Tag Archives: Winterfylleth

10 Year Anniversary Tour

Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

Having spent a fair chunk of last week listening to various extreme metal albums (among them the rather good recent releases from Wolves In The Throne Room and Akercocke) on Friday evening it was time to experience some in the flesh at Fuel Rock Club in Cardiff.

Alpine PartyPlug Earplugs

Having suffered for days after attending a recent Death Angel show I was taking no chances this time, having invested in the meantime in a pair of Alpine PartyPlug earplugs, specifically designed to reduce the volume going into the ear without diminishing the quality heard. I found these through the British Tinnitus Association website, and having done subsequent research decided that they would make a good, fairly economical, choice. I’m pleased to say they worked perfectly and the ringing in my ears after the gig was only at the level that I’ve experienced daily for years now.

Nick Wallwork

Once I’d parked the car and navigated my way (eventually) to the club I had a quick drink in the bar. Between said bar and the performance area were the merchandise tables, and I was a little surprised to see the main attraction’s bassist Nick Wallwork sitting behind them. Before long there were loud guitar and drums sounds coming from said performance area and so I, and a fair number of those in the bar trooped through to find a space which with a capacity of just 150 matches the up-close-and-personal experience of the aforementioned Death Angel gig at Hobo’s in Bridgend.

The noise was coming from opening band Necronautical, a black metal band from Manchester. Having got their levels sorted the four-piece disappeared, only to reappear minutes later with stage outfits and corpse paint in place to storm through their set.

Flanked on either side of the small stage by red candles in candelabras, vocalist / guitarist Russ “Naut” Dobson led proceedings, with a rather Dani Filth-like spoken delivery, as he and his band (lead guitarist James “Carcarrion” Goodwin, bassist Matt “Anchorite” McGing and drummer Rob “Slugh” Harris) treated the still quite sparse audience to a theatrical thirty minute set comprised solely of four tracks from their second album “The Endurance At Night”.

Necronautical

The heat of the room meant that much of the corpse paint had melted by the time the band reached the climax of their set, but with a symphonic edge to their music (reminding me of the likes of Carach Angren) they were warmly received by the Cardiff crowd.

Setlist:

1. Strom / 2. Nihilartikel / 3. Spitzenkörper / 4. Oceanus Procellarum

1, 2, 3 and 4 originally from “The Endurance At Night” (2016)

Levy Seynaeve

It seemed only a few minutes followed before main support act Wiegedood were soundchecking and even less time before the now larger audience was pummelled into submission by the Belgian three-man outfit. Unusually the band do not have a bass guitar player, with the aural maelstrom being produced only by guitarist / vocalist Levy Seynaeve, guitarist Gilles Demolder and drummer Wim Sreppoc – all of whom are also involved with the band Oathbreaker – and I must say that the lack of bass wasn’t really noticeable.

Gilles Demolder

Whereas Necronautical have lyrical themes around the sea etc., I gather than Wiegedood’s output in concerned with death and anger. Granted it’s hard to tell what on earth Seynaeve is screaming about but the distinctly atmospheric black metal underpinning it all is certainly entrancing. I have to admit that I was a tad disappointed that Fen, the main support act from the mainland European leg of this tour, didn’t play the UK too. I have been impressed by both of Wiegedood’s albums to date but wasn’t sure what to expect in the live setting.

Wim Sreppoc

Well if you’re after witty repartee and lots of audience interaction then Wiegedood aren’t your band. Not a word was spoken before, during, or after the band’s forty-five minute appearance, as they clearly intend for their sonic intensity to be all-encompassing. And it worked as the crowd clearly responded enthusiastically to the almost trance-like wall of noise, albeit with the occasional quieter and more reflective passage (including the aforementioned Wallwork headbanging happily just in front of my vantage point). An experience for sure!

Setlist:

1. Svanesang / 2. Smeekbede / 3. Cataract / 4. De Doden Hebben Het Goed II / 5. Ontzieling

1 from “De Doden Hebben Het Goed” (2015) / 2, 3, 4 and 5 from “De Doden Hebben Het Goed II” (2017)

Nick Wallwork, Simon Lucas, Dan Capp & Chris Naughton

And so it was then on to the headliners, another Manchester black metal band – this one celebrating their ten-year anniversary – Winterfylleth. Alongside Wallwork, lead guitarist Dan Capp, drummer Simon Lucas and mainman Chris Naughton (vocals / guitar) took to the stage to do their own soundcheck. Naughton was already sporting a towel around his neck to wipe away the perspiration, such was the heat on stage – something he commented on a couple of times during the show too.

