Winterfylleth’s drama-rich style of black metal cascades on ‘The Divination of Antiquity’

Ester SegarraI am primed and ready for autumn to take its hold and send me catapulting into cold mornings, colder nights, and nature turning back on itself. This is always a time I begin loading up proper beer choices and records to soundtrack that time of year, and luckily, these next couple months are providing plenty of appropriate music.

One of those atop the list is English black metal band Winterfylleth and their rush of a fourth record “The Divination of Antiquity.” These guys have been pretty busy the last six years, as their debut “The Ghost of Heritage” arrived in 2008 on Profound Lore, and ever since, they’ve reported back armed with new music with consistency and regularity. And along that stretch, they’ve carved out their own sound, one that doesn’t change a heck of a lot between releases but always gets tightened and tweaked between projects. Their atmospheric, overly melodic, elegant style makes their records more like story books, and they always sound best to me as the trees are balding, the grass finds stagnancy, and we’re not yet buried in a ton of inches of snow. So this new album is hitting my doorstep right on time.

Winterfylleth coverWinterfylleth have been in the sure hands on Candlelight Records ever since their excellent sophomore record “The Mercian Shape” landed in 2010, and each time out, they figure out a way to pack their records with drama, emotions, and music that hits you like a forceful gust of wind. While they’re black metal, they’re not terribly brutal. Yes, they’ve very heavy most times, and they can slay you, but they’re way more poetic and artistic than animalistic. That’s a quality that’s made this band one of my go-to acts in the colder months, and I’ve grown to appreciate these musicians–vocalist/guitarist Christopher Naughton, lead guitarist Mark Wood, bassist/backing vocalist Nick Wallwork, and drummer Simon Lucas–for pouring their hearts and minds into each record, letting you walk away with something enthralling and human each time. “The Divination of Antiquity” is a sure-footed extension of that effort, and it’s one hell of a listen.

We launch into the record with the title cut, as it unleashes sweeping lead guitar work, harsh vocals that are just as melodic, and a surge in energy that enraptures you. The track rushes hard, at times even heads into progressive waters, and the piece develops nicely over its run, ending with hammering drums and more tremendous leads. “Whisper of the Elements” drenches you right away, like a hard-driving, cold rain pounding down. The song hits the gas pedal and starts destroying the surroundings, with more adventurous lead guitar work establishing its dominance and practically standing in as the song’s chorus. The band pulls back some as the song nears its finish, but then the switch is hit again, and colorful intensity in the guitars and bellowing vocal harmonies stand as the track’s last salvo. “Warrior Herd” is darker and more ominous than what precedes it, with the drums pummeling and the vocals being delivered more forcefully. The music cascades hard throughout this one, with the tempo rising and falling, and death metal-style vocals and enthralling drama make this thing a killer. “A Careworn Heart” is the longest cut at 9:08, and its opening is gentle and trickling. Group vocal harmonies rise, and the song steers through a mostly mid tempo, though things are no less heavy. There are some spacious moments that add a nice bit of texture, undeniable passion, and some reflective playing that allows you a chance to stare off into the cosmos and wonder about your place.

“Foundations of Ash” relaunches into chaos, with the band playing fast and viciously, the vocals actually spouting some menace, and the music hitting new levels of glory and fiery sentiment. It’s a tremendous changeup that gets your bones all shaken up. “The World Ahead” is a 3:33-long instrumental built on lush sounds and frosty guitars that’ll make your lungs go cold if you take a deep breath. “Over Borderlands” injects more danger into the puzzle, with the vocals taking on a more monstrous tone before melody sweeps in and adds more color to the scene. As usual for Winterfylleth, the music and vocals are expressive as hell, the momentum makes you feel like you’re soaring through clouds in a blue sky, and the band sings boisterously together as the track comes to a crushing end. The record closes with “Forsaken in Stone,” a track with a quiet, eerie start that takes its time heading into slow-driving guitars, post-metal-style bleeding, and the guys sounding like they are pouring their hearts and souls into this. There is a section where there is some great, spirited backing vocals hanging behind the growling, while musically, the group powers itself hard toward bringing the track and record to a finish that pays off the captivating journey you’ve experienced during these eight tracks.

It’s not quite cold yet, but I’m stockpiling music, like an animal preparing for hibernation. “The Divination of Antiquity” is going to be a major part of my spiritual and creative nourishment during that time, and I can only imagine how many visits I’ll make to this record in that time. Winterfylleth remain one of the most interesting, gifted, and reliable bands in metal, and they’re slowly carving out a legacy that should stand the test of time and be celebrated well into the future.

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