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Interview with Winterfylleth

Two years after their critically acclaimed acoustic/folk album, “The Hallowing of Heirdom”, UK black metal kings Winterfylleth return in 2020 with their visceral new album, “The Reckoning Dawn”, released on May 8 through Candlelight/Spinefarm. The album finds the band returning at the absolute top of their game… 8 brand new songs of blistering, atmospheric and emotive black metal serve to highlight the strength and depth of material in the Winterfylleth canon. Chris Naughton (guitars/vocals) talked to Metal Imperium about the new album, the virus, the tour, his playlist and more. Keep on reading...

M.I. - Two years after the critically acclaimed acoustic/folk album “The Hallowing of Heirdom”, Winterfylleth return with a visceral new album “The Reckoning Dawn” to be released on May 8 through Candlelight/Spinefarm. How much pressure is there on your shoulders right now?

I don’t think there is too much pressure on our shoulders to be honest. Once the album is finished, that’s the hard bit done.  All the pressure and hard work has come before that, in the writing and recording. Then its just a case of setting it free into the world and hoping that it resonates with your fans. From what we’ve seen so far, it appears to be landing well with the fans, so that’s great news. 

M.I. - The album finds the band returning at the absolute top of their game, across an expansive journey of an album. 8 brand new songs of blistering, atmospheric and emotive black metal adorn the records near 60-minute running length and serve to highlight the strength and depth of material in the Winterfylleth canon. How’s the journey to create the new album been? Hectic? Complicated? Simple?

I think with every album there is always going to be a bit of a journey in its creation, and its rarely simple. We tend to be working on new songs or ideas most of the time, so when it comes to making the album, we normally put in 6 months of really solid work on it. In doing so we try to bring together the ideas we have been coming up with, and to work on structures and embellishments etc. This time was no different really, other than the fact it’s the first time we have made a full-length metal album with Dan & Mark also writing. I think their input added a few new twists and turns, as well as helping us to filter the songs through even more creative people. I think that has shown through in the final album and I’m glad that this record reflects the whole band as writers, and not just a few members; as is the case in some bands.

M.I. - This album is completely different from the last one. “The Hallowing of Heirdom” might have attracted a new kind of audience. How will they react to Winterfylleth’s original sound now?

It’s an interesting thought. Who knows? I’m hoping that they can appreciate the atmosphere in the music whatever the sonic medium. As that was the intention of the acoustic album in some ways. To create the same kinds of atmospheres, but using different instruments, from different areas of the sonic spectrum to do it. I know metal isn’t for everyone, but I think there is enough interest in the metal songs for people to find something great in them.

M.I. - 2018 saw the release of the acoustic album and two years later you have a new full-length. When did you start preparing the new album? How long did it take you? 

As I mentioned, we are always writing material and ideas around the albums. But for Reckoning, I guess we got serious about bringing those ideas together at the beginning of 2019, when Dan, Nick & I would get together on numerous occasions in the week and write/structure songs together. We then went to record them in November 2019. So, I guess it probably took us about a year to pull it all together properly and get it recorded and mastered.  

M.I. - Why have you opted for the title “The Reckoning Dawn”?

In terms of the album title… originally, I had in mind that the “Reckoning…” in question would need to be some kind of metaphorical one; either of the mind - as this ‘war of ideas’ we see going on in society was won or lost - or perhaps as some kind of physical one; where civil unrest ultimately led to some kind of resolution or change in our approach to the world. But, either way, the Reckoning in question would signify the end of an age and the start of another. As we came up with that and built a concept on it, I had no idea we would be faced with a biological Reckoning of sorts across the world around the release of this album. So, make of that what you will. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in unchartered waters, and for the first time in generations feeling like we are on the precipice of something life altering that’s beyond our control. Maybe that will end up in us finding the humanity in one another again, after being subdivided into so many factions and idealisms over the years. 

M.I. - On an interview I did you about the last album, you said and I quote “For the moment, it’s just a one-off album, although we have about 5-6 songs that weren’t finished at the time of recording, that are in a similar style. So, we may do something else like this as an EP in the future perhaps.” What has happened / will happen to the songs you were referring to? Have you “hardened” them and put them in the new album?

