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Exemplary British Black Metal Part 2 - 93%

the_bard_of_osyrhia, July 25th, 2010

In recent years Britain has seen a wealth of very impressive artists rearing their heads from its rather stagnant black metal scene. These artists have renewed the vigour of Britain's metal scene and, with their longing for a time long past, perhaps renewed the strength of those Britons proud of their heritage. Among these bands is the band in question here. Winterfylleth are a band for whom heritage and the preservation of such is very important and this comes across through their chosen genre, a rather Pagan-styled black metal, and their lyrics.

'The Mercian Sphere' is the follow up to Winterfylleth's excellent debut album 'The Ghost of Heritage', released in 2008, and it is most certainly a worthy successor. This time around the songs are often longer and sometimes far more diverse in sound. While a pounding yet melodic black metal base is certainly still in place there are various interesting ideas abound here. Take, for instance, the haunting and mystical folk/neofolk sounds of 'Children of the Stones' and 'When the Woods Were Young' which do far more than set an atmosphere. These songs are worthy folk songs by themselves. Wistful and beautiful with melodies that feel as though they could have come from a time long ago. Another deviation from the general black metal sound can be found in 'The Wayfarer Pt.3 – To Find Solace Where Security Stands'. The song moves from an intense black metal sound through various movements to an eventual epic and very stirring guitar section which reminds me a little of one of Winterfylleth's influences, the legendary British Anglo-Saxon metal band Forefather.

That is not to say that album does not contain a wealth of blasting black metal excellence, however, as many of the songs such as 'The Fields of Reckoning' and 'Gateway To the Dark Peak/The Wayfarer Pt.1 – The Solitary One Waits For Grace' are intense and reminiscent of black metal of bands such as Drudkh except with a somewhat more immediate sound.

A highlight of the album for me is the fantastic 'The Ruin' which moves from a very heavy and pummelling black metal introduction to a melancholic acoustic guitar section with the vocalist whispering his lyrics in a voice with an echo effect. This always sends shivers down my spine and represents, to me, the feel of walking through a ruined castle thinking about how it became so. The eventual movement back into a heavy and driving riff with the vocalist roaring the fantastic line 'Hence to reign hereafter... The Angle!' is very effective and a fantastic juxtaposition with the quiet midsection. The two epics of the album 'The Honour Of Good Men On The Path To Eternal Glory' and 'The Wayfarer Pt.3 - To Find Solace... Where Security Stands' are also highlights. Both of them being like ancient tapestries woven brilliantly from many different sounds. 'The Wayfarer Pt.3...' in particular is a fantastic conclusion to the 'The Wayfarer' trilogy with its epic guitar melodies and inspiring sound.

'The Mercian Sphere' is definitely one of the highlights of the music of 2010 so far for me. I would recommend the album to anyone looking for an inspiring ode to times long gone or, in fact, anyone who has an interest in the Pagan or nature-inspired spheres of the black metal genre. With bands like Winterfylleth, Iceni, Wodensthrone and Fyrdsman Britain seems set to reclaim its place as an important country for metal.