"Wreathed In Mourncloud"

By Dr. Abner Mality

The concept of atmospheric or "pastoral" black metal is difficult to grasp. The very essence of black metal is usually darkness and evil, usually transmitted through rawness and speed. When music becomes melodic and calm, is it still black metal? Many would say yes; I would differ with them most of the time. The Watcher, a member of British atmospheric BM band FEN, has created the band FELLWARDEN to express his feelings towards the rugged north country of Britain. Others have created epic black metal in tribute to natural locations...WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM are notorious for their odes to the Pacific Northwest. Where does FELLWARDEN fall on the black metal scale?

This is a pretty mixed bag to be sure. This is the more melodic side of black metal without a doubt...although there's quite a bit of fast, roaring metal with harsh vocals, there's a lot of quiet moments and clean vocals as well. First track "Pathmaker" is really the albums best, starting pretty quietly and gradually working its way up to epic stature.. The last third of this song is truly majestic and a breathtaking moment. It is never really equaled again here, although "An Elder Reckoning" and "Upon Stone" get close. The fact is that a lot of this album just kind of drones on and is rather numbing, especially the title track which wears out its welcome early.  "Scafell's Blight" is pretty much just fast black metal and not much more. "A Premonition" is a sad synth drone with no guitar. The clean vocals have a treacly effect, and approach the sappy.

"An Elder Reckoning" shows some hope with some strong passages and "Upon Stone" is a solemn, dignified song that weaves rather well between piano-based sections and soaring black metal. Sometimes the essence of those British fells and moors is effectively recreated here. At other points, the connection escapes me. It's obvious this album is extremely personal and important to The Watcher. I just tend to like the darker black metal. The latest from WINTERFYLLETH to me is a superior combination of aggression, atmosphere and majesty.