Upon the moors of ancient Albion, a cold wind of black metal fury has been roaring, growing steadily in pitch since its first stirrings back in 2007. England's own Winterfylleth has, along with fellow countrymen Wodensthrone, pretty much branded English Black Metal into the flesh of the international map. They did this on the strength of their first three albums, each of which served to propel these young men farther into the dusky halo of black metal greatness. And though these albums have all garnered high praise from the collective music press, Winterfylleth has not yet broken through in the United States. With the formidable Candlelight Records behind them, however, this is surely due for a change. Will their new album, called The Divination of Antiquity, help or hinder these efforts?
The name Winterfylleth is derived from the Old English for 'winter full moon,' a moniker which brings about visions of frost amid foggy moors of naked trees, benighted and ancient. Named for the first full moon in October, the band's sound reinforces this atmosphere, informed as it is by Anthems… era Emperor and the inherent coldness of less symphonic Norwegian black metal. The Divination of Antiquity once again features the sure hand of Chris Fielding (Napalm Death, Electric Wizard) at the mixing desk, resulting in a massive sound that manages to capture the heart of this emotional music without sacrificing its fury, or calming its almost animal want.
'The Divination of Antiquity' and 'Whisper of the Elements' kick things off as a majestic opening duo on the new album, bursting with the massive riffs, cavernous drum rolls, and melodic passages fans have come to expect from Winterfylleth. It is apparent in these two songs that the core and founding members Chris Noughton (guitar/vocals) and Simon Lucas (drums) have felt no desire to deviate from the basic songwriting approach featured on past efforts. And who can argue? When the riffs are as massive and stunning as this, there clearly are more stories to tell along these razor-sharp sonic battle lines. Mark Wood (guitar) and Nick Wallwork (bass guitar/backing vocals) round out a lineup that is blasting away from strength to strength. Introspective pieces, such as the one sprinkled into the middle of 'Whisper of the Elements' shows that Winterfylleth is adept at the tension-building interlude, ensuring that the foundation of blast-beats never gets a chance to grow at all stale. 'Warrior Herd' and 'Foundations of Ash' continue the speed/interlude/kick-ass solo methodology which separate their songs from paint by numbers black metal into the storming sonic gales they truly are.
Things become a tad more sedate on 'A Careworn Heart,' building from some plucked guitar and drifting voices into a slower-paced affair rife with those deeper-than-the-abyss drum tones and the wraith-like, ever seeking rasp of Chris Noughton. The solemn lead over top of it all lends a powerful gravity to the song. Winterfylleth sail into similar waters later on in the album, breaking up the heavy with acoustic instrumental 'The World Ahead.' (Worthy of note on a completely nerdy front, previous album The Threnody of Triumph features an instrumental called 'Home is Behind.' Put these two titles together chronologically according to which album they're on, and you have the opening lyric of the song the hobbit Pippin sings to the Steward of Minas Tirith, the mad Lord Denethor, in the movie Return of the King). Apart from these creative and moody deviations, the songs remain mostly vicious. Closing salvo 'Forsaken In Stone' builds slowly, being both weighty and significant. Speeding up slightly and only after a stunning guitar lead midway through, the song features some melancholy clean singing reminiscent of the old 'goth' rock scene. The effect, however, is far more serious and epic.
Winterfylleth sing of their nation's deep past, of a time when the culture they are losing was just coming together. Redolent with the deeds and myths of yore, Noughton and company seek to rekindle the dying light of a time before modernity flattened everything we know to a series of Starbucks, parking lots, and wi-fi hotspots, when people did not define themselves by name brands and hairstyles; more importantly, when people had pride and gave a damn about the world around them. There are those who consider such a glorification of heritage to be a kind of racial hate agenda, but such a thing dwells not in the awe-inspiring, historical and enlightened canon of Winterfylleth. With 'The Divination of Antiquity,' the band certainly keeps pace with all of their earlier works. A bit more alike in sound to The Mercian Sphere than it is to The Threnody of Triumph, it will come down to personal preference and perhaps a little bit of time before it will be known if The Divination of Antiquity has surpassed them or merely equaled them. Either way, what you wind up with once again is a masterstroke of elemental black metal success. Look for it on the 7th of October 2014, the night before that first full moon . . .