The Threnody of Triumph
As the sharp, unholy edges of previous albums 'The Ghost of Heritage' and 'The Mercian Sphere' held much of the affinity I have for Winterfylleth, it took me a good while to accustom myself to how overwhelmingly melodic 'The Threnody of Triumph' is. This more processionary and, yes, triumphant sound takes certainly the band closer to their dictum of gathering inspiration from the landscapes and folklore of England. This is still English Black Metal with a folk undercurrent, but the focus is firmly on establishing a consistently imposing mood, rather than negotiating a thorny undergrowth of evil riffs.
To help me better access the spirit of the album after my expectations were significantly confounded, (and this is mawkishly literal, I know), I took it into the hills, away from distraction. That sort of worked. The flame of fancy was quickly doused when, despite the blazing afternoon sun, I ended up ankle deep in a shitmire while crossing a deceptively boggy field. Once that had been negotiated, a field of sheep gathered at the gate, gazing bemusedly at this daft bastard with a pair of cans on his head wandering through mud in a pair of Sambas. Not the glorious panorama I'd envisaged as 'A Memorial' kicks in. No, what it really needed all along was a little time and some repeated listening. This is music that steadily envelops you, rather than jumping out and demanding your attention.
The guitars carry the melodies in minimal repeating patterns, and in the more ferocious sections, abrade against each other to form doleful textures. I'm pretty sure Ireland's Primordial were a major inspiration; their magnum opus, 'Redemption at the Puritan's Hand' is similarly stirring; full of proud defiance – when it's all over, you feel greased up and primed for battle. Opening tracks 'A Thousand Winters' and 'The Swart Raven' conjure a tornado of souls, Chris Naughton's rasping scream set back in the mix, as if caught in the middle of the firestorm, the blastbeats slowing to a march to reveal some post-rocky trilling. There is a more communal, almost anthemic feel to these songs that I can tell will translate favourably to gigs.
'Æfterield-fréon' and 'Home is Behind' are a couple of pretty acoustic folk/strings interludes. The band are planning on releasing a couple of full folk songs in the near future; they certainly work well here in providing fleeting moments of romantic reflection amid the righteous fury. The middle section of the album is particularly strong: The more chaotic 'The Glorious Plain' stands out as the most unhinged track, where the spell is broken and the band just go hell for leather, while 'A Soul Unbound' drops the fast beats, breathing secluded ceremonial majesty with a riff that cascades like Janet's Fosse.
'Void of Light' and 'A Memorial' place the tunefulness of an olde English metal cavalry charge in a black metal context. There are several things here that you could feasibly whistle in the shower (mind you, I try that with 'In the shadow of the horns', probably sounding like a trapped wood pigeon). 'The Fate of Souls After Death' features some incredible vocal interplay between Naughton and bassist Nick Wallwork's lower register growl.
Lyrically, it's as if they've perfected an archaic tongue and can now wield it with a bardic fluency to lend everything a historical gravitas. Though rooted in folklore, concepts can be transposed to the present day (as is often pointed out by the band), such as 'A Memorial's cautionary tale for the nefarious and greedy: “Shall drink in swarms the carcass /Thirsty for corruption /The tongue be drawn asunder/ Into ten parts! /to the hungry ones for food”; not necessarily to await final divine judgement, rather that eternal life or eternal damnation is the memory of our deeds in our countrymen, be they seen with contempt or honour... or I may be totally fucking wrong here. Either way, 'The Threnody of Triumph' sketches out a romantic, noble depiction of a connection to a land that resides somewhere deep in our consciousness.
I tend to gravitate towards nasty sounds, so while I'm not sure this will end up being my favourite Winterfylleth album, it's certainly their most cohesive to date; it should broaden their fanbase and take them a step closer to fully realising their vision of Albion.
Posted: Sat 8 September 2012