This work is very much separated into 3 sections; well, more like an intro and 2 sections if you will. The intro section is the first track which starts off with the sounds of a river running and bird calls, with accompaniment by acoustic guitar, mandolin and what sounds like a clarinet however I’m not entirely sure exactly what instrument it is. You can really think of this track as the calm before the storm, leading into the next section, which is essentially the tale of a hero’s journey, told in the next 4 tracks with a combination of acoustic instrumentals, boisterous symphonic outputs, and straight up folk/death metal, alternating between harsh and soft vocals along the way. What I really love about this section is that even though there are minisections within this one part of the album that are focused mostly on these individual parts, the influences of these independent parts can be heard in all the others. There will be times where you will even hear a mandolin in the melo death sections, or have loud symphonic instruments with the clean vocals. It’s so rare to find a band that doesn’t just take from a lot of influences, but actively fuses them together in their music, even though they may be contrasting ideas. That being said, this is probably the weakest part of the album, if solely for the fact that it’s the least interesting or progressive. While it is nice to hear an overdone concept done well, it doesn’t make for something I would considering one of my top albums of the year.
What DOES make that though is the second part of this album, which is a section of 3 tracks ranging from 8-11 minutes, and a stunningly beautiful outro. Unlike the first section of this album, which was essentially one song, these tracks are separate from each other, though they do flow into one another. What makes this section so head and shoulders above the rest of the album, and what puts it as one of the top albums of the year, is the non-obvious, and very unusual harmonies. While all 3 of these tracks use this, I want to focus actually on the shortest of the three, “Linger”, which I think is the best track on the LP. The song is in G minor, however two of the main chords used in the piece are Dmaj10 and Abmaj. For people who don’t know much about music, D major has almost no relation key wise to G minor, other than being the major version of the V chord in G minor (that being D minor), and Ab major has absolutely no relation to G minor harmonically speaking (well, not none, but they certainly aren’t related closely). The D major 10 (basically a D major chord with an extra F# on top) acts as a chord used right before a resolution, but in itself kind of sounding like a resolution, keeping you guessing and unfulfilled, waiting for that final resolution that never seems to come. The Ab is just chromatic harmony, which is almost never used in metal that is supposed to be completely tonal and “pretty”. This is just one example of the many different kinds of ways this album uses unusual chords to keep things interesting. It reminds be a lot of what Beethoven did in his later work, often switching to keys completely unrelated to the tonic (home key) in the middle of the piece, which was completely revolutionary back then.
This album isn’t quite what I would call revolutionary, as it’s ideas have been done before, but it’s certainly not usual or standard in the slightest. Folk metal is something that is really easy to be done wrong, as any time someone that’s not from a culture tries to incorporate that cultures sound, it’s not hard to make it sound awkward and cheesy, as they typically rely on the stereotypes of that sound rather than it’s genuine voice. Sleep at the Edge of the Earth avoids that by incorporating folk instruments into all aspects of their music and combines that with unusual, but not unpleasing, harmonies that make this an extremely unique album that ranks among the top this year.