Winterfylleth

At 9:30pm they returned for their own performance, launching into “The Wayfarer Pt. I”, a track that has a singalong chant section at its close to get the heaving crowd going even more than they already were! This was my second time seeing the band live, having seen them open the show when Polish titans Behemoth played Birmingham nearly three years ago. At that time I was a bit underwhelmed by the experience.

Simon Lucas

If I’m honest (but maybe a bit harsh?) I did feel that, at times, the drumming from Lucas got a bit muddied and out of synch with the tremolo picking taking place at the front of the stage. I could be wrong, but the ex-drummer in me felt that it got that way a few times. That aside, this was a polished and extremely well received performance by a band whose brand of black metal has plenty of atmosphere. Whilst there are similarities at times with Wiegedood’s sound, Winterfylleth’s is probably better described as epic and has a much more English feel to it with the folk influences.

Winterfylleth

All too soon the show was over and it was time to head back out into the very busy Cardiff city centre. It was a bit of a culture shock, in a way, coming from the intense atmosphere of three plus hours of black metal to see a line of miniskirted students queueing to get into a club opposite Fuel! Wandering through crowds of inebriated folk on my way back to the car it struck me just how vulnerable some of these young women become when they can barely stand up having got so out of it (I guess I sound like on old fogey now!) Next up on the gig front is a far more doomy proposition in US act Windhand, but in the meantime this really was a great show with which to usher in winterfylleth (Old English for the beginning of Winter and the month of October)

Setlist:

1. The Wayfarer Pt. I – The Solitary One Waits For Grace / 2. The Ghost Of Heritage / 3. The Dark Hereafter  / 4. Forsaken In Stone / 5. A Valley Thick With Oaks / 6. Whisper Of The Elements / 7. The Swart Raven / 8. Defending The Realm

1 and 5 originally from “The Mercian Sphere” (2010) / 2 and 8 originally from “The Ghost Of Heritage” (2008) / 3 originally from “The Dark Hereafter” (2016) / 4 and 6 originally from “The Divination Of Antiquity” (2014) / 7 originally from “The Threnody Of Triumph” (2012)

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Songs From The Fyrgen

Winterfylleth

I have written in the past about Manchester black metal band Winterfylleth – looking at their 2016 “The Dark Hereafter” album as well as a 2014 live show in Birmingham supporting Polish act Behemoth. Artist Dan Capp has been involved with the creation of Winterfylleth’s artwork for a number of years and joined the band as lead guitarist in early 2015.

Dan Capp

Wolcensmen is Capp’s solo project that has been in the works for several years, and was inspired by the acoustic parts of music by the likes of Ulver, Opeth and Empyrium and also by Capp witnessing an Irish folk band playing in a Dublin pub, leading him to reflect that he felt an English version – local pubs etc. with acts regularly performing English folk music – was lacking. Wolcensmen is his answer to that void though, as he says, “…as it happens, the music I’d go on to record had none of the happy, merry-making appeal I’d first envisioned, but anyhow…” I’d venture that Wolcensmen are the English equivalent to the rather super Norwegian act Wardruna who aim to create musical representations of Norse traditions.

Children Of The Stones

“Songs From The Fyrgen” is the debut album from Wolcensmen. The “fyrgen” in the album title refers to mountain woods or a wooded hilltop, so it’s natural that the music contained within should evoke such surroundings. I suppose that the closest his day-job band come to the music found on the record would be something like “Children Of The Stones” (also the title of a super TV series originally broadcast back in 1977) or perhaps “Æfterield-fréon” – both excellent, delicate and atmospheric acoustic pieces.

Jake Rogers

So it is with this album. Beginning with one of the shortest numbers “Withershins” this is full of acoustic guitars and very natural vocals by the main man, augmented by percussion by Dan & Mark Capp, flute (by American Jake Rogers), some synthesizer (by Grimrik from Germany), piano (by Dries Gaerdelen from Belgium), cello (by Canadian Raphael Weinroth-Browne) and some ritualistic vocals from Norwegian Nash Rothanburg. Despite the multi-national support cast I feel that this record is a very English sounding one.

Grimrik

And that was certainly Capp’s intention. He stated in an interview that Wolcensmen is “…specifically a celebration of old England…”. It is also definitely thematically heathen – “…the Heathen aspect is vital, because I am a Heathen and Wolcensmen is essentially a cultural statement. It is meant to be romantic, and I simply can’t see that there’s anything to romanticise about post-Christian England. It was the beginning of our decline. The stories are mine, except for ‘The Mon o’ Micht’, which is lyrically traditional, and ‘Hoofes Upon the Shymmeringe Path’ whose lyrics are based on the names of the horses belonging to the Asa (Aesir) gods, on which they ride across Bifrost, ‘the shimmering path’, to Asgard. My other lyrics are inspired by folk tales, natural phenomena and esoteric concepts…”

Dries Gaerdelen

“The Fyre-Bough” is up next and is one of the high points of the album for me. Capp’s voice is almost acapella at points here and there are no rock star histrionics, just an understated delivery that sits perfectly with the theme of the music. The cello and flute parts really shine though on this track too. “Sunne”, the album’s briefest track at 2:42, follows and leads into the excellent “Hoofes Upon The Shymmeringe Path” which has the aforementioned Rothanburg intoning ancient Norse poetry in the background.

