Black Metal & The British Landscape

Has this country ever truly produced a classic black metal band? We don’t mean those who slavishly ape the best and worst aspects of their Scandinavian forefathers but a band to bring something new to a scene that can so often feel stifled by history. A band who can convey the microcosm of English experience in the context of universal themes. Struggle. Survival. Spirituality. Many have contributed – Akercocke, Cradle Of Filth – but few, if any, have truly nailed it

With their new album The Divination Of Antiquity Winterfylleth might just be that band. Snapping at the heels of tour-mates Behemoth as creators of the most monumentally ambitious album of the year they are return as a musical force wholly committed to condensing several millennia of evolving English society into some epic pagan-leaning black metal. Coupled with an obsession with the dramatic landscapes of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire that borders on the religious, the north-west quartet’s fourth album is clearly a career high. Hell: a black metal high.

“In many ways we’re the pariahs of black metal,” says frontman/guitarist Chris Naughton. “Black metal has always been about nihilism, evil, anti-Christianity, Satan – that’s the black and white perception anyway – but we’ve never been about parodying Scandinavian bands as our social scenario is different. It’s 2014 now and our sound is a lot more English landscape-orientated, and therefore could be perceived as positive in some ways. There’s more doom and progressive element on the new album, more melodic leads. It’s not done as an attempt to gain more fans – it’s the way we’ve evolved.”

Fans and BM afficianados will know that Winterfylleth are a band who have done things entirely their way since day one. With a deep interest in dark ages history, old English languages and dialects, traditional folk cover versions, politics (or the general rejection of) and donning their hiking boots and exploring the mountains and tarns of The North, they’re clearly painting from a different palette to your average corpse-paint-caked bedroom dwelling who wheezes at the thought of walking up the stairs. If previous album The Threnody Of Triumph suggested Winterfylleth were a serious prospect then The Divination Of Antiquity is a new addition to the slim canon of key British black metal releases. You could even call it a love letter to the English landscape.

“Landscape evokes a mental and physical reaction – even in us lot,” says Naughton. “I’ve said it before, but the coming together and layering of the elements and landscape is like making an album. In the early days of Winterfylleth we’d walk around the Peak District, the Lakes or Alderley Edge and be inspired to write music that captures that awe we felt. Bands from other countries had done it so why can’t we? There’s an inherent self-loathing within the English – perhaps it’s a social issue where we’ve been lead to believe it’s not OK to have a love for our natural history or have any national pride. Critics see that view has oppressing minorities – absolutely not, everyone is welcome here. England is what is it: a beautiful, inspiring country. Our work celebrates that….”

I interviewed English black metal band / lovers of landscape Winterfylleth.

The full piece is in the new issue of Metal Hammer. Out now.

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