WINTERFYLLETH  "Sons of Albion"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Does any country have a past to rival England's? Such a small island to contain such great events and mighty personalities...names like Arthur, Henry, Elizabeth, Cromwell, Victoria and even Sir Winston Churchill all evoke strong images and feelings. From the mists of the distant Celtic past to the Blitz of World War 2, the British Isles have stood strong in the memory of man.

Hailing from Manchester, a city with a rich musical history, comes a band dedicated to celebrating all that is British: Winterfylleth. In ancient English tongue, Winterfylleth was the month of October, a time to celebrate the harvest...and dread the coming of winter. The band Winterfyllth celebrates the mythic nature of Britain through epic, blazing black metal laced with folk influences and a feeling of archaic mystery. The band has made a big impact on the extreme music scene with releases such as "The Ghost of Heritage", "The Mercian Sphere" and now, "The Threnody of Triumph".

Winterfylleth member Chris Naughton is a thoughtful man who is passionate about his band and his birthplace. I was privileged to delve into the misty past of Britain with him in the following interview...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES:  What did you want to accomplish with "The Threnody of Triumph" that perhaps you didn't with previous Winterfylleth releases?

CHRIS NAUGHTON: On this album we wanted to add more dynamic into the mix than ever before and I also think we wanted to push the emotion and passion that comes through in the music. We opted to use more lead guitar and harmony work within the songs to give them another dimension that we have never had in our music before. I think we have also gotten better as musicians and as a band, so we were able to push ourselves as writers on this album and explore different aspects of the music we make as Winterfylleth. I think that really shows through in the finished product and from the initial murmurings and reviews; it would appear that it is resonating with others as well.

 WC: What is the meaning behind the title "The Threnody of Triumph"? Is the triumph the liberation of the soul from the body?

CN: A threnody is an ode, or deathly lament to those ones who you love and have lost. As such the album title embodies a whole concept about mortality and how ancient Britain’s viewed the link between the body & soul, as well as the process of the two separating and moving on. The triumph is actually about the celebration of a life once you have come to terms with the loss, as opposed to the liberation of the soul from the body. The songs discuss how the body and soul do not want to be separated and are lost without one another, dwell in the middle ground lamenting the loss and finally come to acceptance and move on. At which point all is at peace and their life can be celebrated.

WC:  It looks like much of the album is inspired by life after death and the transition therein. Is "Threnody" a concept album that's tightly connected or loosely linked?

 CN: Threnody is absolutely a concept album, as are all the albums we have done to some extent. As I mentioned before, the album tells a story about the process of the body separating from the soul, moving on, being lost in the in between before moving on to the next place. All the songs tell the story and are linear in their progression through this tale.

WC: You take great inspiration from the landscapes and structures of Britain. What sights provide the most inspiration to you?

We always get asked questions like this. I don’t think there is somewhere specific that provides a sole inspiration to what we do. The inspiration usually comes from our investigation into the history of a place we have visited or a story we are interested in. The landscapes almost help to frame the ideas by becoming the visual representation of an untouched, ancient world, or as a representation of the story you imagine from the tales you read. If I had to pick anywhere that has inspired us on more than one occasion it would be the peak district and the town of Castleton. This place has become a bit of a spiritual centre for the band and has helped to shape at least one song on all of our three albums. The photo on our debut album cover is from there, as well as the inspiration for the first track ‘Mam Tor (The Shivering Mountain)’. Some fans of our band have also done little pilgrimages to the place and climbed Mam Tor before coming to see our shows and things like that, so it’s nice that it inspires others to go and investigate the history of that place.

WC: What periods of British history are ‘fair game’ for Winterfylleth? I sense you are mostly moved by the period before the Norman Conquest, but does it range further than that?

CN: I think any period of history is fair game to us. We have concentrated on ancient history and how it relates to the modern world. But in most things we do, there is also a link to modern history and the tyranny and struggles we face as people in the world right now.

WC:  What would you say was the defining moment of English history?

CN: To pinpoint a defining moment would be to know and understand the entire history of the British Isles, which is simply not possible. The aim in all of this is to keep reading, researching and learning about what has come before us and how it relates to us now. Only a foolish person would claim such things as knowing the defining moments for a nation. There are many sources about what has occurred with many varying perspectives. The truth is that no one could know conclusively, only speculate, which I do not like to do. What is written about and what actually happened tend to be very different things, so one must endeavour to scratch below the surface to even understand fundamental moments in history, never mind to pin their hat on what the most defining moment is.

WC: Could you ever see yourself devoting an album to one particular character from English heritage? I've always been fascinated with Arthurian themes myself.

CN: Not currently, but you never know what we will decide to do in future albums. I think the idea about a character is not quite what we are about, in that we are trying to relate ancient history to the struggles of now. Themes and stories rather than characters represent that better across a whole album, so I can’t see that being something we would do specifically.

