WINTERFYLLETH “Darkest Before the Dawn” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

In these times of hyperfast travel and communication, people don’t have the connection to their homeland that they used to. It’s up to the artists, musicians and poets to express that connection. In the case of Britain’s WINTERFYLLETH, they are deeply linked to the past and the natural contours of their homeland, the British Isles. They’ve celebrated that link through the lens of black metal and they’ve done an amazing job of it.

That’s nowhere clearer than on the new album, “The Reckoning Dawn”. After a brief hiatus where the band focused on acoustic sounds, this sees WINTERFYLLETH raging forth with majestic black metal that truly creates an aura of ancient power. In my humble opinion, it’s the best work of this band so far.

It was a perfect opportunity to connect with band mastermind Chris Naughton once more, to speak of all things British, black and bombastic. As you’ll see, he’s quite the thoughtful fellow…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to Winterfylleth! The band has roared back to life with “The Reckoning Dawn” after not doing a “heavy” album for quite some time. Did it take time for “The Reckoning Dawn” to take shape or did it snap together pretty quickly?

CHRIS NAUGHTON: I think with every album there is always going to be a bit of a journey in its creation, and its rarely simple. We tend to be working on new songs or ideas most of the time, so when it comes to making the album, we normally put in 6-12 months of really solid work on it. In doing so we try to bring together the ideas we have been coming up with, and to work on structures and embellishments etc. This time was no different really, other than the fact it’s the first time we have made a full-length metal album with Dan & Mark also writing. I think their input added a few new twists and turns, as well as helping us to filter the songs through even more creative people. I think that has shown through in the final album and I’m glad that this record reflects the whole band as writers, and not just a few members; as is the case in some bands.

WC:  How necessary was the acoustic album “The Hallowing of Heirdom” to the success of “The Reckoning Dawn” and did having your head in a different space for “The Hallowing of Heirdom” allow you to come up with new ideas that you otherwise would have never thought of?

CN: When we were starting to make Hallowing… it quickly became clear that it had to be based more on layering subtle melodies, strings, harmonies and counterpoints in our voices, where we would normally use the wall of guitar sound, extreme vocals and heavy drums etc. The main aim being to try and capture the existing atmosphere of the band and bring that into the acoustic music somehow. This necessitated us writing differently than we were used to while figuring out how to fit the instruments around each other and make them complement each other where appropriate. As a consequence of that we ended up having to write melodies and counter melodies for instruments we couldn’t play (violin/cello etc), in areas of the sonic spectrum we do not usually occupy in our metal songs. So, when you consider how we applied those learnings to the new album, it made us think more about composition, about how to add lead guitar and melody, (and keyboards for the first time) where it was needed into the songs. All of this done in a way that bolsters the atmosphere, rather than competing with it. Also, it made us want to bring strings into the songs in a more obvious way, and as such there are two metal songs with string sections on them this time too. I’m hoping all of this leads to an immediate, passionate and virulent new album that takes our metal sound that bit further than before.

WC: What is the meaning to the song and the title “The Reckoning Dawn”? Who is it that is receiving the “reckoning”? 

CN: In terms of the album title… originally, I had in mind that the “Reckoning…” in question would need to be some kind of metaphorical one; either of the mind - as this ‘war of ideas’ we see going on in society was won or lost - or perhaps as some kind of physical one; where civil unrest ultimately led to some kind of resolution or change in our approach to the world. But, either way, the Reckoning in question would signify the end of an age and the start of another. As we came up with that and built a concept on it, I had no idea we would be faced with a biological Reckoning of sorts across the world around the release of this album. So, make of that what you will. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in uncharted waters, and for the first time in generations feeling like we are on the precipice of something life altering that’s beyond our control. Maybe that will end up in us finding the humanity in one another again, after being subdivided into so many factions and idealisms over the years.

WC: How strongly are the songs on “The Reckoning Dawn” linked in terms of story? Is it a loose concept or a tightly woven tale?

CN:They are predominantly about things that “need to be reckoned with” I guess – in the same sense at the concept above. We cover a few topics like the zealotry of religious faith, corruption, power struggles, social engineering, and subjugation. We also talk about how the ancient world related to the modern world by utilising ancient prose to link those old and new struggles and scenarios together.

WC: The cover art is astonishing. What does the cover portray? Tell us about the art and how you acquired it?

CN: The cover is of dawn’s light hitting one of the peaks in the Lake District National Park in the North West of England. The scene is of the area near Great Gable & Haystacks near Wast Water (one of the many lakes in the area) in the Lakes.

Normally we try to take all of our own cover images for the albums, and Simon our drummer will go on walking missions and hikes to seek out these vast and emotive landscapes we depict in the artwork. This time, the weather, time and circumstances didn’t quite align for us to do it ourselves, and so we enlisted the help of a great photographer called Kathy Medcalf who took that picture we have used. Its so stunning and stark it almost looks like a photoshop fake, but I can assure you all its quite real and a genuine image.

WC: Is there a particular era of British history that this new album is more focused on?

