On an ever-poignant date for Manchester, and in a venue situated within a small area of the city known as ‘Little Ireland’, it seems apt for the morose, blackened death of Eireann quartet Malthusian to be laying waste. Through the bloody annoying strobe effects, impressive frontman Pauric Gallagher stood behind his bass like a colossus, his Lemmy-style stance and ferocious, deep scour complementing the blackened rasp of co-vocalist Andrew Cunningham. Brutally savage yet with added elements of crushing doom, this was a huge assault on the senses and a delicious aperitif.
Minor issues blighted the early Winterfylleth sound but old favourite ‘Ghosts of Heritage’ had the floor bouncing. Emotive new track ‘Careworn Heart’, from the band’s The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight) opus, was led in by a beautifully taped acoustic intro; the more subtle yet crashing, almost mournful feel which displayed the new expansion and versatility of the band grasping the room in the palm of its hand. It’s this creative freedom, embodied by much of Dan Capp‘s delicate, post-style leadwork, which has propelled these local boys-next-door to hero status. Crowd favourite ‘Defending the Realm’ was greeted with unfettered joy, yet there was more an awed reverence rather than a pulsating throb for this adored outfit.
A stirring Irish lament played Primordial to the stage, whence the unmistakable figure of the painted, hooded Nemtheanga roared “Are you with us?”. Generating rapturous, impassioned crowd accompaniment, one of Metal’s truly great frontmen stared wildly and prowled like a possessed madman through the rousing ‘Where Greater Men Have Fallen’, sorely apt given tonight’s close proximity to the site of the 1819 Peterloo massacre. Fiercely expressive, yet allying the bitter anger to a dark humour, the spokesman for The Committed announced the outrageously powerful, emotive ‘Babel’s Tower’ as “my confession”; whilst the ‘skipping bullet’ guitar line of ‘As Rome Burns’ is introduced to ecstatic roars with the tagline “This is the United States of Europe – you have the right to hate who you want”. The constant wall of resonant riffs were part of the defining proof that this is no mere backing band, subtly and skilfully producing a thunderous swell of sound, the rhythm and drums a colossal thunder. Tolling bells blending with brutality, classics ‘The Coffin Ships’ and ‘Empire Falls’ were greeted like old friends and closed not merely a scintillating night, but the most passionate, moving, Herculean live performance I have ever seen.
…And so we continue with our countdown of the Official Ghost Cult Top 50 Metal releases of 2014 by bringing you Albums 20 to 16. As we get closer the top, the sheer unadulterated quality of the albums covered is astounding, and every one of our Top 20 should proudly sit in your collection already. And if they don’t, you should get investigating immediately…
20. VOICES – London (Candlelight)
A truly fucked-up concept album that mirrors the underground and back alleys of a fragmented urban dystopian hell-hole, a dark, horrible atmosphere is conveyed through blackened, deathly, atmospheric riffs and a harsh tale is unveiled and delivered in a deliberately contemporary discordant genius.
“The roots of the majority of this unit may have history together in Akercocke (David Gray, Sam Loynes and Peter Benjamin all previous members) but this is still a new band in some sense of infancy, yet with an already formidable reputation and artistic vision. London is a tremendous feat which not only surpasses expectations, but buries them deep underground, an album that sees Voices as not only one of the UK’s but the world’s most forward thinking and captivating extreme acts, and should be seen as a benchmark release. Huge in scope and style, but pulled off with astonishing effect.”
19. CANNIBAL CORPSE – A Skeletal Domain (Metal Blade)
Thirteen albums in, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Cannibal Corpse’s Death Metal powers should be on the wane. However, summoning the energy and vitality that bands half their age struggle to muster, an extremely high level of musicianship is utilized to produce powerful, slamming riffs without descending into showboat territory, and once again the Corpse show why they reign in gore.
“Bringing more violent, gory goodness that only Cannibal Corpse can create, what makes this album stick out and not sound like “just another Cannibal Corpse album” is the sheer evil and eerie direction that the instrumentals and lyrics take you. A Skeletal Domain from start to end is a roller coaster of terror, aggression, and more blood than a pit of zombies and has shown the world that Cannibal Corpse is still on top of their death metal game and just how evil these guys can be.”
Formerly known as Code Orange Kids, this sophomore effort is one hell of an aural growing up. The grit of Neurosis and the dervish of Converge mixing elements of drone, post-Metal and post-Hardcore, all captured in crushing sonic perfection by the ubiquitous force du jour Kurt Ballou.
“Overall, Code Orange have proven on this release that they are no longer kids, as I Am King shows the makings of a band not content to just sit in the realms of safety and complacency. But a band ready to expand their sound and not afraid of experimentation to broaden their horizons. At times heavy, trippy and crushing all at the same time, I Am King is what all follow up albums should strive to be”.
Sprinkling more accessible moments such as twin guitar breaks and the occasional cleaner bellow and working intelligent dynamics into their aggressive, technical (without being techy) melodic Death Metal, Boston’s beasts of the underground and unknown have made their mark with another critically acclaimed album that should place them well and truly in the ranks of more modern Death Metal bands who make a difference.
“This four-piece death metal outfit has been dismantling dictators through their onslaught of epic death metal for years now and they continue to get better and better. Revocation’s newest release, Deathless has certainly pushed Dave Davidson and the gang up another notch on the death metal ladder. Ten tracks coming in at around the 48 minute mark will still leave you itching for more, even if all of that shredding has melted your face. Just when I thought this band might have been getting close to their ceiling with the previous self-titled release, Deathless has come around and shot right through this proverbial ceiling and into my ears, and boy does it feel good.”
