For those that have been with us for awhile now, you know that Winterfylleth doesn’t get a lot of love around here. Though the “bashing” by AMG and Roquetin were minimal, the band’s atmospheric, Viking (oops, Anglo-Saxon) black metal approach does cause some droopy eyes at the AMG offices. And, unfortunately, my take on the band isn’t far behind my predecessors’. But, the biggest differences in opinion are those surrounding The Mercian Sphere. I kinda love that album. Following up their simplistic debut with Viking-like choirs and acoustic instrumentals had me hooked. Yet, I do have to agree with AMG, and the rest of the staff, that The Threnody of Triumph and The Divination of Antiquity suggested an unfortunate decline in quality. But, you never know what a band has up its sleeves. So, when I saw that Winterfylleth‘s newest release, The Dark Hereafter, had arrived, I just had to check it out.
If you were to judge The Dark Hereafter by its tracklist and album length alone, you might expect something novel from the band. The Dark Hereafter is a five-track, forty-minute record that appears unique when compared to the band’s regular hour-long outputs. This new release shows a band taking great care in cutting the fat from the artistic cadaver. Sure, five tracks in forty minutes may mean there is the occasional lengthy song (the longest being thirteen minutes), but The Dark Hereafter has some of the best replay value in the band’s entire catalog.
Regardless of album length, The Dark Hereafter is an atmospheric, black-metal journey. A journey that requires quiet, darkness, and complete isolation to appreciate. And this isn’t just the case for The Dark Hereafter. This goes for every Winterfylleth release. Once met, total submersion into the album is achieved. Unfortunately, even after reaching this center of isolation, it isn’t obvious where Winterfylleth‘s journey will take us. Opener “The Dark Hereafter” is a four-minute, black-metal assault that does little and meanders to damn-near nowhere. But, its simplicity does prove to be the foundation for the rest of the album. From here, the album ascends with each succeeding track; peaking at the album’s magnum opus, “Green Cathedral.”
That said, “The Dark Hereafter” and “Ensigns of Victory” are pretty typical atmospheric, black-metal outings. Neither are spectacular, but neither are shit. Both, however, set the stage for some of the better tracks on the album. “Pariah’s Path” follows the opener with heavy doses of emotion and spectacular guitar leads that rise above the black-metal muck. Appearing around the 6:00 and 7:00 mark, these standout guitar licks take a mediocre track to memorable heights. As the song comes to a close, the clean, folkish choirs and acoustic guitars make for an enjoyable and memorable experience. “Green Cathedral” follows “Ensigns of Victory” in a similar manner, but with an extra layer of “epicness.” Like “Pariah’s Path,” the track is a steady build that transitions tremolo-plucking into soothing, doomy landscapes and epic, clean choirs. Closer “Led Astray in the Forest Dark” tries to trump its thirteen-minute precursor with cathedral-esque cleans and a killer guitar-solo outro, but there really is no topping “Green Cathedral.”
In the end, The Dark Hereafter is another solid outing from Winterfylleth. Its stripped-down approach makes for one of the band’s most concise releases, but the lack of Viking-esque elements robs it of its true potential. And, to make matters worse, only three of five tracks make a lasting impression on an album that feels as compressed as a raisin. What this results in is a just-above-average outing from the band. Though songs like “Pariah’s Path” and “Green Cathedral” are hypnotizing—overlapping the clean with the aggressive quite well—the album is a fairly standard Winterfylleth release. Even though I may prefer Drudkh and Primordial, this stripped-down record is one of the band’s better releases and gives me hope for the future.