Raphael Weinroth-Browne

The ten-minute plus Heathen epic “‘Neath A Wreath Of Furs” contains all that’s good about the album and just about knocks the later “The Bekens Are Aliht” into second place in terms of my favourite numbers here. In truth there really isn’t a bad track here and the album as a whole is, in my opinion, up there with Skuggsjá’s “A Piece For Mind & Mirror” and “Mausoleum” by Murkur – in fact, had I discovered “Songs From The Fyrgen” last year when it was released, rather than recently, it would likely have elbowed its way onto my top ten albums of the year.

Nash Rothanburg

Another quote from Capp is that “…Wolcensmen exists for a specific purpose – to inspire people to reconnect with their ancestors and the old ways of their people. It is Romanticism – not in an unrealistic sense but in an idealistic… don’t settle for what is, strive for what could be… I’d like Wolcensmen to be a small beacon of light in an age of darkness; a small reminder to those not yet dead inside to maintain their inner-spark whilst many of those around them have let it die, wanting for nothing more than to consume and follow…” This really is a fantastic record that transports you to an arguably better time and place. Here’s hoping that this isn’t the last we’ve heard from Wolcensmen. Highly recommended to anyone with a love of good folk music, nature, mythology etc…15192708_1298269950233600_1833899633855275345_n

“Songs From The Fyrgen” tracklist:

1. Withershins / 2. The Fyre-Bough / 3. Sunne / 4. Hoofes Upon The Shymmeringe Path / 5. ‘Neath A Wreath Of Firs / 6. The Mon O’ Micht / 7. Snowfall / 8. The Bekens Are Aliht / 9. Yerninge

Pure

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The Local Woods, This Morning
The Local Woods, This Morning

When I took the dog out for a nice long walk in the woods this morning it was rather foggy, and I took a few pictures as the scenery put me very much in mind of the kind of imagery that can be found on numerous black metal albums, such as “The Dark Hereafter” by Winterfylleth, Darkthrone’s “Panzerfaust”, “In These Woods, From These Mountains” from The Wretched End and “Death Of The Sun” by Wyrd.

In The Woods
In The Woods…

Naturally this, coupled with the atmosphere such conditions evoke, led me to spin some black metal albums when I returned home. One of these albums found itself on repeat, and it seems more than appropriate that the record in question was “Pure”, the latest release from Norwegian band In The Woods…

Christian "X" Botteri
Christian “X” Botteri

The band formed way back around 1992 by three members of metal band Green Carnation – being guitarist Christian “X” Botteri, bass player Christopher “C:M.” Botteri and drummer Anders Kobro.

Adding singer Jan Kenneth Transeth and guitarist Oddvar “A:M” Moi, the band released three studio albums between 1995 and 1999 before the band split in 2000 after the release of compilation album “Three Times Seven On A Pilgrimage”.

Christopher "C:M." Botteri
Christopher “C:M.” Botteri

In 2014 it was announced that the initial threesome of Botteri, Botteri and Kobro had reunited as In The Woods… and then last year came news that singer James Fogarty was to complete the new incarnation of the group. These four are responsible for “Pure”, with additional lead guitar provided on the final three tracks by Bjørn “Berserk” Harstad.

Anders Kobro
Anders Kobro

Looking at the few pictures of the band that can be found online you’d be forgiven for thinking that In The Woods… are not perhaps the happiest of bands. Lyrically, however, “Pure” would seem to counter that to some degree with lines such as  “…a shining future waiting, a promise of the pure…” or “…we left the darkness, walking into the light…” to balance against mentions of darkness, black holes and grief.

Jan Kenneth Transeth
Jan Kenneth Transeth

Musically, the band are not straight forward black metal by any means. With progressive and avant-garde stylings present throughout their relatively brief back catalogue one could perhaps make comparisons to the likes of fellow Norwegian act Ulver. I felt there are echoes of modern-day Enslaved and Swallow The Sun to be heard within these grooves.

Oddvar "A:M" Moi
Oddvar “A:M” Moi

What’s beyond dispute (at least to my ears) is that this is the kind of album that lends itself perfectly to this time of year and the colder, gloomier weather that comes with it – just as the aforementioned Swallow The Sun’s epic three-disc “Songs From The North” from last year still does. Granted “Pure” cannot compare with “Songs…” in terms of scale and variety but more than holds its own as a great piece of work.