16. WINTERFYLLETH – The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight)
The best bands have their own distinctive, defined sound, a series of identifiers that mark who they are while expanding and progressing their style. On their fourth album, Winterfylleth achieve that elusive mix of laying down a career defining opus that intrinsically delivers every aspect of the core Winterfylleth melodic, epic Black Metal sound, while pushing past the boundaries of everything they’ve produced to date.
“Winterfylleth, whose odes to Blighty’s ancient past have struck a chord with those searching for a bit more meaning in their homegrown talent, are a joy to behold. After three albums of high quality “English Heritage Black Metal”, Winterfylleth are sitting pretty and new album The Divination of Antiquity looks set to continue their ever-so glorious reign. In a scene renowned for gimmicks and plagiarism, their brand of sweeping, epic black metal just keeps revealing more with each release.”
While British Black Metal has never been regarded as the crème de la crème of the genre (despite inventing the bloody thing), the tide has turned in recent years with the likes of AnaalNathrakh, The Axis of Perdition and Fen doing Albion proud. One band it has been impossible to ignore from these fair shores has been Manchester quartet Winterfylleth, whose odes to Blighty’s ancient past have struck a chord with those searching for a bit more meaning in their homegrown talent. After three albums of high quality “English Heritage Black Metal”, Winterfylleth are sitting pretty and new album The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight) looks set to continue their ever-so glorious reign.
With a concept referencing the lessons we learn from history, The Divination of Antiquity shows a band looking back at past glories for inspiration, but also addressing old mistakes. While the influences remain obvious for those with a keen ear; early Borknagar, Ulver and Drudkh being key reference points, Winterfylleth’s sound is entirely their own, with the soaring riffs and epic melodies of Chris Naughton and Mark Wood flowing thick and fast, while the ceaseless battery of Simon Lucas behind the kit ensures proceedings are urgent and alive. While previous full-length The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight) had a tendency to fall back on repetition and too-familiar song structures, the nine tracks on offer here each present something different and wholly engaging.
The title track kicks things off with a flurry of violent riffs and aggressive motifs with Naughton’s trademark howling vocals sounding utterly assured while ‘Whisper of the Elements’ wraps a variety of mournful melodies around a steamroller of a riff, employing the mix of aggression and calm that comes so naturally to the band. ‘Warrior Herd’ harks back to the blurry black metal of debut album The Ghost of Heritage (Profound Lore) while ‘A Careworn Heart’ sees the first appearance of the solemn acoustics and choral vocals that fans have come to love and expect before the mid-paced riffs that follow allow the band to branch out slightly and experiment with unfamiliar themes. We only get one instrumental this time with the gorgeous acoustic strains of ‘The World Ahead’ showing how folk should be done while the measured yet crushing guitars of closing track ‘Forsaken in Stone’ carry us off over the peaks to reveal the glory below.
With each band member contributing more and improving in skill with each release, Winterfylleth are a joy to behold. In a scene renowned for gimmicks and plagiarism, their brand of sweeping, epic black metal just keeps revealing more with each release, and while the concepts explored in their lyrics won’t have you running out to join UKIP, they may just make you think a bit about your heritage and your connection to the landscape. And while they may sing about the past, with songs as strong as these, the future of British Black Metal is safe in the hands of Winterfylleth.
While blighted by sound problems, it is apparent that Eastern Front have undergone significant improvements over the last twelve months, adding melody, tension and drama to their Marduk-ian overtures and go down well to the swelling crowd. Playing a set entirely of tracks from their new album Descent Into Genocide, the Suffolk black metallers have made the right choice in focusing on new material that comes across as an entirely different, improved band to their previous efforts.
Yet from the moment vocalist/guitarist Chris Naughton leads the crowd in a semi-ironic arm waving intro that leads into the Celtic Frost /Motorhead chug that propels ‘Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)’ into the converted church, it is clear that Winterfylleth are a class apart. While they remain staunchly anti-image, no histrionics or pyrotechnics, and clad in plain black T-shirts, their music does all the speaking and impressing for them.
Up next ‘The Swart Raven’ builds from open chords, swathed in beautiful tremolo-picked melodies and underpinned by a driving beat, before dropping down to it’s clean build-up, that sees arms and voices of the gathered throng raised along in chorus. Already the audience is firmly in the hands of the band as the song’s coda bruises in a flurry of bass drums and vocal roars, even before the double-punch of crowd-pleasers ‘Casting The Runes’ and ‘The Wayfarer Part I’ see the dark of night.
Yet, better is yet to come, as the two new tracks aired, an epic broil titled ‘A Careworn Heart’ and the more straight-forward Darkthrone tinged yet still wholly “English” Black Metal of ‘The Divination of Antiquity’, along with rousing closer ‘Fields of Reckoning’ are the highlights of a set where the ‘fylleth disprove the myth that black metal doesn’t work live with an excellently delivered performance that uplifts the gathered faithful, with heads banging all the way back throughout. Mesmeric and powerful at Bloodstock, they perhaps even exceed that, with darkened anthems filling the Essex evening.
In a scene where the genre classics have been unchallenged for two decades, Winterfylleth are now established as one of the leading exponents in their field, status their excellent new album The Divination of Antiquity will only enhance. With their output ranging from raging Bathory influenced aggression to sweeping, landscape-inspired grandiose moments via Primordial midtempo pump, all is delivered with the confidence of a band who know their wave is rising. Their brand of organic, atmospheric and all-consuming blackened metal with touches of class, heritage and intelligence has seen them rise, relatively unopposed, to stand as one of the best black metal bands today both live and on record, with tonight a further example of their inherent quality.
Winterfylleth Set List:
Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)
The Swart Raven
Casting The Runes
The Wayfarer Part 1: The Solitary One Waits For Grace