In case you missed it, Manchester’s premier atmospheric/pagan black metal act Winterfylleth released their sixth album The Hallowing of Heirdom last week, April 6th, 2018, through Spinefarm and Candlelight. Since their inception, the act’s atmospheric black metal sound has been espoused with majestic neofolk which made them a band to watch in the international folk metal scene. With Hallowing, at least for now, the act is committing to their folk influences with nary a distortion pedal or blast beat in sight, instead opting for lush folk instrumentals and massive vocal harmonies that fans of acts such as Ulver and Ulvesang are sure to love.
In celebration of their new project, Winterfylleth guitarist and vocalist Chris Noughton was kind enough to share with us a rundown of the records that shaped his growth and development as a musician. Get a glimpse at the anatomy of Winterfylleth below.
Chris Naughton (Guitars/Vocals)
Thinking about my influences as an artist and as a performer over the years, I’ve decided to break down my three album choices for this feature into the following categories: (1) An album I personally view as a ‘modern classic’ of the genre. Particularly within the sub-genre of Black Metal that Winterfylleth sit within (2) The album that was the catalyst for me starting to write Black Metal and form Winterfylleth in the first place, and (3) A fantastic new album, by a reasonably new band, that proves there is still great hope for this genre, 30+ years after it was first instigated.
That considered, those three albums are:
Primordial – The Gathering Wilderness (2005)
Drudkh – Autumn Aurora (2004)
Whoredom Rife – Dommedagskvad (2017)
Primordial – The Gathering Wilderness
When I first heard this album, I have to admit that it didn’t immediately register very positively with me. It has this cold, oppressive, almost uncomfortable element to the production that really sets it apart from any of the other Primordial albums – and at first, I found that quite hard to penetrate. Looking back on it now, it’s interesting to me that this almost intangible ‘uncomfortableness’ about the album is exactly what makes it such a great album in the first place. It feels like the output of a band who are not quite comfortable with the world, with certain issues, or perhaps even with each other, yet know that they HAVE to put these feelings and words out into the world through their music. The songs on this album are mighty in that they are brooding and tragic, but also speak to some deep-seated elements of history, and to heartfelt, unspoken truths, that have come to underpin the modern psyche in Ireland. It is also, in my opinion, the album that began a golden era of three essential albums from the band. “The Coffin Ships” is what really nailed Primordial’s existence to the mast as an essential band of this genre for me, while giving them a classic song in their repertoire that will always be relevant, or loved by the fans.
I love how the band seems to pour out their hearts in the lyrics of this album, and in doing so manage to highlight the hypocrisy and tyranny of politics throughout the ages. That we should be so callous as to think we are currently living in more ‘enlightened’ times as I sit here typing, yet the struggles of old still manifest in our cultures today. They just arise with modern means of expressing the same insidious sentiments. It is when Alan sings an almost half spoken/half sung, slightly ‘in the background’, linking lyric in the middle of “The Coffins Ships” that I personally really feel the exasperation and heartfelt sorrow of the entire album come to fruition. “Oh god, that bread should be so dear, and human flesh, so cheap”. A true reflection of what oppressive, misdirected, political power can do to a whole nation.
I think Winterfylleth really came to look into the stories of glory and of tragedy in our own country as a result of bands like Primordial doing it so passionately and effectively before us. It also really resonates with me that a band like ours could address these kinds of topics within Black Metal, instead of feeling the need to sing about Satan or nihilism.
To sum this up, while I think To The Nameless Dead is probably Primordial’s greatest album, The Gathering Wilderness is the one that best represents why they’re such an important band for me. As I know it was the one that really got me thinking about issues in a different way. I think that ‘spark’ and the sentiment that comes from inspiration like this is what makes Winterfylleth such a powerful tool for me to express my opinion, distaste and gratitude for the elements of our national culture and history that I think are important to discuss. If through all of this we can aspire to have such an impact on the next generation of bands and individuals coming through the ranks, that will be very fulfilling. As that influence will have come full circle.
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Drudkh – Autumn Aurora
I first heard Drudkh back in the early 2000’s when they were still quite a small, obscure band from the Ukraine. A band who had only put out one album (Forgotten Legends) at the time. My friend, Martin Patterson (‘Doomlord’ to his friends) was the one who introduced me this album, just after it had been released in 2004. All I can say is that it was nothing short of a revelation for me. So, I guess I owe him a lot for that! As it quite clearly led me down the path we now tread with Winterfylleth – and have done for at least the past decade or so.
