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Winterfylleth - "The Mercian Sphere" (CD)

Winterfylleth - "The Mercian Sphere" CD cover image

"The Mercian Sphere" track listing:

1. Gateway to the Dark Peak & The Wayfarer Pt. 1 - The Solitary One Waits for Grace
2. The Wayfarer Pt. 2 - Awakens He, Bereft of Kinsmen
3. The Fields of Reckoning
4. Children of the Stones
5. The Ruin
6. The Honour of Good Men on the Path to Eternal Glory
7. The Wayfarer Pt. 3 - To Find Solace... Where Security Stands
8. When the Woods Were Young
9. A Valley Thick with Oaks
10. Defending the Realm

Reviewed by on November 1, 2010

"Their newest release, 'The Mercian Sphere,' picks up right where their debut left off - replete with Anglo-Saxon lore and echoes of a country where modernism has uprooted the core values of pride and nationalism."

Winterfylleth is a quartet from Manchester, England that has released their second full length album, which combines the storytelling of folkloric music with the ambient noise of black metal. Their newest release, "The Mercian Sphere," picks up right where their debut left off - replete with Anglo-Saxon lore and echoes of a country where modernism has uprooted the core values of pride and nationalism.

"The Mercian Sphere" succeeds in many ways as a record that can mesh the genre of folk with the extreme nature of black metal in a way that comes of sounding very British. The first three songs are a trilogy of sorts, commenced with the nicely dreary tune "Gateway to the Dark Peak - Wayfarer Pt. 1." The listener can truly become enveloped in the moroseness of the time changes and the ominous chanting which are ubiquitous throughout it. After an unremarkable second installment "Awakens He - Pt. 2," the trilogy picks up with a nice conclusion "To Find Solace - Pt. 3" in the form of a good drum beat at the forefront of an infusion of other instruments. "The Honour of Good Men" combines a good acoustic intro with a standard mid-tempo offering that comes across loud and proud.

Winterfylleth have a sound that is decidedly their own. They can spin a yarn of battles long gone and the beauty of the English countryside with results that are as convincing and mood evoking as Forefather or Skyclad. "Defending the Realm" is an absolute gem of a song where the black metal tempo slows up and the time changes compliment the catchy delivery. Decidedly not lo-fi like much of black metal production is today, the band achieves a very good overall sound that differentiates both the vocals and lyrics. "The Fields of Reckoning" contributes a very good back beat to the guitars in such a way that sadness is evoked.

These interludes between the folk and the black metal genres work so well in a few of Winterfylleth's songs, so it is unfortunate that this method wasn't used more often in some of the other material on this release to make it more distinct. Listening to tracks such as "The Ruin," I find myself tuning out. That ambient drone that makes up much of black metal guitar riffing is good for half a minute if varied with time changes and other riffs, but mundane otherwise. If you try to stretch out the same monotonous riff for the whole song, it is quite tedious. "A Valley Thick with Oaks" struck me the same way, with not enough differentiation to make it individual.

"The Mercian Sphere" also has some nice instrumentals that stand alone and achieve good musical results. The combination of acoustic guitar and cello on "Children of the Stones" is both haunting and poignant in its effect. The instrumental tracks stand alone and are not part of other tracks, but are nonetheless introspective and done nicely in their earthy manner. Winterfylleth is onto something very interesting in their distinct sound as a band and will undoubtedly progress with time if they focus on songwriting that covers all of the tracks well. When they blend both of the elements of the folkloric and black metal in a way that is non-redundant and flows in the changes of a song, the results are highly appealing.

Highs: Very capable fusion of folkloric and black metal that is distinctly English.

Lows: The elements that make them shine are not worked enough through all of the songs.

Bottom line: Winterfylleth possess their own unique sound and are a band to check out.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)