Sleep at the Edge of the Earth
I’m not quite sure how or when it happened, but since time immemorial, heavy metal has favored the fantasy genre. Something just feels right about battleaxes and black magic emphasized by pounding drums and blazing guitars.
And when you place the soaring vocals of frontmen like Ronnie James Dio or Bruce Dickinson on top of all the distorted electricity, you can easily imagine bloodied knights and fabled colossi warring against each other. This combination of heavy metal and fantasy is something I’m all too familiar with, and on April 7, another album laden with wonder and intrigue was passed down to the masses.
Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, folk metal band Wilderun have released their sophomore album Sleep at the Edge of the Earth. Having listened to their previous album Olden Tales & Deathly Trails (2012) and seen their live performances, it’s obvious that Wilderun has transformed from a good folk metal band into something more complex. Production efforts are at an all-time high with the new album. The orchestrations are massive and picturesque, easily evoking images of roving plains, subjugated wastelands, or mist-strewn waterfalls.
And contrasting these huge orchestrations is the precision picking of the electric guitars, accented by the drummer’s relentless chops. In one moment you might find yourself walking a green land that approaches the beauty of Bilbo’s Shire, and in the next, you could be thrust into an intensity rivaling Mordor’s fire.
Then there are the vocals—either brutal, low-pitched screams that fit perfectly amid the chaotic guitarwork and blast beats, or smooth, harmonious singing that doesn’t reach the high pitches of traditional power metal vocalists, but remains in the lower register, giving the songs that ale-in-a-tavern feel.
Interspersed between all the heavy metal madness and huge orchestrations are breaks of acoustic guitar paired with vocals that sound like a bard’s song straight out of a medieval Finnish fairytale. Overall, I’m glad to see Wilderun keeping the fun of the genre, while still expanding their influences across multiple genres.
Sleep at the Edge of the Earth is at once familiar and refreshing, an album to be toasted to. Raise your glass with me, then, and salute the traditions of heavy metal and fantasy with Wilderun at JJ’s Bohemia on June 22.
Hailing from Chattanooga, one-man ethereal pop band Side Affect released his five-track album Thrill on March 10. One-man bands are an interesting course of action for a musician, and, if you do it right, you can achieve a synchronous sound like no other multi-membered band could. Of course, there’s always that line between synchronous uniformity and flat-out redundancy that’s difficult to see, but Side Affect stares it down and walks it deftly.
Though Thrill is, essentially, a brief twenty minute tour of what Side Affect can do, the listener is able to quickly pick up on common sounds and feelings. First and foremost of these sounds is the washout of the mix. That is, the guitars swell rather than attack, and the bass sits in the back rather than commanding the front. Over the waves of guitar, you’ll hear a bass-snare-focused drum beat that drives the tempo, and on top of it all is the voice. Chris Johnson manages to match his ethereal soundscape guitar with his singing. The vocals are wet with reverb, but not totally drenched, and occasional vocal harmonies creep their way into choruses, just loud and distinct enough to differentiate them from other instrumentation.
Thrill marks a strong freshman studio effort by Side Affect. It’s exciting to imagine where his music will be a year from today. Often, these one-man bands evolve into a fully armed outfit, equipped with more guitarists and a drummer. With Johnson’s creativity at the forefront, more music personalities could really emphasize the music’s individuality while sacrificing none of its original integrity.
Putting the headphones down and walking away from Thrill and Side Affect, it’s difficult to feel stressed or, really, any aggressive emotion. Thrill is a venture into the calm and serene, a too-brief wade in placid waters that leaves you with dreams of blue.