Released: 2010, Candlelight
This is my first experience with Winterfylleth even though it is their second album. Making the jump from Profound Lore to the larger Candlelight label things are looking up for this English quartet. Ah, merry ol’ England, bastion of all things metal, stalwart tried and true. Winterfylleth continue the fine tradition of British quality and innovation.
They are among the many bands from England that are currently embracing the heathen, pagan, Viking, Anglo-saxon, folk-lore, narrative and sound, that is so popular across the Metal world. THE MERCIAN SPHERE is a distinctly Black Metal album but one with a few different elements to distinguish from form a more ‘traditional sound’. Primarily is the use of acoustic guitar. There is a lot of acoustic guitar. In fact I’d even suggest that maybe 15-20% of the album is entirely acoustic. There are two fully acoustic instrumentals and a few of the other songs start with longer acoustic guitar passages. There is nothing wrong with that. That sound juxtaposes nicely with the ripping Black Metal contained elsewhere in the songs. There is even some fiddle (or similar type of stringed instrument) bring another aural dimension and depth to some of the songs.
It’s a long, dense album clocking in at well over an hour with most of the tracks weighing in at over six minutes and a couple at 10 minutes plus. There is certainly an ebb and flow to the record but three tracks comprise the story of ‘The Wayfarer’ to provide the backbone to the album. Much of the tone of the slower passages is quite bleak and morose which make the faster parts all the more pummeling.
The pace of the Black Metal components is very fast, driven by lots of drumming but not necessarily blast-beats. Lots of double-kick drums to be heard driving the songs along with force. The production and sound of the album is very clear, the acoustic passages nice and loud with the guitar up front and the raw vocals sit nicely in the mix. Even the slower parts with the clean, chanted vocals lines are pretty relentless recalling perhaps Bathory among others.
Well thought out, and well presented and well executed THE MERCIAN SPHERE is one of the better Black Metal albums this year. Winterfylleth exude a certain undeniable quality and charm (for lack of a better word) and I imagine will quickly secure a place among the favorites of fans of this innovative sub-genre.