One of them we did, yes. That song became ‘Absolved In Fire’, which is track 3 on the album. I guess we were more focused on making a metal album again and were not as keen on revisiting the acoustic material so soon. So, we didn’t do a lot with the other ideas we had. I think we will do something with them, as stated previously, but when the time is right, and the mood takes us.

M.I. - The last album took you out of your comfort zone… having managed to do such an awesome and acclaimed acoustic album and stepping out of your comfort zone, has it helped you somehow in other situations? Was it more relaxing doing an album like the one you are about to release?

When we were starting to make Hallowing… it quickly became clear that it had to be based more on layering subtle melodies, strings, harmonies and counterpoints in our voices, where we would normally use the wall of guitar sound, extreme vocals and heavy drums etc. The main aim being to try and capture the existing atmosphere of the band and bring that into the acoustic music somehow. This necessitated us writing differently than we were used to while figuring out how to fit the instruments around each other and make them complement each other where appropriate. As a consequence of that we ended up having to write melodies and counter melodies for instruments we couldn’t play (violin/cello etc), in areas of the sonic spectrum we do not usually occupy in our metal songs. So, when you consider how we applied those learnings to the new album, it made us think more about composition, about how to add lead guitar and melody, (and keyboards for the first time) where it was needed into the songs. All of this done in a way that bolsters the atmosphere, rather than competing with it. Also, it made us want to bring strings into the songs in a more obvious way, and as such there are two metal songs with string sections on them this time too. I’m hoping all of this leads to an immediate, passionate and virulent new album that takes our metal sound that bit further than before.

M.I. - The album “The Mercian Sphere” includes Parts 1, 2 and 3 of “The Wayfarer”. This new album includes Part 4… why has it taken you so long (10 years exactly) to release the 4th part? Did it just come up and you decided it had to be Part 4 or was it all planned?

I actually came up with the first few riffs for Part 4 in 2010 when we were making “Mercian…”,but it didn’t feel like the right time to use it, as it’s based on a similar chord progression to Part 1. Having toyed with that song idea for many years, we finally made it  for this album  in a way that it reprises the ideas of the original trilogy of songs, but in a reverent way, and calls back some of the original vocal motifs to link the songs together. There is also actually an acoustic Part 5 in the story arc, that we didn’t quite finish for this album. That will most likely be on whatever comes next. 

M.I. - The band’s been on a long-term relationship with Candlelight. Aren’t there any ups and downs that make you think if this relationship is worth it? Have you received offers from other labels to join their ranks? What keeps you loyal to Candlelight? 

We’ve had many, many offers from other labels over the years, and we are very grateful for it. But as things stand, our entire discography is on Candlelight/Spinefarm and we have a relationship and a loyalty with the people there who have stood by us over the last decade. Obviously that relationship – like any – is not without its ups and downs, but for me it works, and we have really seen that come to fruition with the release of this album, and the impact it has made already.

M.I. - The album is scheduled to be released on the 8th May… did the label give you the possibility to postpone its release due to the pandemic situation? Do you think the release may suffer with this whole Covid-19 thing?

I think its important for us as a band to use this opportunity to still put out the album, and maybe bring people a little excitement or hope, in what have been quite dreary times. It didn’t make sense for me to sit on the album when it had already been manufactured and when we could potentially use it as a tool for good. I know it has brought a lot of people a point of interest while they are locked in the house, and I think that is why we wanted to do it. Whether or not that’s the right decision commercially is yet to be seen, but that’s not what this is about right now, and I hope our fans would want to check out and buy our new albums regardless of the situation. So lets hope we were right.

M.I. - All your covers are in the same vein… mountains, sky… why this huge interest in Nature? Do you think Nature is grateful for this lockdown of the world as it is helping Nature to heal itself from the man’s action?