James Fogarty
James Fogarty

Opening with the title track the vibe is at once doomy yet spacey, and displays the album’s rich and warm production. Fogarty’s voice is powerful enough to stand out over the heaviness of the guitars, bass and drums and the compositions are both complex and accessible – which is no mean feat.

There isn’t a truly weak track on this record, but for me the picks of the bunch would have to be “Towards The Black Surreal”, “Cult Of Shining Stars” and the ten-minute-plus instrumental piece “Transmission KRS”. “The Recalcitrant Protagonist” isn’t far behind either.

In The Woods...
In The Woods…

Guitar work throughout the album is imaginative and impressive. Sometimes hypnotic and sometimes crushing, but never dull. The same can be said of the vocal lines too. I suppose atmosphere is the word that might best be used when thinking about the sound of this record.

Many reviewers have commented that the album sounds dated and disappoints in comparison to the group’s earlier work. Well, “Pure” is my entry point to the band so I am, I guess, in the fortunate position of not being able to hold it up against the likes of “Omnio” (1997) or the debut “Heart Of The Ages”. I wouldn’t agree that the material sounds dated, however. To me “Pure” is fresh, has vitality and is an organic sounding album that ought to see wider recognition that will likely be the case for a relatively low-key band in a niche genre. Good stuff!…btm

“Pure” tracklist:

1. Pure / 2. Blue Oceans Rise (Like A War) / 3. Devil’s At The Door / 4. Recalcitrant Protagonist / 5. The Cave Of Dreams / 6. Cult Of Shining Stars / 7. Towards The Black Surreal / 8. Transmission KRS / 9. This Dark Dream / 10. Mystery Of The Constellations

The Dark Hereafter

winterfylleth-the-dark-hereafter

winterfyllethI have talked briefly about Manchester-based black metal band Winterfylleth before, when they were the opening act at Behemoth’s 2014 show at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. At that time I mentioned that the band’s name is taken from the Old English for “Winter Full Moon”. Other sources have stated the word to represent an ancient heathen festival to welcome the first full moon of winter, and others still that it simply means “October”. The band’s own stance on this, taken from their official website, states that it “represents the first full moon in October as well as the Anglo-Saxon festival of the arrival of winter.”

Winterfylleth - The Ghost Of Heritage (2008)
Winterfylleth – The Ghost Of Heritage (2008)

Lyrically the group strive to portray “tales of England’s archaic history, re-counting major events, battles, the spiritual outlook of the people and the way they lived and even draw inspiration from certain sites and scenery that grace the countryside of England and have played an integral part in England’s history.”

Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere (2010)
Winterfylleth – The Mercian Sphere (2010)

This intent has led to accusations of racism in the past and the band describing themselves as English Heritage Black Metal is bound to draw comparisons with other bands who celebrate the ancient heritage of their particular countries. Inevitably this national pride is often viewed as national socialism, or simply put, Nazism – particularly during turbulent times such as those we find ourselves in these days with such fierce debate around subjects such as multiculturalism and migration where folk talking of their country’s history are often perceived as anti-everywhere-else.

Winterfylleth - The Threnody Of Triumph (2012)
Winterfylleth – The Threnody Of Triumph (2012)

I am not overly concerned with the personal views of the members of bands that I listen to, and take the view that the lyrics form a part of the whole package – just as plot elements of films and books do – and that I don’t have to agree with or endorse any such views to appreciate the music on offer, as touched upon when talking about Shining’s latest album “XI : Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends”. That said, I do not personally feel that writing and singing about the history and landscapes of your homeland should be considered as racism and that too often these days political correctness does more harm than good.

Winterfylleth - The Divination Of Antiquity (2014)
Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity (2014)

Anyway, enough rambling – what’s the new record like, I hear you ask? Well, “The Dark Hereafter” is Winterfylleth’s fifth studio album and follows on from 2014’s offering “The Divination Of Antiquity”. The first thing to note is that whilst previous albums have nine or ten tracks and clocked in at around an hour, this one contains only five tracks and has a duration of just over 40 minutes.

Ulver - Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler (1995)
Ulver – Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler (1995)

Of those five tracks one, “Led Astray In The Forest Dark”, is a translated-into-English cover of a track first recorded under the title “Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild” by Norwegian band Ulver back in 1995 on their debut album “Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler”. Ulver are one of the band’s primarily influences, along with acts such as Enslaved and Slavic black metal bands like Drudkh. The album artwork is also clearly influenced by the Ulver debut.

