Winterfylleth are one of the bands at the forefront of a small but growing movement of English bands celebrating England's Anglo-Saxon heritage and culture through extreme metal. Their debut album, The Ghost Of Heritage, was a high class display of melancholy yet not depressing black metal and was well received. This sophomore effort, The Mercian Sphere, has been highly anticipated by fans for some time now.
Whilst the music played by Winterfylleth is undoubtedly black metal there is, thankfully, something very different about the feel of this album that separates this band from its contemporaries. The furiously pounding kick drumming is there, the rasped, snarling vocals are present, the guitars have that undeniably black metal sound characterized by tremolo picking and the band's sound has a lot in common with a lot of Eastern European pagan black metal bands... and yet there is something fresh to the sound of Winterfylleth, something which was shown on both the debut and this album. They use some folky sounds, occasional chants and whispered vocals to add atmosphere and are not scared to deviate from the black metal norm. They also display some doom influences at times, in The Honour Of Good Men On The Path To Eternal Glory, for example, and this gives the music an even more interesting edge.
The guys also add some variety to the sound with acoustic interludes like Children Of The Stones. This song in particular adds a great deal to the feel of the album as a lament for England's lost heritage and is a beautiful piece of music.
Very often I look at the track lists of black metal bands and feel a sinking feeling in my stomach when I notice that most of the songs are of epic length and the same was true of this album. Of the ten songs, most are over five minutes, five are over seven minutes and two track surpass the ten-minute mark! Most bands, I have found, tend to repeat themselves and write boring, over-long songs. However, to my joy Winterfylleth have managed to avoid that and actually written excellent songs that keep the listener interested throughout in a way that I have only truly found before in the excellent Darkestrah.
Overall this is a stunning example of black metal from a country not renowned for producing much in the way of quality bands in this genre. Winterfylleth have released a real gem with this album and I urge you to check it out!