CN: No, not particularly. Although our lyrical content is loosely based on Anglo Saxon poetry and prose, so there is quite an ancient context to some of the story telling, despite its links to contemporary issues.

WC:Things today are full of tension and fear. Are there lessons we can learn from the ancient Britons that could be applied to today?

CN: I’m not sure what lessons we could learn from Ancient Britons exactly, but what we can see is that no matter how technologically advanced we have become in the modern world, the struggles of old are the struggles of today. It shows that we live in a cyclical state of affairs and perhaps suggests we should use what enlightenment we do have since that period (overlooking the many things we have lost) and try to figure out a better way to move humanity forwards; as right now we are heading for a lot of issues in the future. Climate change, environmental issues, overfishing, the effects of intensive animal farming, antibiotic resistance etc. Things that are all avoidable as we know they are coming. Our forebears didn’t know as much about how to affect that change on a massive scale in an industrialised way, so perhaps we should. Particularly as we know it is coming down the line, and that profiteering is all that’s driving our desire not to change.  

WC:  Is there one track on “Reckoning Dawn” that maybe stands out a bit more to you?

CN: I think the track “Absolved in Fire” is a real standout for me, because it has so many movements and parts, and is quite an epic song. I think its about 10 mins long but starts with this flowing acoustic passage where we bring in the violins and cello. It then moves into a raging BM riff before moving into some uncharted waters for us, and there is a riff that comes out of nowhere that will really take people aback. I also think it contains some of the most heroic and uplifting moments on the album as well. A lot of people have been calling that out as an early favourite. So I think it’s definitely one that will make it into the live set very soon.

WC: Are there any more thoughts of doing another folk/acoustic album like “Hallowing of Heirdom”?

CN: After we were done with the writing for “Hallowing…”, there were still quite a lot of acoustic ideas left over, that we have yet to fully explore. One of them became ‘Absolved In Fire’, which is track 3 on the album, so we did a little bit more with that writing period, but I guess we were more focused on making a metal album again and were not as keen on revisiting the acoustic material so soon. So, we didn’t do a lot with the other ideas we had. I think we will do something with them, as stated previously, but when the time is right, and the mood takes us.

WC: Are there other projects beyond WINTERFYLLETH that you are involved with or do you focus strictly on the one band?

CN: For me personally I have another that I’ve been working on, a Death/Doom band called ATAVIST. As well as listening to that kind of music, I have also had cause to make some of it over the years. Outside of the albums I’ve made with Winterfylleth, I’ve always been into Death/Doom and Ambient music, and anyone who’s followed my output will know that I was making heavy and bleak music with ATAVIST in the early 2000’s. After a lengthy hiatus we have gotten the line up from the second album, “II: Ruined”, back together to make a new album, “III: Absolution”. I’d been writing this material in the background for years, and it just felt like the right time to bring it back to life. Thankfully the other guys were into doing that as well, and so I took it to our label guys at Candlelight and thankfully they were as into it as we were.

WC: What bands are there that you would like to play with that you haven’t yet?

CN: A few of the classic BM bands I guess. ULVER (in the Bergtatt era) would be great, but they are obviously more focused on their electronic music these days. EMPEROR is a big one that we’d love to play with, as they are a huge pillar of this style of music. We’d love to play with DRUDKH, but they’ve never done any shows. So I guess its hard to get some of those bands on a bill.

For bands that are still going, we’d love to get out there and do some shows with some more shows with modern greats like MGLA & THE RUINS OF BEVERAST, and then upcoming bands like DEUS MORTEM, WHOREDOM RITE, WARMOON LORD and many others. The list grows and there have been some great newer bands in the last few years.

WC: What’s the one location in Britain that inspires you more than any other?

CN: WINTERFYLLETH has always had a spiritual connection with a little place called Castleton in the Peak District. Its where the hill Mam Tor is, and its where the cover image of our first album “The Ghost Of Heritage” was taken; at Peveril Castle. For me, that’s a great place to visit, as there is a lot there. Mam Tor, Peak Cavern, Blue John Cavern, Peveril Castle, the walks up Winnats Pass and Cavedale etc. So I think anyone who has a connection to the band and the history of where we have come from would be interested to visit there and see for themselves.

WC: What was the last release you picked up just because you wanted to hear it?

CN: AVSKY’s new album “Ofte jeg drømmer mig død”, which im actually playing as I sit here typing this interview. We played a few shows with them and a band called SPECTRAL WOUNDlast year, and I was really keen to hear their new full length on the back of that. Its out on Vendetta Records if anyone is interested. It’s a great album.

WC:Any last words for the FYLLETH-faithful?

CN: The new WINTERFYLLETH album ‘The Reckoning Dawn’ is out now on Candlelight/Spinefarm Records

My other band, ATAVIST have a new album called ‘III: Absolution’ is out on June 19th 2020 again through Candlelight/Spinefarm Records. If people like the atmospheres on the WINTERFYLLETH album, maybe they would like to see those atmospheres created through a slightly more introverted lens of my writing.