VOICES OF BLOOD: WINTERFYLLETH
Kim Kelly '08
A cold wind is blowing. The days are getting shorter, shadows are getting longer, and the skies are beginning to wash themselves grey. Another autumn lays itself to rest as winter draws near, ushered in by the dazzling glare of the full moon. It’s the perfect time of year to curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a black metal record, and Winterfylleth’s icy blend of grimmest blackness and ancient folk is the ideal soundtrack to a dark, silent night. The spectres of a proud and bloody past make their voices heard on “The Ghost of Heritage,” a blackened paean to the band members’ collective ancestry. Wreathed in atmosphere and richened by primordial chants, the album somberly forges ahead at a glacial pace, then suddenly, without warning, plunges headfirst into a raging storm of pagan fury as bloodthirsty as the warriors whose virtues it extols. Hail Heritage. Hail Winterfylleth.
As is fitting for a band whose members’ hearts dwell in the past, the roots of Winterfylleth run deep. Once fate (and email correspondence) led them to discover a mutual appreciation for European black metal and cultural heritage preservation within one another, Chris and Simon began writing what would become the first Winterfylleth demo, Rising of the Winter Full Moon. After recruiting Richard as a second guitarist/vocalist and also inviting him into Atavist (with whom Winterfylleth shares members), the circle was complete, and the band recorded their debut full-length for Profound Lore, entitled The Ghost of Heritage, which was released on October 14th, the date of the actual “Winterfylleth” - the ancient heathen festival to welcome the first full moon of winter. Based upon a desire to “create music that we would consider to be a representation of the spirit of our ancient lands, incorporating the aggression and passion perhaps associated with ‘Black Metal’ but with also a melodic slant that derives from the folk song and choral singing of our predecessors. Winterfylleth is also geared around raising the profile and awareness of our nations’ history in a country where we seem to be losing our National Identity, and whose general populous is confused about their ancestry because of over Political Correctness and Cultural Pandering on the part of our government. While we don’t feel we can directly influence political change or lobby against this level of political ridiculousness at a musical level, we can try to make people aware of what being ‘English’ has historically meant, and reinforce a sense of identity among a culturally confused populace,” explains. Chris.
Winterfylleth brand themselves as “English Heritage Black Metal,”and channel their immeasurable love for their homeland and its history through an unholy combination of menacing black metal and pure-hearted English folk. Comparisons to countrymen Forefather and like-minded Irishmen Primordial are inevitable, but the pure scope of imagination and depth of understanding these young men have of Britannia serves to set them apart.
“We are obviously heavily influenced by the legends and folklore of our land, which not only convey a spirit that is very close to our hearts, but in the same way represent the spirit of our native people, and therefore that also of our land, in the same way folk music does. Folk music is after all, the music of ‘the folk’. The people’s music! The area that we come from is geographically ideal for wandering our beloved land. On our doorstep we have the awesome and mysterious Pennine ‘Peak District’, a favourite area of ours (and one that you can find us exploring most weekends!), the epic and beautiful Lake District, the West Pennine Moors, vast and bleak Yorkshire Dales, and also the Snowdonia Mountain Range, to name a mere hand full. Most of these sites inspire our music in someway. Musically and lyrically they are all based on an interesting story and how it relates to the 21st century whether it is historically or ‘spiritually’.. It is this affinity for the land/culture and a willingness to share it with people who are unaware of it which drives our lust for learning and teaching about our heritage and land.
Such devotion to one’s homeland is surely a rare and inspiring thing to see, but, as always, the Continent’s bloodstained past may shadow the perceptions some of us have about a band that takes such visible pride in where they come from. Sometimes, the lines between what can be called national socialism and what can be called national pride are blurred, and innocent bands suffer the consequences due others who uphold far more unsavory beliefs.
“Our view point is very staunchly patriotic and proud, but is also geared around raising the profile and awareness of our history. In Winterfylleth we don’t ever worry about how we are perceived. If a magazine or an individual wants to compare us to Graveland or whoever then that is their prerogative and we can’t do anything about that. The media would much rather draw attention to a bands nationalistic viewpoint as Nazi, or Racist quickly, before they can be branded as supporting it and potentially losing sales / reputation because of their affiliation. With that in mind it is interesting to look at the dictionary definition of the term Nationalism: - devotion to the interests or culture of one’s nation. Funny, isn’t it - it’s not ‘Raving Nazi’ like the media would have you believe. In Britain, it has gotten so bad that it almost feels like the national flag is being associated with racism and that to wear it, display it or associate with it is somehow victimising the cultural minorities that live in England, which is total oversensitivity & propaganda in action. If, in whatever we do, we are saying/doing something outrageous or inaccurate then we would welcome people/media/naysayers to debate with us or question us – as we are open and honest people – but if people independently decide to portray us in a bad light without speaking to us, then I’m afraid their ignorance is their own problem and only furthers to advocate the futility of their existence. It is a journalist’s prerogative to report on facts, not on rumours and therein lays the problem of ‘The Media’ as a whole; it is far too ideologically motivated.”
