No matter if it was a now ex-member spouting overtly nationalist ideas; no matter how simplistic the interpretation, comments about white power and poppy-burning Muslim extremists will always risk alienating your potential audience and invite unwanted attention, especially if you’re an English black metal band under the spectre of political correctness.
Only the most ignorant would seriously accuse the Manchester-based quartet of actually being racist or English Defence League flag-wavers, but their comments on Englishness and nationalism lead to a strange paradox: while their explanations and justifications behind their various missives are almost reasonable, the band are now viewed through both reactionary and progressive lenses, unable to fully dispel lingering suspicions while their regular appearances at Roadburn suggest a band unbeholden to orthodoxy.
Certainly their recorded output has followed a steep upward curve, and it’s one that continues to rise with this, their third album. It has to be said that there are no quantum leaps to be found here, with Winterfylleth’s core sound still owing a lot to early Enslaved.
However, on numbers like The Swart Raven or the closing title track, the band have further cultured the sweeping, abrasive soundscapes that, while becoming more and more Wolves In The Throne Room-esque, eschew the transcendental in favour of earthy atmospherics, soaring melodies that in a barely tangible way speak of Englishness; that conjure all the violence and mythology of our Pagan and Saxon heritage.
Alarmingly, the only moment the spell is broken is during the increased dalliances with acoustic guitars and minimal string arrangements – as with Æfterield-Fréon – that in being rather clichéd interrupt the record’s otherwise natural flow rather than complement it, although they take nothing away from the artistry and dedication evident throughout.