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I recently made a trip down to England; primarily because a family member was getting married there, but by the same token it's always nice to visit a foreign land and take in its own unique culture and landscape. This, I thought, would be the perfect time to get acquainted with Winterfylleth- an English folk/black metal band whose most recent album was being given almost absolute praise. Right away, the genre description piqued my interest, as English folk/black has done me no wrong so far- I'm a big Forefather fan, and The Meads of Asphodel are cool enough too (though I'm not quite as familiar with them) so I had a good attitude and high hopes heading into this album.
Thankfully, the "folk" prefix attached to the band doesn't mean that The Threnody of Triumph is full of fruity campfire songs and/or empty-headed sea shanties and jigs; this is a metal album first and foremost, something that's very relieving in a folk metal world overcrowded with bands like Korpiklaani and Eluveitie along with people who think those bands aren't just gay folk rock with distorted guitars and harsh vocals. The only thing reminiscent of "that kind" of folk metal here are the clean vocal sections that pop up in the occasional song or two, and even then, they're very sparse. No, here, much like the aforementioned Forefather, the "folk" prefix indicates an album composed as a more subtle testament to their homeland, with a more powerful and down-to-earth sense of pride seeping through in the melodies. However, even Forefather tended to have some rockish tendencies in their music; Winterfylleth, on the other hand, almost solely focus on the black metal with the song structures mostly being drawn-out riff slideshows backed by steady, consistent blastbeats with a mid paced section every now and then to keep things from going stale.
Unfortunately, they don't really succeed in keeping things fresh. Winterfylleth rarely venture outside of their little paradigm of slightly-more-melodious-than-standard-black-metal riffs and blasting throughout The Threnody of Triumph and when they do have an acoustic break or clean vocal passage it's horribly cliched and contrived. That's not to say that an album has to have tons of ideas being thrown at you at all times to be any good- in fact, I usually quite enjoy the approach of slowly developing and evolving a few ideas over a longer period of time. The problem is, if you're only going to have a couple core themes in a song, they better be some damn interesting themes and they should evolve into something even greater. The songs on The Threnody of Triumph start off sounding nice enough, but they rely too much on texture as opposed to actual killer riffs and don't become anything more as the song goes on. They end exactly where they began and don't reward the listener at all for enduring their somewhat bloated running times.
To be perfectly blunt, Winterfylleth share a lot of parallels with Wolves in the Throne Room. They've got the aesthetic down pat, but there's no subtleties to be found within and all the songs end up being are exercises in creating said aesthetic. The songs are long (well, not relatively, but they certainly feel long) and there's not a lot going on at any given time, but the ideas don't develop so every single riff ends up saying the exact same thing. This draws from pretty much the exact same inspirational wells as Wolves in the Throne Room and ends up sounding similar in every way, but I guess since they're European and don't wear plaid it's okay for metalheads to like them. Just goes to show how much of people's taste in metal is based more off style than anything.
In the end, that makes sense because that's all this really is- all style and no substance. On my trip to England I got a good view of the landscapes on my multiple 3-hour-long train rides travelling back and forth through the country. They're pretty enough, I suppose, but somewhat plain and nothing I'd rave about to my friends. It's fitting, then, that The Threnody of Triumph gives me the exact same feeling since it's inspired by said landscapes- I don't mind it when it's on, but nothing stands out and I'd never recommend it to anyone, nor do I ever feel compelled to listen to it again. Winterfylleth should move somewhere prettier, cause until then I'm not buying their shit.
(PS: despite the underwhelming qualities of the natural landscape, the architecture in England is awe-inspiring and the people in the more rural areas are an absolute delight; I'd totally go back again if I had the chance and I'm sorry if I offended any Brits reading this, especially with that last paragraph. You live in a nice place. )
(PPS: Your food is pretty bland, though.)