Chris Naughton
Chris Naughton

Another track, “Pariah’s Path”, appeared as a bonus track on the aforementioned “The Divination Of Antiquity”. This suggests that, even though band leader Chris Naughton reckons that they are about two albums further down the line in terms of writing they were perhaps a little short of inspiration when preparing for “The Dark Hereafter”?

Simon Lucas
Simon Lucas

Whether or not that is the case I do think it’s fair to say that this is another really good record from one of the shining lights of today’s black metal scene. It may not be black metal in the traditional corpse paint and Satanism sense, but there seems to be a definite shift in appreciation for history and nature in recent years and Winterfylleth’s music fits in with this perfectly.

Nick Wallwork
Nick Wallwork

This isn’t “summery” music. The soundscapes here compliment the colder and bleaker seasons and suggest the majesty and beauty of the beautiful lands in which we live. Beauty may seem like an odd choice of word for such harsh and brutal music but the elements of folk music (though there is less of that than on the previous albums) together with clean and choral vocals that form part of the sound help to give a broader feel to proceedings. I also think it’s perfectly possible to appreciate the beauty in our landscapes during the coldest and wettest times of year so see no issue with doing the same with the aural representation on this album.

Dan Capp
Dan Capp

Of the remaining tracks it is without doubt “Green Cathedral” that is the highlight and centrepiece of the whole record. Not only due to its length (using up 13 of the 40 minute total) but also due to the sheer expansiveness of the song. Apparently influenced by author Ben Myers who wrote “The Green Cathedral is a place, a series of places, a philosophy, a feeling, a mind-set, a movement, a lack of movement, a meditation. Many meditations. It is walking and running, sitting and seeing…” this is surely the group encouraging us to get out and reconnect with nature – or at very least imagine that we are doing so whilst immersing ourselves in the music (best experienced through headphones). A truly excellent piece of music.

Mark Deeks
Mark Deeks

Winterfylleth these days features founding members Naughton (vocals / guitars) and Simon Lucas (drums / vocals) joined by long serving bassist Nick Wallwork, new boy guitarist Dan Capp (who also does the artwork) and keyboard player Mark Deeks. Though the overall sonic template hasn’t altered much since day one for this distinctive outfit I do feel that each release has shown some progression and development from the previous one, and “The Dark Hereafter” is no exception.

Winterfylleth
Winterfylleth In 2015

Although if you discount the inclusion of “Pariah’s Path” it is essentially only really three new songs and a cover this is still a really worthwhile addition to the band’s catalogue. The title track and “Ensigns Of Victory” are good, if typical, Winterfylleth tunes, but the best of the record is without doubt the aforementioned “Green Cathedral” and the really great version of “Led Astray In The Forest Dark”. Well worth exploring as the winter draws in…winterfylleth-btm

“The Dark Hereafter” tracklist:

1. The Dark Hereafter / 2. Pariah’s Path / 3. Ensigns Of Victory / 4. Green Cathedral / 5. Led Astray In The Forest Dark

Sleep At The Edge Of The Earth

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I have just discovered a relatively new folk metal band, going by the name Wilderun. Unusually for this genre, the band isn’t from Europe but actually originate from Boston, Massachusetts.

Evan Anderson Berry
Evan Anderson Berry

Formed in 2012, the band comprises vocalist / guitarist Evan Anderson Berry, guitarist Wayne Ingram, drummer Jon Teachey and bassist Dan Müller and already have a well received album under their belt with debut release “Olden Tales & Deathly Trails”.

“Sleep At The Edge Of The Earth” is their second album, and what a good record it is. Opening with the acoustic instrumental “Dust And Crooked Thoughts”, I was reminded a little of the likes of the equally atmospheric “Children Of The Stones” by Winterfylleth, though I felt that this track is perhaps more Viking flavoured with the addition of choral sounds.

Wayne Ingram
Wayne Ingram

Then it’s into the four-song “Ash Memory” – a diverse suite that brings to mind European folk metal bands such as Ensiferum but also the progressive metal of Opeth. In fact the album as a whole should, I would have thought, appeal to fans of Mikael Åkerfeldt and Opeth, such is it’s breadth of vision.

The record is very well produced by the band and Jason “Jocko” Randall and is sonically rich – it sounds superb through headphones.

Jon Teachey
Jon Teachey

As well as the main guitar, bass and drums, and additional lead guitar supplied by Joe Gettler, other more folky instrumentation is employed by the band, including dulcimer, mandolin, autoharp and banjo, and there is some excellent cinematic orchestration arranged by Ingram and Müller that really enhances the whole listening experience.

