially when it takes us two years to release an album…
EB: Yeah, exactly. I won’t get into too much detail but we’re definitely toying around a little bit with maybe trying to do a record that isn’t quite as focused on metal, we’ll see though. I don’t know, I don’t know what that’s gonna be and I don’t wanna say any more than that.
JT: I’m gonna retire the blast beats.
EB: Yeah Jon’s getting fired.
DM: We’re only gonna do 70’s prog.
JG: I hope you saw the Instagram story we put out about how Dan’s son is gonna replace Jon. He’s 2 and he’s very good.
JT: He’s already at the mental capacity.
JT: I just wanna get lazy.
So become a stoner metal band?
JG: Not a chance.
EB: Not a fuckin’ chance.
JT: I think we should be a jam band honestly, get a couple trumpets and saxophones.
EB: Well if we become a Grateful Dead cover band and we can get sponsored by Tree House. But I don’t know, we’re all impatient and we all get bored easily, so I think that we just kinda wanna make some records that all sounds different and are all different experiments. So I don’t know what the next actual record is gonna be but I doubt it’ll be a repeat of this one.
DM: We never really think going into the next record “How do we do what we did and improve it?” It’s always like “What do we feel like doing?” I think at this point we kind of know what the Wilderun sound is, which is a weird thing to think about in the first place. At least we know when we play something and listen back that we’ll know it feels like Wilderun or not. Whether or not we can describe what that is in words, I don’t know. For me personally, when we finished recording Sleep, not too long afterwards I was like “Okay, I know how to make this better.” Like these are the things I learned from this process and then I applied those to Veil. Veil’s only been out for a little while, we’ve had it done for a little bit, but I don’t have as much of that feeling here, I feel pretty good about that album, which makes me think that the idea of trying to make Veil Part 2 or to improve upon that formula is like…. I just don’t know if that’s the right thing to do. Maybe I’m not inspired to rehash that, but personally I’m feeling like what else is there that’s in this big stupid toy box that we have?
JT: That’s the name of the next album.
JG: Toys in the Attic!
EB: Get It Cookin’: a cover album of Toys in the Attic is the next album.
Awesome, thanks again guys, congrats on everything.
Evan Anderson Berry – Vocals, Guitars, Piano
Dan Müller – Bass, Synths, Orchestrations
Jon Teachey – Drums
Joe Gettler – Lead Guitar
Wayne Ingram – Orchestrations