The Threnody of Triumph
10 September 2012
by Ruth Booth
If ever British Black Metal had them, Winterfylleth are the genre’s controversy-laced poster boys. The Mercian Sphere gave the scene a sound so rooted in heart and soul in Albion, it almost transcended genre. Such is the anticipation for follow-up The Threnody of Triumph – but if you’re expecting more heart-warming hearkening to the days of post-Arthurian legend, it might be time to pack up your harp and wend heme.
The Threnody of Triumph picks up the gauntlet from The Mercian Sphere, entwining early Enslaved with anglo-saxon inspired folk. Savage metal thrums with thundering funereal chants (‘The Golden Plain’), punctuated here and there with haunting elegies to the past (‘Æfterield-Fréon’). However, this time it’s more in sorrow than wistful celebration, bringing them closer in atmosphere to fellow Brit Black Metallers Fen and Wodensthrone.
In part, it’s down to theme – The Mercian Sphere drew on 10th century poetry of the Codex Exoniensis, and so bloomed with the mellow fruitfulness of the home counties. Threnody…, meanwhile, celebrates the glorious dead – and, interestingly, evokes landscapes familiar to the North. A rural England scarred by abandoned tin and copper mines, trod by lonely herds of sheep, yet no less prideful in its defiance of harsh climate and tragic circumstance. Funnily enough, and especially in the wake of current events, it may be their most modern take on the English spirit yet.
In the past Winterfylleth have been criticised for their perceived nationalist stance. This isn’t the album to make this disappear, though it does offer detractors their best answer yet. Two years ago, Thrash Hits’ Tom Dare declared The Mercian Sphere a “staggering opus… British black metal does not have the best of names. It is difficult to imagine what more a single record could do to try and change that.” He’s right – to beat it has taken two. The Mercian Sphere to show their capacity for powerful evocation of heartfelt patriotism. And Threnody… goes to show that Winterfylleth can go beyond the wistful pub sign nostalgia in doing so.
In the last few months we’ve seen the best of British pomp – the gilded pageantry of the Jubilee, Danny Boyle’s celebration of eccentricity, the fist-pumping exhilaration of international competition. Yet the flags will soon disappear from the high streets, and alongside, much of the harmony we might have felt amidst all the back-slapping. Because a true sense of cultural unity comes from not only banding together in our triumphs, but in our dark times too – and few could deny those times are now. In The Threnody of Triumph, Winterfylleth have given black metal more than just an interesting sound, or the bleak partner to their likely more popular second album. They’ve given us an evocation of national spirit that feels very real, and more than just a trick of nostalgic bombast.
Sounds like: Alfred Wainwright, if he’d been born fifty years later.
Standout Tracks: The Glorious Plain, A Soul Unbound, Æfterield-Fréon