The Reckoning Dawn

Written by: RUB on 05/01/2021 20:22:31

Trying to tie up a few loose ends from the past dreadful year, one cannot really be all that bitter about a large part of the records that came out in 2020. This particular one I have had on the drawing board for quite some time now, and although I have been certain about its rightful place amongst the ranks of my end of the year list, I have had a hard time pinning the reasons for this down as words. And as “The Reckoning Dawn” — the seventh studio album from Manchester, United Kingdom’s atmospheric black metal stalwarts Winterfylleth — clocks in at almost an entire hour of running length, I fear that you, the reader, might be in for a something of a long haul in reading said words. So to avoid too much rambling, let us dig right into it.

I have a hard time thinking of a better way to start off an album than with a track like “Misdeeds of Faith”. The instantly recognisable pounding of the drums by Simon Lucas, the cold shrieks from vocalist & rhythm guitarist Chris Naughton, and the band’s trademark black metal sound should provide a pleasant welcome for any long-standing fan of the band… hell, for any fan of extreme metal, to be honest — and the constant changes that occur in the main riff not only seize your attention at once, but also strike you with awe by virtue of how original it sounds. The deep, monkish chants spliced into it, and the relentlessly beating double bass drums further consolidate the awesome foundation that supports Naughton’s tales of fierce battles raging. Indeed, with an opening like this, the bar is set very high for the rest of the album.

It is no secret that Winterfylleth belong to the more progressive caste of black metal bands, and this is exemplified well by “A Hostile Fate (The Wayfarer Pt. 4)”. Its sorrowfulness, and melancholy mood in the face of death and decay are neatly intertwined by a classic black metal rhythm, which does not see the ferocious drums slow down until a breather arrives halfway through. The guitars of Naughton and lead guitarist Russel Dobson are utilized in such a way as to elevate the otherwise monotonous rhythm section, and they instantly carry you to the bare and chilling hills of northern England, the mixing of adventurous, uplifting riffs with gloomier, bleaker ones producing a nice contrast. As the track slowly comes to an end, a softly sung vocal harmony ensures this song becomes yet another complete listening experience, one that makes you earn for more.

That track is followed by the longest piece on the album, “Absolved in Fire”, which starts off quietly, elegantly and peacefully with a combination of classic strings and acoustic guitar, thus painting the atmosphere with vivid imagery. Without going into deeper detail, the way these first three tracks are structured and layered really says everything you need to know about Winterfylleth. You get the feeling that the band wants to tell a story with a clear beginning, middle and climax, and the themes that are explored in Naughton’s carefully written lyricism, whether redemptive or grievous, are always reflected by the interplay between the various instruments. And speaking of climaxes, the album ends with one of those after eight tracks with “In Darkness Begotten”, bringing the record to a conclusion on yet another absurdly high note. It is an uplifting, otherworldly masterpiece that I honestly still have a hard time wrapping my head around. And if that wasn’t enough, around the 04:30 mark, I am caught completely off guard by the sudden change in the riffage; the song quickly transforms into a dark and malevolent being, packing one last punch to this conclave of highly impressive songwriting that is “The Reckoning Dawn”, before the sea of storms calms at last.

Winterfylleth always brings a blend of the progressive and the profound, yet the band still manages to stay firmly within the spectrum of what is considered to be black metal. Take the eerie guitar tone heard on the title track, for example: there should be very little doubt that it very much belongs in the black metal genre. And yet, the lengthier passages and the overall progressive nature of the song makes it feel like something else entirely — which is the reason people keep coming back to Winterfylleth’s music when seeking something unique and outstanding. Indeed, their majestic sound, monumental soundscapes, and the cold and mournful lyrics make you truly understand why they have taken their name from something as dreary as the month of October.

Just like Primordial (a band with a sound fairly close to that of Winterfylleth, if I might say), the Mancunians have once again managed to create an extraordinary sound on their latest album, which both packs a punch, and contains grief, meaningful storytelling and plenty of frosty melancholy. Whether it is because of the profound lyrics about heritage, ancestry and ancient history, or because of the progressive nature of this album and indeed their previous ones, too, is hard to pinpoint, but the fact remains that “The Reckoning Dawn” provided me with one of the most fulfilling listening experiences of 2020, one that has encouraged me to listen again, read the lyrics, and learn more about the tales being told on it.

Although my spark and joy of reviewing new records has been at an all-time low this past year, bands such as Winterfylleth sure have hit yet another peak in their creative process. Certain to always deliver, the Englishmen have created one more masterpiece worthy of recognition, and while I have a hard time placing it in rank-order within their discography, I have grown accustomed to the fact that they simply do not release bad albums. “The Reckoning Dawn” thus delivers as expected: the sound of an immense Fall storm, windy and frightening, yet beautiful in its own right. Is it their best work? I will let you decide on that subjectively, but I at least have no doubt in my mind that this is an absolute must hear for any fan of the extreme arts.

Download: Misdeeds of Faith, The Reckoning Dawn, In Darkness Begotten, A Greatness Undone, A Hostile Fate (The Wayfarer Pt. 4)
For the fans of: Drudkh, Enslaved, Primordial, Wodensthrone, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Facebook

Release date 08.05.2020
Candlelight Records

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