Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere - 4.5/5
Black metal as a genre certainly has come a long way from its advent, evolved if you will, and yet in this quagmire of musical influences it becomes inceasingly refreshing when a band decides to use the standard approach of BM in a much more varied way without getting into the genre's odd (read: ridiculous) gimmicks. If you're looking at experimentation, I'm not against it, however, it is material such as this that proves itself to be varying without twisting its shape too much and is certainly capable of teaching a lot of artists a thing or two about experimentation.
Hailing from the UK, Winterfylleth have churned out this piece of harsh beauty two years after their debut, showing no signs of rustiness on their creativity or any laziness in their work. What we have on this release is only a little different from the debut, maintaining much of their initial style but only lengthening their creations. Does this make them repetitive? Yes it does, but it works well in how it flows along with tracks and is what their music seems to be all about. Don't be be fooled though; this is far from your average eight to nine minutes of constant blast beating and tremolo riffing. The very mystique about BM at times is to be found in the intensity and that is one objective that Winterfylleth achieve flawlessly here, despite the shifting between acoustic and tremolo passages, the band do not fail to capture the attention even for one second with their masterful work at the instruments. That and what with the tempo change in the songs, Winterfylleth manage to keep a very intelligent line of songwriting.
So if you go on with the instrumentation you might feel more inclined to make comparisons with certain bands, and obviously names like Ulver and Forefather might come to mind. This release however also displays a very interesting side to Winterfylleth which you might compare with the likes of Agalloch, and that is again their skill at the instruments. Although the beauty of the album very much appears to be in the way all the instruments are played with a certain unison, but between certain changes of tempo the guitarists also let their ability shine with a few quick solos, though by no means does any track's climax seems to have been focussed on the individual instrumental ability. Another interesting aspect of this album is the atmosphere, one might say necessary for any good BM release, and here despite the intense and harsh moments a certain romance obviously influenced by the anglo saxon heritage is created here though as you'll probably see without too many folk instruments. And yet to retain that with such turning tempos within the songs suggests a touch of genius about this relatively young band. The icing on the cake are of course the vocals which like you would expect of every good BM band deliver themselves well,icy and harsh, but again they also come well mixed with clean passages and choir choruses on several songs. Interestingly enough these choirs combined with epic built riffs provide some of the most memorable climaxes to the tracks I have heard in this or any other genre.
So to all the seasoned BM fans, if you have kept up with the delicacies churned out by BM bands this year and are anxious for more, then this album will not disappoint you.
Highlights: The Honour of Good Men On The Path To Eternal Glory, The Wayfarer, Children Of The Stones.