Following “Ash Memory” is the nearly ten minute duration “The Garden Of Fire” where the Opeth comparisons feel particularly apt with a mixture of harsh and clean vocals and some decidedly Opeth-like guitar work. That said, whilst it may not be overly original it is nonetheless a demonstration of the very good songwriting skills of Berry, who composed the whole album.

Dan Müller
Dan Müller

“Linger” showcases the more mellow side of the band before the eleven minute epic “The Means To Preserve” which is a little like a snapshot of the record as a whole, containing, as it does, the full range of styles and tempos found throughout. A spellbinding number for sure, which leads to the closing title track which reprises the melody of the opening instrumental in a more cinematic setting – in fact, like the rest of the album, to my mind it could easily work as a soundtrack the TV series “Vikings”.

Bearing in mind that this is just their second album I am seriously impressed with “Sleep At The Edge Of The Earth” – a contender for top ten albums of 2015 without doubt…

11218565-841817262577377-8148819661218189345-o“Sleep At The Edge Of The Earth” tracklist:

1. Dust And Crooked Thoughts / 2. And So Opens The Earth (Ash Memory Part I) / 3. Hope And Shadows (Ash Memory Part II) / 4. Bite The Wound (Ash Memory Part III) / 5. The Faintest Echo (Ash Memory Part IV) / 6. The Garden Of Fire / 7. Linger / 8. The Means To Preserve / 9. Sleep At The Edge Of The Earth

Curse Of The Cwelled

c5dzShQInspired in part by the fact that yesterday was St. George’s Day, but also due to my music listening this week veering towards the extreme end of the metal spectrum, I have been listening again to Winterfylleth‘s “The Divination Of Antiquity” and Wodensthrone‘s “Curse”, both of whom celebrate the history of this country along ancient and pagan lines. In addition, I have been checking out the new album from Forefather, “Curse Of The Cwelled”.

Forefather
Forefather

Hailing from Surrey, Forefather were created in 1997 by brothers Wulfstan (lead vocals, guitars, bass) and Athelstan (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals), both taking their names from prominent Anglo-Saxon figures.

As Forefather they have six previously released albums from 1999’s “Deep Into Time” through to “Last Of The Line” in 2011. Taking their inspiration musically from the likes of Iron Maiden and Burzum, Forefather’s lyrical inspiration largely comes from the Anglo-Saxon era of English history. Like many bands of their ilk, Forefather are often accused of racism for their celebration of English heritage – an accusation that we seem to do well in this country, arguably much more so than in countries where groups celebrate their own heritage, such as Scandinavian bands?

Wulfstan
Wulfstan

New album “Curse Of The Cwelled” (cwelled apparently being an alternative archaic spelling of the word quelled) carries on the band’s mixture of black / pagan / folk tinged metal, though are more melodic and accessible than many black metal bands.

A few thoughts on some of the songs contained on this album then, and what I believe to be the inspiration behind them…

The opening track “Havoc On Holy Island” starts with monastic chanting and sounds of the sea and goes on to tell of the Viking raid of Lindisfarne in 793 CE and is a mid-paced number, featuring strong melodies in the guitar lines, and instantly draws the listener in.

Viking invaders are again the source of the more furious sounding “By My Lord I Will Lie” – this time referring to the Battle Of Maldon in 991 CE.

Athelstan
Athelstan

The atmospheric title track concerns itself with the Norman conquest of the Anglo-Saxons in 1066 and the band’s belief that things began to deteriorate from then and includes some Old English narration taken from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the modern translation of which states “They built castles all across the land, and oppressed the wretched people, and afterwards it grew ever worse. May the end be good, when God wills”.

The effects of the aftermath of the black death on farm labourers and the like leading to the subsequent Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 CE forms the basis of “Rustics To Remain”, and closing track “The River-Maid’s Farewell” is a catchy instrumental number with a strong mediaeval feel.

Considering that Forefather are a two-man band who handle all the music and vocals this is a work of great accomplishment all round. This isn’t a genre, or lyrical area, that will appeal to all but for fans of the aforementioned Winterfylleth etc. this is well worth checking out.

a135a4d4643ea74b96c27deab7daf1a1“Curse Of The Cwelled” tracklist:

1. Havoc On Holy Island / 2. The Anvil / 3. By My Lord I Will Lie / 4. Fire Of Baited Blood / 5. Curse Of The Cwelled / 6. Awakened Hate / 7. Painted With Blood / 8. Rustics To Remain / 9. Edge Of Oblivion / 10. Master Of Fate / 11. The River-Maid’s Farewell

UK Satanist Tour

20141207_115600

Friday 12th December 2014 – my second gig within a fortnight. It’s been a few years since I attended two concerts so close to each other! This one was for the penultimate show on Polish black metal band Behemoth’s “UK Satanist Tour 2014 E.V.” I hadn’t previously attended an extreme metal show, so no matter what, this was going to be an interesting experience.

