I’ve spoken (a number of times) about it being a good year for non-Scandinavian black metal. As mentioned back in August, add England’s Winterfylleth to the list via their excellent second album The Mercian Sphere. The folky, progressive pagan/landscape black metal quartet features two members of expansive Manchester doom crew Atavist — there used to be three until Wodensthrone’s Richard Brass left — and they’ve really stretched things out to 60+ minutes on these 10 dense, autumnal tracks. (It’s safe assuming they’re fans of earlier/mid-period Ulver, later Enslaved, Wolves In The Throne Room, and the entire Drudkh catalog.) “A Valley Thick With Oaks” offers a good sense of The Mercian Sphere‘s various textures, sounds, and approaches. Minus the dusky Hunter’s Moon fair conjured by the acoustic, stringed folk instrumental “Children Of The Stones,” the epic black metal serialism of the “The Wayfarer Pt 1. – Pt. 3″ triptych, the around-the-campfire guitar strum of “When The Woods Were Young.” Still, enter here. Their first collection, The Ghost Of Heritage, made my 2008 Honorable Mention list, the new one will have a number next to it.
The Mercian Sphere
01 “Gateway To The Dark Peak/The Solitary One Waits For Grace (The Wayfarer Pt I)”
02 “Awakens He, Bereft of Kinsmen (The Wayfarer Pt II)”
03 “The Fields Of Reckoning”
04 “Children Of The Stones”
05 “The Ruin”
06 “The Honour Of Good Men On The Path To Eternal Glory”
07 “To Find Solace… Where Security Stands (The Wayfarer Pt III)”
08 “When The Woods Were Young”
09 “A Valley Thick With Oaks”
10 “Defending The Realm”
The Mercian Sphere is out 10/12 via Candlelight. Take a listen to “The Fields Of Reckoning” at MySpace. And I’d be remiss not to mention… Winterfylleth parted ways with the bassist causing most of the problems (and lost R. Brass in the process), but the band will inevitably still be pegged with the NSBM tag because of an iron cross on the last collection’s album art, interviews like this, and because, as their press release puts it, “lyrically, the band delve into tales of England’s archaic history, re-counting major events, battles … drawing inspiration from certain sites and scenery that grace the countryside of England and have played an integral part in the country’s history.” It’s easy reading a lot into statements like that once the name calling’s started. The band refutes the past accusations. In the Summer 2010 issue of Terrorizer, vocalist/guitarist C. Naughton says:
I really don’t want to associate with far right politics, but there is also an element of danger and mystery to it and I can’t pretend that this whole thing [i.e. the online discussion inspired by their old bassist, etc.] hasn’t helped put us in the spotlight. We’ve moved on from that now, but if people find us provocative, then maybe it will encourage them to learn more about the things we’re writing about. It’s about finding the path of enlightenment and engaging with your culture, instead of just being part of the mindless TV generation. People just accept things the way they are, but if you don’t know where you’re from, how can you see where you’re going?
Cop-out? Irresponsible? A trumped-up non-issue? Thoughts?