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 Anaal Nathrakh, 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.