BehemothFollowing the (presumably unintended) comedy security ensuring that the fans queuing up outside left a big gap, enforced by crowd barriers, for the entrance to the closed (and therefore unlikely to be used) car rental business next door, the doors of this 3,000 capacity venue opened at 6:00pm – showtime starting early to accommodate four bands before the venue’s curfew of 10:00pm – in place, it seems, to allow for the regular club night.

Having perused the merchandise stands and found a suitable vantage point to the side of the light and sound desks, at 6:15pm the show opened with Winterfylleth, a black metal band from Manchester. The band got together in 2007, and are dedicated to spreading the word regarding England’s historical ancestral past, folklore, and landscapes – indeed their name is derived from the Old English for “Winter Full Moon”. These themes definitely strike a chord with me, and I have enjoyed their four albums so far, from 2008’s “The Ghost Of Heritage” up to this year’s “The Divination Of Antiquity”

Winterfylleth At The Birmingham O2 Academy
Winterfylleth At The Birmingham O2 Academy

Unfortunately, and I cannot put my finger on why, Winterfylleth just didn’t come across very well live, to me. Visually, it’s a case of four guys wearing plain black t-shirts (and in the case of frontman Chris Naughton a plain black baseball cap too) and little in the way of movement. One might argue, fairly, that this is to allow the music to do the talking. On this front, though, their short set was a little too samey, not really allowing for much of the light and shade that graces their recorded output. With just 25 minutes to fill, the band’s tendency to the expansive soundscape meant that they were able to fit in a mere four tracks. This wasn’t helped by the guitars seemingly needing retuning between each number, which in itself caused momentum to slip a little.

Winterfylleth - The Divination Of Antiquity
Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity

Setlist:

1. Over Borderlands / 2. The Swart Raven / 3. The Divination Of Antiquity / 4. Whisper Of The Elements

1, 3 and 4 originally from “The Divination Of Antiquity” (2014) / 2 originally from “The Threnody Of Triumph” (2012)

Next up, after a very short break, were Swedish three piece heavy metal band Grand Magus. A more traditional sounding metal style, not a million miles from the likes of Manowar, with clean vocals and impressive and melodic guitar solos.

Grand Magus
Grand Magus

Although  I had not connected greatly with Grand Magus on record before, I was familiar with some of their material – which is easily more instantly accessible than the extreme metal of the other bands on tonight’s bill.

Guitar retuning was again a feature here, though less so than with Winterfylleth, but the biggest issue I had here was that, because Grand Magus are your basic power trio – guitar, bass and drums – it meant that the lack of continued rhythm guitar underlying the sparkling guitar solos left an audible hole to fill.

Nonetheless, and despite the short space of time they had to fill, the band got the crowd singing along, and were very well received.

Grand Magus - Triumph And Power
Grand Magus – Triumph And Power

Setlist:

1. I, The Jury / 2. Like The Oar Strikes The Water / 3. Steel Versus Steel / 4. Triumph And Power / 5. Hammer Of The North

1 and 5 originally from “Hammer Of The North” (2010) / 2 originally from “Iron Will” (2008) / 3 and 4 originally from “Triumph And Power” (2014)

Decapitated
Decapitated

Following another short break it was the turn of Decapitated, a technical death metal band from Poland. Formed by guitarist Wacław “Vogg” Kiełtyka in 1996, the band have released a series of impressive albums, culminating in their latest two albums, 2011’s “Carnival Is Forever” and 2014’s “Blood Mantra” achieving top twenty status in the U.S. Heat chart.

Decapitated - Blood Mantra
Decapitated – Blood Mantra

A very impressive light show accompanied the band’s brutal riffing and Rafał “Rasta” Piotrowski’s death growl vocals, and helped to visually accent some relentless drumming. Not an easy listen by any means, but I felt quite captivated by the sheer power and ferocity being exuded from the stage.

Setlist:

1. Veins / 2. The Blasphemous Psalm To The Dummy God Creation / 3. Blood Mantra / 4. Pest / 5. Exiled In Flesh / 6. Instinct

1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 originally from “Blood Mantra” (2014) / 4 originally from “Carnival Is Forever” (2011)

Behemoth
Behemoth

At 8:40pm the house lights went down again, which was greeted with a huge roar from the crowd. The atmospheric intro tape began to roll the for the headliners, black metal giants Behemoth.

Behemoth
Behemoth

Out of the darkness came the slowly building opening of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” with bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski and guitarist Patryk “Seth” Sztyber standing, hooded, on platforms either side of Zbigniew “Inferno” Promiński’s massive white drum kit in front of a huge backdrop depicting the band’s sigil, whilst frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski stepped up behind his elaborate microphone stand – like some kind of cross between a church lectern and a Roman standard – and began to unleash an epic performance.