I had heard and loved a lot of the early 90’s Norwegian BM albums before this one, but none of them had ever really resonated with me in the same way this album did. This album spoke to me strongly in the way that no others had really done before it. I think it did that because it seamlessly linked melody and folk music into what was essentially quite an aggressive, lo-fi genre of music at the time. The ‘wall of sound’ and the atmosphere that was created by the chord shapes, and the songwriting, was what came to be truly important about this album for me. The way the songs seemed to melt over you without losing any of their bite, while creating an entirely colourful palate of sounds in an area of music that was usually filled with black and white. It meant a great deal to me that a band could do that without losing the spirit of the genre, and in a way that felt new and different.
A perfect 10/10 album to my mind, and one they wouldn’t rival until their fourth album Blood In Our Wells.
Moving into more recent times, Winterfylleth has been fortunate enough to collaborate with Drudkh, on a number of occasions. We did a split album with them in 2014 and collaborated on a folk compilation they were curating also. More personally, I also got to ‘sing’ in Drudkh on two recent splits they did with Grift & with Paysage D’Hiver in 2017. Funny how these things come about! All because my friend showed me an album he liked 15 years earlier!
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Whoredom Rife – Dommedagskvad
The selection of this particular album probably goes against the point of this article in that I wouldn’t say it is an ‘influential album’ for me. It’s just a great album. It’s also one that signifies the continuing strength and ability of musicians in this genre, some 30+ years after the term Black metal was coined.
I would say that this album is quite a ‘Norwegian’ sounding Black Metal album in most aspects, other than it has got dynamite modern production. It’s clearly made by guys who are masters of their craft – in that it’s got that ‘old school’ feeling of early 90’s BM, but also has a welcome, modern punch to it as well. One thing that I think is important in making a great album is that there have to be good riffs and, dare I say it, hooks in songs that draw you in and make the songs stick with you after they have finished playing. Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that bands like Portal or Impetuous Ritual exist, as they consistently push metal into some absolutely crazy, abstract territories like nobody else has done before them. But, for me, I need to be able to feel and remember songs as well as be blown away by the experience of listening to them, and for that, this album delivers in spades.
Right from the get-go the songs are just filled with massive riffs and the power to keep you gripped in their wake. They are not overly complex or super technical, they are just great songs, and ones that are welcome to the ears. It feels like the band have put everything through a stringent ‘shit filter’ in the making of Dommedagskvad and have ultimately come out with 37 mins of distilled, essential Black Metal that leaves you wanting more. Just like any memorable album should. Songs like “Beyond The Skies Of God” or “Spir” have such immediacy and potency that you can’t help but sit up and listen to them. They feel crafted and essential, containing absolutely no filler. A rare thing for albums these days, and an outlook that harkens back to a time when “the album” as a whole was what’s important, not just a selection of less good songs built around three key singles.
I suggest you go and listen for yourselves to understand what I’m saying.
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Moving Into The Current Era Of Winterfylleth…
As a complete tangent to the immediacy and energy of Whoredom Rife, we in Winterfylleth are releasing a completely acoustic album this year. We’ve done this to explore a different side to our sound, having released 5 albums of Atmospheric Black Metal over the past 10 years. While I love a straightforward, amazing BM record filled with riffs and hooks, I also love it when bands explore a slightly different side to their music. At least when they are the kind of albums that unpick the roots and influences of why the band formed in the first place. For me, that meant that we could explore our aforementioned folk influences in a more focused way. As to me, the folk influence of our ancestry was something key to the birth of our nation and is something that has led us to where we are now.
I feel like through doing an album like The Hallowing Of Heirdom we have tried to pay tribute to that early music in a way that makes sense for a Winterfylleth album, and in a way that helps us to bring relevance to some ancient customs and interesting aspects of history through a different medium. It comes out on April 6th through Candlelight/Spinefarm Records. We hope you are enticed enough to go and check it out for yourselves.
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The Hallowing of Heirdom is available now via Spinefarm and Candlelight Records. Stream and purchase the album digitally via the Bandcamp player above or in physical formats at this location. Follow the band on Facebook for news and updates.