Winterfylleth // The Mercian Sphere
Rating: 2.5/5.0 —Killed by ADD
Label: Candlelight
Websites: myspace.com/winterfylleth
Release Dates: EU: 19.07.2010 | US: 07.27.2010

Winterfylleth is a pagan black metal band from Manchester, England who previously has a full length that was released on Profound Lore. They join the ranks of modern black metal bands who, while conforming to many aspects of the genre, are still fighting against the basics: grindy Satan worship. Instead, Winterfylleth produces atmospheric, but melodic black metal that fits in perfectly with a lot of what’s going on around the world in black metal, but that definitely couldn’t be grouped in with sort of “post-black metal” crowd. The Mercian Sphere has the basic foundations of what could be a highly successful record in 2010, but there are a few things that get in the way for this Angry Metal Guy.

I will admit that I don’t always agree with a lot of the common wisdom in the underground black metal scene of the day. One thing that I absolutely don’t share a love of is drone and ambient music, which, despite not being even remotely metal, have been grandfathered into the system because it’s non-metal music that metal kids like (to listen to when they’re baked). These days, many of the changes that make “new genres” are really blending in non-metal influences and in the case of new black metal, a lot of this stuff is just very, very droney, long winded and, in my not even remotely humble opinion, totally insanely boring.

For me Winterfylleth is really on the border of this kind of stuff. Walking in between what’s interesting from a band like Drudkh and the folk metal stylings of early Ulver and blending it into what I would call pretty traditional black metal at the same time. The production, for example, is very good (not even remotely lo fi) and the playing can be highly melodic at times. But instead of being really engaging, I find myself sort of tuning in and out over time. Riffs that would’ve been interesting for 30 seconds are stretched out to last for 3 minutes which causes the songs to just blend into each other ’cause your ADD just kicks in.

And for me, it was ADD that killed this record, not necessarily the music. There are some really solid riffs on here and a few engaging songs in a row right in the middle of the tracklisting: from the acoustic track “Children of the Stones” through the following track “The Ruin” to the 10 minute, but still engaging “The Honour of Good Men on the Path to Eternal Glory”. Pretty much beyond this I was out somewhere chasing butterflies, writing letters to my dear old aunty and rocking back and forth screaming “BOOOORING!” And it’s a shame, because to repeat myself, there are glimmers of goodies that pop up (“A Forest Thick With Oaks” is quite impressive, for example), but the composition feels forced and repetitive. But the band really does differentiate itself from the herd because of the really fantastic acoustic work that is on this album.

That said, I also think this record will go down with fans of this modern pagan style o’ black metal. Fans of bands like Negură Bunget, Cobalt, Drudkh and Fen are encouraged to give these guys a chance. The style is similar enough that I think that the type will appreciate what these guys are doing very well: solid riffs, good atmosphere and awesome acoustic composition against a black metal backdrop. But whether or not these guys will wind up being anybody’s record of the year is definitely not something that I’m prepared to predict. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t let my short attention span kill your joy.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/rich.bendall Rich Schwiing Bendall

    Personally I was quite surprised by this review. I get what you mean when you say it drags on a bit, but the strength of a few songs, notably the Fields of Reckoning and the Gateway to the Dark Peak really stole the album for me. If you didn’t like this album maybe do a review of their newer release, The Threnody of Triumph, much more melodic and hooky imo.