Monday, 6 December 2010

UKBMW I: Winterfylleth

I'm going to get this most important and controversial of bands out the way straight off; not to do them any disservice - it would be great to build up to it, but on the other hand I can't help but want to get the irksome politics dusted.  Winterfylleth absolved themselves of any real unsavoury politics some time ago on the release of their first major album The Ghost of Heritage on Profound Lore, and have had to do so again on the back of this years The Mercian Sphere.  Dealing explicitly with themes of national identity and history is a sensitive subject within a genre famed for and plagued by National Socialism, both in bands and fans misguided interpretations of Paganism, heathenism and national identity; all themes that the genre of black metal invites discourse on.  But 'Nationalism' and 'nationalism' are not the same thing at all as the band have been forced to extoll repeatedly. As the forerunners of a new movement of self-instigated English Heritage Metal, it makes sense that they have had to answer the most questions about the fine line along which their ideal treads; so for them, their music and inspiration is drawn from the grand history of England and their locale in the imposing Peak District, simply (yet importantly) an exposition of English folklore and ancestry

In a recent interview with Lurker Simon underlined their position in no uncertain terms:

“Nationalism is the devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation, the honouring of its unique sense of cultural and ancestral identity. It does not EVER mean to hate another race of people or their culture. That IS racism. What is wrong with feeling a strong love and a bond for the land and the culture of the nation you are born of? Why is it all of a sudden now that we are made to feel bad for wanting to defend our history? The land that our ancestors have farmed, lived on and defended, our unique architecture and natural landscape, our unique set of cultural customs and folklore, and our unique history and ancestral heritage. None of these things involve hating other races or nations, just the love and care of our own. If we are not to take care of our own, surely we are forsaking our very existence?!”

For me, if they'd never used the photo featuring one of them in a Sunwheel t-shirt they could have avoided a lot more controversy.

So that's the politics, what does their music actually do?  It utilises the transcendental burst beat trance of Cascadian BM bands, such as Wolves in the Throne Room along with a more ancient sounding hoary arable texture of the kind Drudkh excel at, to crea
te dense yet fluid movements with an air of both airy regal grandeur and rough handed toil; an equal to their agenda.  Their new Mercian Sphere album, released on Candlelight Records, is far more sophisticated and elegant than their previous releases, their heathen tone finding personification in clean vocalled and acoustic sections that don't fall foul of the usual simplified cliched excursions Metal takes into those territories.  Composed in modes and keys found in traditional English folk songs the essence of their homeland is conveyed and bound into the more ovearching identifiably Black Metal sound - and the acoustic passages make their use even more profound.

They continue and expand on their exploration of English themes in greater lyurical details.  There is a trilogy of songs based on the Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Wanderer’, from the codex exoniensis of Anglo-Saxon Poetry; A Valley Thick with Oaks is a song recounting the history of the Derwent Valley in the Peak District; The Honour of Good Men on the Path to Eternal Glory details the Battle Of Brunanburh in 937 which confirmed England as a fully unified kingdom, with the Anglo-Saxon king defeating the combined Celtic and Norse armies; Defending the Realm is based on Queen Boudica's pre-battle speech that she gave to the Iceni before attacking Roman occupied Britain.  
This is the stuff that true Metal is made of, and Winterfylleth use it to add a deeply ancient sense of epicness to their music, whether it's in huge walls of electrified noise, valorious harmonies or whispered acoustics.  Not just for their controversy have I covered this band first.

Defending the Realm from The Mercian Sphere

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