As articulate and well-informed as its members may be when it comes to matters of culture and politics, Winterfylleth’s main focus is, of course, the music.
“The black metal element of our music has definitely been influenced by bands and musical projects such as Hate Forest, Walknut, Drudkh, Skyforger, Sunwheel and related projects, Enslaved, Wolves in the Throne Room, Primordial, Negura Bunget and most definitely Ulver. Bands that, for us at least, have an understanding of cultural affinity and a mix of melody/musical diversity within the ‘Black Metal’ format, by pushing the boundaries of what can be a sometimes limiting genre. The melodic/folk slant to our style derives from the folk song and choral singing of our ancestors. We are trying to deliver these songs in a way that incorporates our modern influences but is also true, in some way, to the history of our past-cultures’ music and practices. Also, the folk spirit that resides within the band runs quite deep. Take for example Simon (who grew up around folk music), his parents and siblings are heavily involved in the traditional and modern folk scenes and play in numerous different folk bands. There is a certain ‘spirit’ to folk music that draws us to it and in part it is this ‘spirit’ that we would hope to rouse in people listening to our music. We definitely feel that both folk music and certain types of black metal can manifest fantastic audio representations of the spirit of a group of people from whichever part of the world they come from. In that way they are fantastic forms of music that compliment each other perfectly, but with Winterfylleth we go one step further incorporating elements of Gregorian Monk Chant as well as some of the heavier atmosphere of doom metal in songs like ‘Forging The Iron Of England’ from our debut album.”
“Most of the debut was written by me and Simon coming up with ideas at home, bringing them to rehearsals and expanding upon them until we were happy with what we had created. Myself and Simon both independently wrote sets of lyrics based around stories we were interested in or a place that we had visited, that we felt conveyed the message of the band in a way that, links the struggles of our ancestors with the struggles of modern civilisation and informs listeners about what being English has historically meant. For example, ‘An Englishman’s Verse’ deals with uniting the various groups of Northern Europeans that made up our isles saying “Norman, Saxon, Gael, Celt / Into This Fine Mixed Mass Ye Melt”. The point of this being to raise awareness of our proud lineage, and also to remind all that before there was the plight of man made social controls - such as monotheistic religion – political correctness and cultural homogenisation, that people knew who they were and cared about their own history, rather than being landed in a era without a cultural identity.”
“Richard came along (before we had ever recorded anything) with a fresh wealth of talent that helped to craft a lot of the existing lyrics into vocal patterns. As a competent guitar player he also added guitar harmonies/lead parts to the existing tracks and, as you would expect, has contributed ideas to some other, newer, non album tracks we recorded for a forthcoming split. We then recorded as much as we could live in the studio and overdubbed what we couldn’t to create the fierce sounding EHBM barrage, evident of the Ghost of Heritage.”
“The album is out now on Profound Lore Records and will hopefully be followed up in early 2009 by a split with Richard’s other band - and fellow brothers in arms - Wodensthrone (who are also due to release their debut album ‘Loss’ on Bindrune Records in late 2008/early 2009). This release will also be on PFL and will feature unreleased tracks by both bands. We are also hoping to play a few shows throughout the year to support the record, and spread the message. In addition to that our other band, Atavist, has just released its 4th album (a second collaboration with Canada’s finest, Nadja) and we are also working on a fifth one and besides that… who knows… keep your ear to the floor.”
When asked for a last word on advice, Chris had this to say: “Always strive to be informed about issues affecting your country or your culture and make sure that if you don’t like something that is happening that you do something about it like lobby, campaign or write an album. Don’t fear the ignorance of the media if they call you a racist or try to sully your name, be true to what you believe and be intelligent with your truth. People will only “know” if they are informed and it is up to individuals like us to bypass the apathy of our “TV Generation” and get people back in touch with who and what they are. A country without a culture or an identity is like an accident waiting to happen. Bottom line, people need to feel needed and if their culture, or family – because of a cultural confusion – cannot provide them with a sense of ‘self’ or ‘community’ then this is where problems will, and do, start to arise. Don’t dwell in apathy… Hail Heritage!”