April 6, 2018 Winterfylleth – The Hallowing Of Heirdom (Album Review)
A couple of years ago, Chris Naughton of English heritage Black Metal stewards Winterfylleth mentioned in an interview with CrypticRock that his band’s sixth studio album would be a fully realized acoustic Folk creation. As the man himself promised, The Hallowing of Heirdom, featuring twelve original compositions, will see the light of day on April 6th, 2018, via Candlelight/Spinefarm Records. If any Extreme Metal band was going to attempt to create their own Traditional English Folk music, Winterfylleth seems the most suited for the task. On the strength of a solid lineup that has remained static since 2014’s The Divination of Antiquity, the band incorporated a host of guest musicians to help them create and cement this majestic piece into their growing canon.
Somber and serene, opening song “The Shepherd” features a lovely choral approach to the verses, punctuated by a contribution from Sarah Wallwork (wife of Guitarist Nick Wallwork) as well as achingly nostalgic violin to help complete the song. A bit more uplifting is the nicely wrought “Æcerbot,” with its dueling acoustic guitars. This one is quite easy to get lost inside of, as is the rest of the album. This music inspires deep thought, contemplation, no matter where you are or where you are from. As deeply English as it is, as a piece of music it is accessible and goes by deceptively quickly. The use of bowed instrumentation in this piece increases its emotional weight without losing the original melody.
One might think an endeavor such as The Hallowing of Heirdom a tall task for an Extreme Metal band, especially a Black Metal band for whom extremity of sound is the general goal when writing music. Winterfylleth, like many collectives from Europe, are armed with an extremely developed acumen and are up to the task. Take the title track, placed at the back end of the album. Anyone who enjoys the balladry found throughout the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings soundtracks will take to the mood-of-the-countryside, olden structure and layered vocal approach. The acoustic melody is pleasant and lilting, while the verses are steeped in the gravitas of history; this juxtaposition of moods works very well.
Briefer ballads, such as “Resting Tarn,” recall times of old and sojourns to lands unknown, the placement of the violins atop the guitars is flawless as wind across an empty moor. For bardic storytelling atop a glistening melody, look no further than the maudlin “Elder Mother.” The song builds to a subtle crescendo, but maintains its foundation throughout.
On “The Nymph,” a lovely poem is intoned by Angela Deeks (the wife of Winterfylleth Keyboardist/Composer Mark Deeks). This combines with somber male vocals and a heartbreaking cello to tragically delicious effect. This album, featuring collaborations by two married couples, was clearly made with love; both love for one another and love for the history of their land. This is evident in the great care and energy which reflects at the listener off of each of these compositions.
Songs such as “On Cy-dig” resonate despite only having some wordless choral vocals in them. These will come down to each listener’s preference for sedate acoustic guitar. “Halgemonath” is another interlude featuring the instrument. The true emotional weight of this album, however, can be felt a bit more in the wonderful cello arrangements by Jo Quail, as well as in the bows of the viola and violin contributed by Victoria Bernath. The sonorous vocals of Chris Naughton, Dan Capp (guitars), and Mark Deeks are also well wrought, neither too strong nor too weak. They work with the music rather than overpower it, and do the task of presenting the disappearing zeitgeist of antiquity some serious justice.
The compositions have a good feel to them as being part of a whole, yet upon further listens they stand apart from one another as well. It would be easy for the songs to resemble one another too closely, rendering a flatter listen. “Latch To A Grave” features a wonderful cello and violin introduction, with the guitars coming on a bit later. Again, the storytelling motif is present; it’s something to get lost in and transported by.
All in all, this ambitious endeavor by Winterfylleth is a pretty serious triumph, as The Hallowing of Heirdom is not something most bands could pull off. One wonders how amazing it would be if the band decided to blend their signature English Black Metal with this Folk approach on later albums. With the prolific pace that they are able to produce albums, the future looks extremely bright. CrypticRock gives The Hallowing of Heirdom 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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