Nergal
Nergal

Started by mainman Nergal in 1991, Behemoth have gone from strength to strength, with each album being, to my ears, musically and sonically superior to that which had gone before it.

Behemoth - The Satanist
Behemoth – The Satanist

Latest album “The Satanist”, the band’s first since Nergal’s successful fight against Leukemia, is a superb recording. Sprawling, grandiose, intense and brutal with orchestral and choral backing adding even further colour to the intricacies of the band’s music.

I must confess that my initial reactions, as I discussed the gig with my wife the next day (she didn’t come with me, with extreme metal not really being her thing) were that there were too many intro tapes between songs and not enough interaction with the audience.

On reflection, however, and having spent the past week with “The Satanist” on regular rotation on my virtual turntable, I now feel somewhat differently about the whole experience.

behemoth-2014-650x400
Behemoth

From the moment the lights went down just before Behemoth’s set began, the show became almost a religious experience.

If you weren’t aware of the lyrical content of the band’s material, the message was quite clearly visually presented. There was a lot of symbolism – the sigil backdrop, the band’s double headed eagle on the platforms, the hoods that they wore when they came on stage, the corpse paint and blood, etc. Add to that a fantastic light show, with the reds being particularly effective in adding to the aesthetic I feel.

Musically, however, is where things count the most. And it’s here that Behemoth really triumphed. I believe that something that detractors of heavy metal, and extreme metal in particular, often overlook is the sheer technical ability of many of the musicians involved. Well, Orion’s fluid bass playing anchored everything perfectly, meshing with the phenomenal drumming of Inferno.

Inferno
Inferno

Having played drums myself, I can honestly say Inferno’s speed and technique is frankly awesome! To play the way that he does, utilising all four limbs simultaneously at breakneck speed may not be unique in this genre of music, but still his performance was very impressive.

Seth
Seth

On the guitar front, both Nergal and Seth played with ferocity and precision. Razor sharp rhythms and devastating leads all combining to an all out attack on the senses.

Nergal
Nergal

Finally, Nergal’s vocals. Whilst black metal lyrics are often near impossible to decipher without a lyric sheet, Nergal’s delivery is one of the most accessible that I have heard, without sacrificing any of the “nastiness” required. Behemoth performed a brilliantly paced set, visually and musically compelling from start to finish.

The encore brought the closing track from “The Satanist”, the excellent “O Father O Satan O Sun”. As the track reached the midway point, the lights dimmed for a moment whilst the music continued, and when the red lights shone on the stage again it felt akin to a kind of black mass.

Behemoth
Behemoth

All four band members were wearing horned masks (like those on display in their “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” video), Seth and Orion standing back up on their respective platforms whilst Nergal stood still directly in front of Inferno’s kit, playing the hypnotic final section of the song whilst the spoken word part was played:

“O Lion-Serpent Sun, The beast that whirlest forth,
a thunder-bolt, begetter of life!
Thou that flowest! Thou that goest!
Thou Satan-Sun, Hadith, that goest without will!
Thou Air! Breath! Spirit! Thou without bound or bond!
Thou essence, air swift-streaming, elasticity!
Thou wanderer, father of all!
Thou wanderer, spirit of all!

Hear me, and make all spirits subjects unto me;
so that every spirit of the firmament and of the ether,
upon the earth and under the earth,
on dry land and in the water
of whirling air, and of rushing fire,
and every spell and scourge of god
may be obedient unto me.

Thou spiritual sun! Satan, thou eye, thou lust!
Cry aloud! Cry aloud!
Whirl the wheel, O my Father, O Satan, O Sun!”

– Behemoth

Setlist:

1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel / 2. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer / 3. Conquer All / 4. Decade Of Therion / 5. As Above So Below / 6. Slaves Shall Serve / 7. Christians To The Lions / 8. The Satanist / 9. Ov Fire And The Void / 10. Furor Divinus / 11. Ludzie Wschodu / 12. Alas, Lord Is Upon Me / 13. At The Left Hand Ov God / 14. Chant For Eschaton 2000 / 15. O Father O Satan O Sun!

1, 2, 8, 10, 11 and 15 originally from “The Satanist” (2014) / 3 and 6 originally from “Demigod” (2004) / 4 and 14 originally from “Satanica” (1999) / 5 originally from “Zos Kia Cultus (Here And Below)” (2002) / 7 originally from “Thelema.6” (2000) / 9 and 12 originally from “Evangelion” (2009) / 13 originally from “The Apostacy” (2007)