WC:  Unfortunately, whenever a European band celebrates its heritage, there are always those who criticize it as right-wing or even Nazi-like. Have you had to deal with much of this and how do you counter it?

CN: Of course we have, I think it’s been very widely publicised. People are irrational, reactive entities when they are part of groups and are quick to judge on little information. These kind of things follow you around for a while, but I'm hoping we have moved passed any of that, particularly as we were invited to play at Wacken; a country where sensitivity to these sorts of issues is top of the agenda. I think we have had a press battle to do for a while on these types of issues, but as long as you are clear and face the questions head on, then people start to realise it is not true. There is a great quote from Winston Churchill which sums up a lot of the nonsense surrounding these types of situations which goes "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

WC:  What's the reaction to the band on the European mainland? Do you find fans there receptive to your themes?

CN: Absolutely, the European fans have been great. We spent a lot of this summer touring the European festivals and playing to fans who had never seen us before. We were inspired by how many came to see us play and wanted to talk to us afterwards and express their interest in what we do, and how it has impacted them.

WC: "Threnody of Triumph" has a kind of positive, uplifting vibe to it, or at least I think so. How important is a positive feeling to your music?

CN: Really? I actually think the album has quite a sorrowful feeling and builds towards a positive ending. I think that feeling in general are important in what you do because it gives the music an personality and an emotion that helps you link it to a time, place or specific tale. As such we try to have a range of feelings in what we do, both positive and negative to reflect the subject matter.

WC:  You draw inspiration from black metal, but is it fair to call Winterfylleth a black metal band? You don't seem to focus on hate and negativity as much as most BM bands do.

CN: Well, we never said we were a strictly ‘Black Metal’ band. Hence the English heritage bit. I think we are mostly a black metal band, but our intention was also to include elements of the early music from the British Isles in what we do. That is why we put the folk influenced tracks on there as well as the Gregorian esque chanted vocals. Black Metal was popularised in Scandinavia, but for us it was about bringing it back to the UK, so we tried to expand on it and add in other elements that make it relevant to us. So in the strictest sense, we were never going to be an orthodox BM band like the ones most people know. You can’t stay static forever and I think for us to do something that has a meaning it needs to mean something to us. Not be a parody of someone else.

WC:  Your music is very much speed oriented. Is this the course you will stick to or could you see yourself slowing it down in the future?

CN: I think we knew that a lot of our music was quite fast in nature, hence why we included songs such as ‘A Soul Unbound’ on the new album. This is more about building a slower more epic feeling rather than a straight off fast one. It also highlights the broader scope in what we can do as a band and was a great thing to do as a change. I'm not sure whether we are heading down a depressive black metal vein or anything, but I think it can be good to add different dynamics into the albums to keep things interesting.

WC:  What are some of the folk influences of Winterfylleth? Will they take a greater part in your sound in the future?

CN: There are probably too many to mention. Some of them are bands like Steeleye Span, The Albion Band & Fairport Convention, but also newer folk artists such as Julie Fowlis, Drohne & Barron Brady. I’m not sure whether they will form a greater part of our sound in the future, but we have recorded a folk EP to come out after the album, next year!

WC: What have been the high and low points of your career so far?

CN: High points would be things like: -

-          Signing to Candlelight

-          Getting album of the month in our favourite magazines for our last two albums

-          Playing European festivals to loads of people and feeling the energy from them.

-          Getting to play with Primordial

 There are probably too many positives to mention. Low points would be around the false controversy caused around us and the fallout from that. Otherwise it's all been a positive curve for the band.

 WC:  Is playing the States a possibility? Maybe hooking up with someone on a package tour?

CN: Yeah I think so. I’m sure we will get over there at some point in the not too distant future. The timing and offer just need to be right and we will be there.

WC:  Do you think some of the English ancestors of the past would be dismayed by today's world of technology, which seems to make us weak and dependent?

CN: I don’t know, to be honest. These would be people of another time and another world. They would have no concept of our modern world I should imagine. I think technology helps us to create better versions of our own features, with which we can do great things. The sad thing tends to be the levels of suffering and greed that goes into the manufacture of these products in certain parts of the world is more a reflection of our weakness as a human race and our dependency on money and power.

WC:  What's the last album/CD you got just because you wanted to listen to it?

CN: Evoken - ‘Atra Mors’. I always loved the band and was keen to hear what they could do next.

WC: What's the last gig you attended just because you wanted to check out the band?

CN: I think it was Aura Noir in Manchester, because I’d loved that band for years but had never had the opportunity to see them live.

WC:  If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?

CN: Carl Sagan, Alfred Wainwright & Charles Darwin.

WC:  Any last words for the faithful?

CN: The new album ‘The Threnody Of Triumph’ hits the shops on September 25th. See you on the front row very soon!