Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 6/10/2014
Label: Candlelight Records

‘The Divination of Antiquity’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

01. The Divination Of Antiquity
02. Whisper Of The Elements
03. Warrior Herd
04. A Careworn Heart
05. Foundations Of Ash
06. The World Ahead
07. Over Borderlands
08. Forsaken In Stone
09. Pariah's Path

The Band:

Chris Naughton |  guitar/vocals
Simon Lucas | drums/backing vocals
Nick Wallwork | bass/backing vocals
Mark Wood |guitar


Black metal from the British Isles has always seemed a bit of a contentious subject. Norway has always been seen as the genre's leading nation, but from Venom onwards Britain has always offered up some great bands. For me, Winterfylleth are the greatest black metal band that this fair island has produced. I picked up on them with “The Threnody of Triumph” a couple of years back and found their expansive music hugely evocative of the landscape, the cold, the wet, the greenery that encapsulates Britain and perhaps even more specifically England and its Northern half.

The title track of this grabbed me from the off- Again, it's expansive and full of space. Even when the sound is in full flow, there seems to be a lightness of touch at work that allows the music to breathe. The production is just right- reverb and treble are present in just the right amounts to allow the slow moving melodies to creep out from behind the clouds of dense guitar.

It's organic stuff and ‘Whisper of Elements’ furthers this natural feel with sounds perfect for the autumn and winter that is rapidly descending upon us. Much can be gleaned about Winterfylleth from the artwork of their records- landscape photography adorns their covers, evocative of the majesty (yes) of the English countryside. I truly believe that this is the perfect iconography for the band. Nature, landscape, that which once was; it's all here in the sound and writing. It's encouraging you to get out there with your headphones on and explore.

‘Warrior Herd’ is heavier and more dense in sound. It brings a less wistful mood and is somehow more brooding in its approach. The track is long, as they all are bar one, and the pay off of this is that you can fully immerse yourself in the sound and feel of the music. It's cold and unforgiving- imagine being out on the moors or the wolds of the North with this playing. A total music listening experience would be had. Honestly, it makes me want to take a trip to the Peaks or the Lakes and do just that.

‘A Careworn Heart’ brings in acoustic guitar and is quite stunning in content. It is melancholic and dark, but not oppressive- the airiness is still maintained. The rhythms deviate from the traditional rolling blasts of black metal and opt for an almost post metal feel- lots of space and percussive motifs to listen to and enjoy. Some of the guitar is almost like... Thin Lizzy or something similarly melodic. Hard to explain, but it works. The track is a lovely change of pace prior to the pitch black ‘Foundations of Ash’. Indeed, this one ramps up the black metal, the vocals are croaked shrieks and the speedy picking conjures up images of flight over forests and landscapes remote from urban comforts.

‘The World Ahead’ is the album's shortest track, and also the prettiest. Acoustic guitars are layered to good effect as an almost folk-ish feel is grasped. The musicians play well throughout the album and really hit the nail on the head with the material- whether it is acoustic melancholy or impenetrable blackness, the band play what needs to be played. ‘Over Borderlands’ has forward momentum in a similar vein to what I have already mentioned- it's perfect journey music, the relentless rolling of the beats really does bring to mind motion and distance. The mood remains sombre through time changes and droning chants.

‘Forsaken In Stone’ starts with a quieter dynamic but brings in crashing waves of instrumentation allowing space and dynamics to be used. The guitars are well mixed and everything going on can be heard. Double bass drums bring urgency to the down tempo pacing when needed and they lift the track somehow for its final coda. ‘Pariah's Path’ finishes this accomplished work with a faded in intro that soon builds to an icy cavernous noise. The track is perhaps more aggressive in some ways than others on the record, but the album's breadth is its strength. Different instruments, tempos and rhythms are used throughout to create a unique record.

Winterfylleth, with their devotion to nature and landscape, have ensured that black metal from Britain stands for something and thus have ensured that eccentricity and individuality is alive and well here. “The Divination of Antiquity” makes me feel that in these changing times, when technology seems to rule our lives and people have all but lost touch with the old ways, the old gods and even the ground beneath their feet, there will always be a corner of this island that will remain untouched, unchanged and unsullied. An absolutely superb record.

Words by: Richard Maw

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