Winterfylleth - Home is Never Behind
By: David E. Gehlke
The notion that black metal is a geographically-influenced entity has waned over the years. Thanks to the style's sonic expansion and our hand-wringing over what constitutes a black metal band and what doesn't, the odes to wilderness, fjords, and the earth have been reduced to a mixed message, spread across from supposedly Cascadian realms to the apropos Norwegian landscape. While the core principles of BM are as obvious as ever, the number of bands that truly uphold the style and spirit in such (for lack of a better term) "spirited" manner are few and far between. It's probably why then, Winterfylleth's new The Threnody of Triumph is the year's preeminent black metal entry. It'perfectly encapuslates black metal with substance, pride, and (there's that word again)...spirit.
Hailing from England, this four-piece uses a lyrical foundation of British heritage and history, along with a measured, melodically throttling assault. The band rarely muddles in transition; their attack is focused and on-target, resulting in broad-appeal (at least for the black arts) numbers that are both extreme and digestible. Alas, The Threnody of Triumph is deserving of the high praise we leveled at it, and should give Winterylleth the appropriate nudge to make them England's elite black metal band.
We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Chris Naughton to discuss the band's third album, the state of English black metal, and a whole lot more. Read on...
Blistering.com: You've never shied away from the English black metal tag, and now it seems there's nice little push coming from you, Wodensthrone, Fen, and A Forest of Stars. What do you think has spurred interest in your scene? Perhaps people are looking for an alternative to the Scandinavian bands?
Chris Naughton: I don’t think there has ever been a really strong presence of black metal from the UK in the global scene. There is this whole idea about Venom starting it, but it was never really followed up on. It feels as though the UK is always a hotbed of new ideas, but that other countries always execute them much better than we do, in the shorter term. I think this was/is definitely the case with black metal historically, in that there were never really any UK bands doing it or really being recognised for it, other than say Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned and Bal Sagoth.
I think that more recently (last four-five years) that UK bands have really found their way a lot more and have come up with some genuinely novel approaches to doing black metal. From my perspective it seems as though some, if not all the UKBM bands have shed the need for this rigidly orthodox image and style in place of new and original interpretations of what BM means to them. It’s very much the case with all the bands you mentioned and I would include bands like A Forest of Stars in there as well. It seems like each band has a desire to do something that matters to them and not to be a parody of the forebears of the genre or the 90’s Scandinavian bands. I genuinely think that bands from the UK are great at innovating and I think we always have been; even outside of metal. So it seems that now we find a few great bands doing something that means something to them, and it becoming a cohesive, global force of music that many people are relating too. Long may it continue!
Blistering.com: In a strange twist, you hail from a country where black metal was supposedly spawned via Venom, yet here you are with a degree of authenticity Venom never quite had. It makes one think about how far black metal has come since the 80's, wouldn't you say?
Naughton: As I mentioned before, I think it’s because the approach of the modern bands is perceptively more sincere in many ways. Many bands are no longer toying with comical and characterised ideas about Satan or anti-Christianity and are looking toward ideas that mean something to them, that have a social relevance or are intrinsically more serious than what has come before. It’s a little difficult comparing the new bands to the old bands because the musical, social and political landscapes have changed so much in the interim that bands are now having to react to modern situations and challenges. Back then, bands like Venom were breaking the ground of what was fairly unchartered territory for a genre that was finding itself; and one that was offensive or taboo for many people. These types of barriers have been broken in the time in between and so many bands are now looking to do something a bit more real or relevant now that people are engaged with metal as an art form.
Blistering.com: As it usually goes, a band's third album is usually the most critical and I think you've delivered on Threnody of Triumph. You've really capitalized upon your strengths from the first two albums, yet this one feels more lively and spirited. Upon hearing the finished product, what was your resounding sentiment?
Naughton: We were obviously very pleased with the finished product. It can be quite a daunting task coming into your third album, so I think we were glad that we’d nailed another strong album. When your second album is so well received I think there will inevitably be a bit of self-imposed pressure upon the writing. I think once we realised that we just needed to write a record that we thought was great and just did what we do, and then it came quite naturally. I think we wanted more of the epic and passionate feelings to come out in this one and upon hearing, it I think we were all pleased that we’d managed that. Well as far as we viewed it. The reviews we’ve seen so far seem to be in agreement as well, so I'm hoping that people get behind this one as well as they did behind the last one.
Blistering.com: In comparison to The Mercian Sphere, Threnody has more of a melodic underbelly (i.e. "The Swart Raven," "The Fate of Souls After Death"). What brought upon this change?
Naughton: I think the idea was to try and develop the emotion and dynamic in the music a bit more on this album, so I think that is the reason. We worked more on the lead guitars, layering and melody which I think comes through in the final thing. It’s strange because I would say the album is dark and melodic, so it really draws upon a number of sides of our sound and is a bit of a juxtaposition between the music and the concept.