Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn Review

“What the fuck is this?” This isn’t only a pissed-off response to a shitty Christmas gift, it has unlimited uses for all kinds of situations. I’ve used it when my cat brought a bat into the house. I said it the first time I made meatballs from scratch. And when the bartender handed me my bill on an unrememberable1 St. Patrick’s Day. Wtf’s occur in everyday life. I’ve broken a thumb of one hand under the hammer held by the other and exclaimed the same betrayed question. Hell, I’m sure my mother pinched me out and exclaimed those same three words to my father. I sure did whisper it when I heard Winterfylleth’s The Hallowing of Heirdom. An acoustic album was not what I expected. I had hoped, instead, for a strong release to balance out the mediocre The Dark Hereafter. Upon the first spin of The Reckoning Dawn, my mouth hung open once more and I exclaimed, “what the fuck.” But what kind of “wtf” is this? The good kind? Or the bad?

Because I used a stupid word like “unrememberable,” I’m going to reward you. The Reckoning Dawn is the best Winterfylleth record since The Ghost of Heritage and The Mercian Sphere.2 How’s that for a “wtf?” For years, this prestigious site has grown sad via Winterfylleth product. And, while many of you disagree with me in regards to The Hallowing of Heirdom, it wasn’t what I wanted at the time. Hearing it again, I enjoy it more than I did when I reviewed it. But it’s still another frustrating release from the band. I didn’t want an about-face record that shied away from the band’s signature combination of ripping black metal riffs, throat-shredding rasps, Viking-esque chanting, calming acoustic passages, and rich atmospheres. I wanted the full package; a redemption piece that would have me believing in Winterfylleth again. But patience paid off.

As proof that this is no sequel to Heirdom, “Misdeeds of Faith” explodes out of the speakers with an aggressiveness I haven’t heard from the band in some time. A black metal cannonade that feels honest and spontaneous. The rasps, the riffs, the pounding drums; all have the passion of the old days, dripping with emotion and with arrangements that remind me of early-day Green Carnation. “Yielding the March Law” is similar in sound and approach, yet offers so much more due to its position at the rear of the album. The Reckoning Dawn is like a landscape painting. As your eyes focus from what’s closest to you to those objects far in the distance, you realize there’s breathtaking depth to it. As “Yielding the March Law” unfolds its blackness, choirs from the first half of the song direct the direction of the second half. It has a beauty that reminds me of Woods of Ypres.

Now, rest easy, dear Winterfyllethians. There’s still plenty of acoustic guitar pieces and passages on Dawn. As with many of their albums, some of these moments come as simple, instrumental numbers (“Betwixt Two Crowns”) or as calming introductions to violence (“Absolved in Fire”). The latter is one of the highlights of the disc, as is “A Hostile Fate (The Wayfarer Pt. 4)” and closer “In Darkness Begotten.” After enchanting you with acoustic guitars and strings, “Absolved in Fire” takes a massive turn to heavy meloblack riffage. Even pumping out a headbangable, Immortal-inspired lick before cutting free and drifting off like a Viking vessel ablaze. Returning to the days of The Mercian Sphere, “A Hostile Fate” makes a foursome of the sophomore record’s gorgeous, yet punishing trilogy. Following up the opener, “A Hostile Fate” borrows its predecessor’s choirs and blends them with greater heights of black and folk. The result is one of the most gorgeous songs on the album.

But the closer is the coup de grace. After nearly fifty minutes of musi, this nine-minute piece captures every emotion and structure of the preceding seven. The vocals are even more vicious than before, even breaking out into a Kreator-esque scream as the mid-song riffs batter you into pulp. And when you think you can’t take any more of the beating, the dreamy choirs and strings return; neither comforting you or scaring you away. At this point in 2020, this track might be duking it out with “Absolved in Fire” for Grier‘s Song o’ the Year.

With most Winterfylleth releases, it takes me a few spins to grasp it and understand it. This usually leads me to discover its flaws and then I lose patience with each listen.3 But, like Sphere, Dawn grabbed me and held me tight from the first note to the last. It’s still long as all hell, which I know will deter some of you, but it’s well-balanced. Mixing short instrumentals with six-minute black attacks and nine-minute epics keeps things interesting, rather than exhausting you (as Sphere does to so many listeners). First, it was Green Carnation’s new beauty. Now, it’s this. What a year-end list that’ll be.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kb/s mp3
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: May 8th, 2020

Show 3 footnotes

  1. I didn’t realize this was actually a word.
  2. I understand this is a bold statement around these parts but I loved Sphere, even if AMG didn’t.
  3. If you don’t know Winterfylleth, they are notorious for their lengthy albums. Which can make repeat listens difficult.
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