The album covers all feature the natural world, and usually with no signs of modernity in them. I guess the main reason behind that is to remind people that if we didn’t have nature, and we over exploit it, then it will be our undoing as a society. Look how much an invisible pathogen has brought us to a standstill, never mind the impending climate issues we face in the future, if we aren’t careful. So in some ways, I think that fact that we have seen nature regenerating as a result of the crisis, really shows the negative impact we are having on the home we all share. Maybe it will make people think differently in the future? 

M.I. - My favourite track (at least at the moment… it usually changes with time!!) is “Yielding the March Law”… what’s yours and why?

I think my favourite song is probably ‘Absolved in Fire’ or the title track ‘The Reckoning Dawn’, because they represent really strong concepts lyrically and have some of the best writing we have ever done in them. 

M.I. - How do you manage to create epic and awesome riffs and melodies over and over again?

By consciously approaching albums in a way that means we are critical of each other, and the material we make; and not just settling for our first ideas. Also, by making sure we listen back to the ideas we are coming up with and by living with them for a while in order to see if they work. I think self-editing is a really important thing for a band to be able to do, and so we try to be conscious of putting out our best, and not just our first ideas for each song. 

M.I. - In order to promote the new album, you were going on “The Reckoning Tour” with Mork but it has been postponed. Even though you haven’t got a magic ball to see the future, do you think it will be possible to play the same places/venues you were supposed to? 

We have re-booked the tour for 2021 and will be announcing it when all the dates are 100% locked down. So, while its disappointing to have to cancel it, we want to do our best to honour our commitments and play those shows when we can. 

M.I. - In an ideal scenario, if you could tour and choose the bands to go with you, which bands would you like to take and why?

Ulver, during the Bergtatt era. They are one of our favourite bands, and one of our biggest influences. That would be some billing, I think.

M.I. - Most festivals and concerts happening this spring and summer have been cancelled… how will Winterfylleth and other bands cope with this? Do you live solely off music or do you have a steady job that helps you pay the bills? How much negative impact will this have in the music industry… who will survive after all?

We don’t live solely on our endeavors in Winterfylleth, and most of us have other pursuits that help with the bills. So in that sense, as things stand, we are all ok. But I think that this will have a really big impact on the bigger bands, who rely on touring for income, and also the venues/staff/promoters/hospitality industry who were the first to be closed down and will probably be the last to re-open. Who knows what the landscape will look like after the virus situation ends, but it’s a bleak outlook for many at this point!

M.I. - The band has been a quartet most of its career, up until the latest album in which you added a new member. What’s the main difference between being a quartet or a quintet? How complicated is it dealing with the same lineup over and over again? Don’t you get mad at each other? Or are the friendship bonds stronger than that?

We’ve been a quintet since 2006’s ‘The Dark Hereafter’ actually. The main difference is that now we have Mark on Keys, it adds another dimension to the songs and the scope of our writing. We are all very close friends in the band, and I would say that my bandmates make up most of my closest circle of friends, so it’s a great thing to do in that sense. Sure, we disagree and fall out over certain things, but it always comes from a good place, and is usually in the spirit of creative minds coming together. We handle it well I’d say and make sure everyone is heard. I guess that why we’ve had such a stable line up for a long time now.

M.I. - My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, two legendary British bands, have new material for 2020… do you still get excited about new releases from other bands? Which ones are you looking for?

Yes, very much so. We have a chat group with the band members and other close friends where we share new music on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. So, I guess we are always listening to new things. Funnily enough I am a big fan of both the bands you mention and await the new PL with bated breath. I already have the new MDB and its great as well. Personally, I’m looking forward to the new Enslaved album (which has now been delayed) and many others.

M.I. - What’s on your playlist these days?

This week I’ve been mainly playing: 

Nekrovault – Totenzug: Festering Peregrination
Afsky – Ofte Jeg Drommer Mig Dod
Warmoon Lord – Pure Cold Impurity
Warmoon Lord - Burning Banners of the Funereal War
Aes Dana – Inks
Arx Atrata – The Path Untraveled
Vegard – Bewitched by Moonlight Rituals
Synkro – Images
Blasphamagoatachrist – Bastardizing The Purity

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Entrevista por Sónia Fonseca