Firstly, I feel the need to apologise to Winterfylleth. This should have been written well before the release date but, as with most people at the moment circumstances conspired against me. I apologise because I’ve always considered it a rare privilege to follow and comment upon the exquisite journey of this English band, and even though I’ve never really had a proper conversion with anyone other than Simon Lucas I feel a weird responsibility towards them for the words I choose.
The Reckoning Dawn, then. An apt title I believe for their sixth full length. Since their last black metal full length (2014’s fantastic The Divination Of Antiquity) they released the mini album The Dark Hereafter, a moment of drawing breath, coming to terms with the past and looking to the future. They made the, in hindsight, natural step into the wonderful detour that was the acoustic album The Hallowing Of Heirdom, embracing their folk blood and broadening horizons. They toured that with such amazing fellow musicians as Jo Quail and…this is that future.
It’s a pivotal point.
‘Misdeeds Of Faith’ opens the gates. It is a little shock at first as it pulls hard on their more forthright black metal roots. The riff is stormy, a curiously orthodox attack of rise and fall, the vocals hard and then the superb backing vocals rise up and carry the melody with it and you know immediately who this is. It’s a great blend of the old and the new, re-establishing their journey and their roots. Without lyrics I rely on the title but clearly the band are pointing some angry fingers here. It’s a great, violent and turbulent beginning.
‘A Hostile Fate (The Wayfarer Pt4)’ drives out with just a lovely low-end rumble, pushing up the speed until it hits the melodic cruising speed. Oh, the hooks here just sink in almost unnoticed, so smooth they are, and then pull you along with them. ‘Absolved In Fire’ has a melancholic acoustic opening, the gorgeous strings flowing effortlessly into a riff licked with flames. Somehow this manages to be both immediately Winterfylleth and also just a little different; the edge to the underlying sound is a touch harder than of late, a hint of Sargeist in there for me, but their affinity with melody is undiminished. The short choppy driving section is just wonderful too. This is exemplary, fierce and so accessible without being flyaway. Ah, I just once more feel that ache opening up inside as this flows over me and batters my walls. Ten minutes that simply rush by.
The title track is just classic Winterfylleth, but fresh with a guitar melody that harks a little towards the feeling Saor bring. That tinge of blackened folk metal and staring full face at what the day will bring.
Ok so we’re halfway through. I could simply continue the track by track but I really, really want you to have undiscovered places to wander within here. It’s not laziness on my part, it really is the desire to see people find their own path through this work.
What we have here is in some ways Winterfylleth facing their own reckoning dawn. The first part of their journey is done. They have reached that strange and, indeed, fortunate place where comfortable with themselves they don’t produce bad music. Nor from the three or so times I saw them in the twelve months up to lockdown, play bad gigs. The danger here was that they might find that comfort seductive, tread water, meander along the paths and byways they had already created with such care.
But thankfully they still seem to be the restless souls I love. They have some anger here in what lyrics I could discern. An eye on both past and present mistakes they see. They also still are searching musically. The closing track here is as dark and heavy as anything they have done, the slight colouring of a more black metal taint to their folky melody is opening up another possible realm of exploration. They have realised that already having broken the borders of their root sound that they can indeed go where they want and they have the curiosity and fire to do that. What is especially heartening is that The Reckoning Dawn also sees them take time and care to make sure that their black metal soul is carried respectfully with them. They have made certain they still can draw upon their roots directly and as such their fans will no doubt travel with them as they go onwards.
It’s a good place to jump on board, it’s an affirmation for their fans and it is still an exploration for the band absorbing the experiences their travels and collaborations through Europe have offered. It is angry, emotional, wistful, imperious and full of awe.