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Our Hands We Raise In Gentle Union... - 95%

Larry6990, October 7th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Candlelight Records USA

Winterfylleth-mania has swept the British metal underground, and I am not even slightly ashamed to admit that I have been caught in the wave. I am also not ashamed to admit that Winterfylleth are possibly my favourite black metal band. Their brand of contained, ancient fury which expresses a devotion to one's homeland is highly addictive - sort of like the British version of Finland's Moonsorrow. Their debut "The Ghost of Heritage" set up the framework for an unusually unique identity. Follow-up "The Mercian Sphere" expanded the scope with lengthier tracks and epic breadth. 2012's "The Threnody of Triumph" was a rather mellow, and slightly more accessible affair. But this year, the four Englishmen may have just hit their peak. "The Divination of Antiquity" (whatever that means) can be seen as a collection of all the best ideas from the previous releases sifted into a cauldron, and then sprinkled with something magic...

Firstly, that cover art - As a Welshman, I am incredibly proud to live among the rolling hills and dense woodland of Great Britain. This is another chord Winterfylleth strike with me; their sense of British pride is heart-warming, but not overwhelming. In the past, their patriotism has been mistaken for racism, but "The Divination of Antiquity" should effectively put keep those petty accusations at bay. Never before have I heard such an outpour of emotions that strive toward the appreciation of one's natural surroundings...well, not since "The Mercian Sphere" anyway.

All the characteristics that make Winterfylleth's catalogue so wondrous are present: Chris Naughton's distant-yet-distinctive voice, the polished production quality, the melodious dissonance in the guitars, the folklorish atmosphere, and most importantly, those choral vocals which add much-needed variety and made tracks like "Defending The Realm" and "A Valley Thick With Oaks" so memorable. But there is another element, whispering (hehe!) its way around the music, that gives this album a magic touch. It's difficult to pinpoint, but maybe a dissection of some of the songs will enlighten us...

The first three tracks set the ball rolling very agreeably, with some mournful melodies crooning over the fury beneath. "Whisper of the Elements" is especially notable for its grandiose closing section; evoking a whirlwind of emotion. Fourth track, "A Careworn Heart", is where things are taken to the next level: Layers of instruments are built upon a simple acoustic guitar melody, which finally climaxes into a sorrowful lament, making the most of its 9-minute duration. Easily the best track on the album.

One of the 'magic' elements has been identified! "The Divination of Antiquity" succeeds in embracing a larger variety of timbres and song-structures. There are up-tempo blackened blast-fests. There are creeping, brooding elegies. And there's the token folk instrumental in the shape of "The World Ahead". I'm not at all implying that their previous efforts were dull and samey affairs - but this 2014 release is a true testament to the diversity that is possible within black metal.

Closing epic "Forsaken In Stone" is the perfect way to round off such an atmospheric and ethereal journey. Its lugubrious melodies, forlorn choir and shambling tempo bring the overall tone of melancholy to a fitting conclusion.

Winterfylleth certainly have their naysayers (as does every artist that suddenly achieves a meteoric rise to renown). Let's hope that this brand new chapter can convert a few! "The Divination of Antiquity" is not just a collection of black metal songs. It's a musical voyage which must be experienced in its entirety. It almost reaches the heights of Moonsorrow's unbeatable "V: Havitetty" in terms of sentiment and pathos. So let the fire of patriotism burn brightly and, as Manowar once said: Hail to England!

Whether sun doth shine,
Or rain descend,
I remain, I will remain,
Till all life's end!