Album Review – Winterfylleth – ‘The Hallowing of Heirdom’

Winterfylleth 7
The Hallowing of Heirdom
Were those blast beats your last beats?

Note to self: Pay more attention to the fine print. When offered the chance to dive into Winterfylleth’s sixth full-length record, I believe my exact reaction was “Woohoo!” (Don’t judge.) “The Shepherd” opens with droney tension, quickly softened by harmonized vocal layers over pastoral violin and acoustic guitar. Goody, I think; the better to whet my appetite for culturally rich black metal. Then “Frithgeard” lilts gently forth, and I’m thinking, yeah, A Sun That Never Sets was a slow burn, too. But when “Aecerbot” similarly eschews electricity, real suspicion sets in. Is this even a black metal record?

No, it is not. While the resulting confusion meant a complete overhaul of the music adjective word bank, Heirdom is an exquisite path through rustic beauty (see?) for anyone who understands what Winterfylleth have been approaching over the past 10 years. Strummed chords appear sporadically to lend their rhythmic strength to a few songs, but Winterfylleth stir potent magics in those spacious, languid passages of picked guitar melodies dancing around a single, sweet bowed cello or violin. Where solo folk fantasists would close-mic their solitary confessions and idiosyncratic phrasing, Winterfylleth instead cleave to their long-held ethos—being equal parts wizened English folklore and metal’s chord-centric approach to sonic expression—by telling their age-worn stories with choral chant-singing.

Vague comparisons can be made to Howard Shore’s provincial mimicry in The Lord of the Rings or Snuffy Walden’s bucolic road music from The Stand, but Winterfylleth have mostly crafted their own voice by now. It’s easy to celebrate bold statements when they sound this good.