UK black metal has spent almost all of its history being an absolute joke. Cradle Of Filth and Hecate Enthroned were probably the only bands anyone could name off of the top of their heads and only then for all of the wrong reasons.
Fortunately, around 4 years ago things started to change. Something had been growing in the underground for a while and when the likes of Wodensthrone, Cnoc An Tursa, Fen and Necro Ritual started to make serious headway it wasn’t long before a legitimate UK black metal scene had sprung up. Winterfylleth have arguably led the charge and received much well deserved acclaim for 2010’s “The Mercian Sphere”. Before imminent new material, a re-release of 2008’s overlooked masterpiece “The Ghost Of Heritage” comes forward to plug the gap, and remind people of what has always been so great about this band.
The Winterfylleth sound is entirely distinctive and immediately recognisable. There is a definite Slavic influence that underpins the instrumentation and echoes of Walknut can be heard distinctly. That said, that’s not to paint Winterfylleth as a tribute band, as these tones are taken and manipulated, contextualised and ultimately made their own. When you listen Winterfylleth, it’s not a bitter Siberian landscape that one pictures, but that of ancient war-torn Albion. This is black metal with an inherent but intangible sense of Englishness, and the history of the British isles saturates every pore of this higher-tier release.
Stacking up against later material, Ghosts Of Heritage is considerably more raw. Production is dialled further down, although the impression is that this is accident rather than design. The effect is to create a more traditional black metal sound than was seen on “The Mercian Sphere” but as with that record, it’s the real sense of melody that elevates this beyond the pretenders.
“Brinnoth The Battle Of Maldon” is an example of this melodic sensibility, and illustrates a masterful understanding of how well the juxtapose between complex, sophisticated black metal and melody can work so well. There’s a central hook throughout the song that drives everything forward without compromising structure or intent.
Moving throughout the album, this quality is maintained and it really is a case of each song building upon and bettering what came before it. Looking back, it is astonishing to think that this was the band’s debut release and the maturity of the song writing speakers volumes about why Winterfylleth have so much focus on them right now.
Continue to wait with baited breath for new material, but in the meantime “Ghosts Of Heritage” is entirely worthy of your time. To revisit it now is to remember how vital sounding was back in 2008, and how none of that primal energy has been lost in the last four years. If you didn’t get a chance to hear this back then, “Ghosts Of Heritage” is essential.