Winterfylleth – The Hallowing Of Heirdom album review

Winterfylleth bring the grit and grandeur of Ancient Britain unplugged

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Winterfylleth – The Hallowing Of Heirdom

1. The Shepherd
2. Frithgeard
3. Æcerbot
4. Halgemonath
5. Elder Mother
6. Embers
7. A Gleeman's Volt
8. Latch To A Grave
9. The Nymph
10. On-Cydig
11. Resting Tarn
12. The Hallowing Of Heirdom

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‘Come live with me and be my love…’ is not an opening line one might have expected to find on a Winterfylleth album up until this point, but then this is a very different kind of record from the epic, scabrous assaults the Brits are known for. Essentially an album of stripped-down, acoustic folk songs, this detour isn’t going to surprise anyone who has paid attention to the band’s unerring passion for evoking the primal magic of centuries past. The whole thing makes such obvious sense on an artistic level that the only real danger for Winterfylleth is that their own musical identity could evaporate in a cloud of mawkish, faux-traditional earnestness. But as they’ve consistently proved over their five studio albums to date, that identity is formidable, and to some extent already deeply rooted in these more restrained atmospheres.

The acute sense of melancholy that drives stately mantras like Frithgeard and the instrumental Embers is the same as the one that made 2016’s The Dark Hereafter such a stirring career peak, but here the simplicity of the form ensures that the emotion is never buried amidst a storm of distortion. Exactly what is being sung about here is not really the point; these are songs inspired by folklore, poetry and history, and their creators’ self-evident emotional involvement resounds throughout. In fact, it’s this album’s honesty, both in its execution and, significantly, in the unaffected purity of the band’s unified voices, that makes it so irresistible. Regardless of how you feel about notions of Britishness in 2018 – and Satan only knows, it’s a complicated business – there is something hugely moving about such a heartfelt and unpretentious homage to our fog-shrouded rolling hills.

The closing title track is absurdly pretty, as mournful cello glides across gently picked acoustic guitar and Winterfylleth’s earthy baritones harmonise with a very simple and charming grace. Their next album will almost certainly reassure the faithful by ripping our faces off, but this is a very welcome and beautifully executed change of pace.