Winterfylleth - The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight Records)
By: Matthew Bowling
[10/10] Though a thought likely to resonate negatively with nekrobeards the world over, we seem to be living in something of a black metal renaissance. It’s slowly been coming together for the past few years but has really gained momentum and taken its true shape the last couple. This has been in large part to the core black metal sound being mixed and mingled with dozens of outside sources and almost every other genre that one can consider (and as is learned almost weekly, some that haven’t been). These marriages have not only opened up the doors sonically, but thematically as well. The expansion has been enormous, bringing what was once a hyper-violent and largely fringe genre into the limelight, perhaps the foremost stage for the meaningful expression of metal as an art form.
So why that enormous set up? What in the hell does it have to do with Winterfylleth and their game-changing release The Threnody of Triumph? Context. Only in a scene so seething with talent, in a year so overflowing with outstanding releases, in an era so overflowing with hybridized expression would something with such an intentional focus and such absolute rejection of all those hybridizations come to be. Though unquestionably drawing inspiration from across the black metal world, everything on The Threnody of Triumph is of a simpler kind of focus, stalwart black metal sounds and fantastic songwriting.
The most tangible is the at-times readily similar ‘cascade’ sound prevalent in a wealth of modern groups, but do not fret, Burzum worship this is not! The expected sounds (no obligatory intro here) quickly take hold in album opener “A Thousand Winters,” and though descriptors such as ‘frigid’ and ‘desolate’ are often bantered about recklessly in black metal, here they are both overwhelming in their application. All of this, of course, is before the restrained but effective injections of melody begin to trickle through.
And so it goes…and goes and goes. Trance inducing blastbeats fill the album from end to end, the foundation upon which the rest of the music so consistently takes flight. Rife with themes of the UK’s pagan ancient past in a myriad of forms, the music often resonates with the anguish of countless generations stretching back into time immemorial. Though rare, the occasional use of choral-like clean vocals found in “the Swart Raven” and “The Glorious Pain” are chilling, especially with the acoustic underpinnings of the former and the relentless blasting of the latter. All of these songs carry the same sonic core, yet never seem to repeat one another. And a lo-fi tornado this is not, all aspects of the band’s sound coming through cleanly and clearly in the mix. This is a great thing because the album is a grower, opening up innumerable secrets with repeated listens and rewarding the patient listener.
So to return to the opening and how it ties into what Winterfylleth has unleashed here, it comes down to the simple execution of rejection. In a world so advanced, with so many possibilities with the use of non-core sounds, Winterfylleth accomplish the nigh-impossible. They forge a unique sound wholly constituent with only the basic tenets of the black metal template. The Anglo-Saxon past in more ways than one pulled forth and made manifest across the ten tracks and 65-minute runtime that make up The Threnody of Triumph, and with it Winterfylleth have not only created their best work to date but are also sitting on one of the best releases of the year. Releases like this are incredibly rare, for this is art in its purest form. A threnody of triumph indeed, perhaps more than the band ever realized.
Winterfylleth on Facebook