The Divination of Antiquity
(Candlelight Records)

One of metal’s better-kept secrets is how beautiful black metal can be. To outsiders, most view the subgenre at face value: corpse paint, satanic imagery, and lots of indistinguishable noise. Sure, you’re still bound to get that from time to time, but black metal has taken a much-needed turn toward the sublime in the past decade or so. Listen to Wolves in the Throne Room, Panopticon, or Agalloch, and you’re in the throes of music that wants to you feel something. The black metal aesthetic has turned toward appreciating nature and Pagan history, and the results are often stunning.

In that vein, English-based Winterfylleth fits in masterfully. The Divination of Antiquity is the band’s fourth record, and it’s clearly the culmination of a solid back catalog. Winterfylleth takes the second-wave black metal sound and mixes it with heaping doses of English folk beauty and post-rock ambiance. The result is an album with a keen sense of balance. Sure, the requisite heaviness is here in spades, as these musicians can compete with almost anyone in black metal. However, the emphasis here is in creating an atmosphere.

Vocalist Chris Naughton is especially noteworthy here. His lyrics are almost intelligible (a rare feat), and his voice carries a weight and passion that is powerful. However, what helps really carry the proceedings is the backing chanted vocals. They give the melodies an eerie element, and they play off the guitar melodies very well. There are times you feel like these Englishmen are writing tales from Late Antiquity, of battles and journeys of centuries past. While this is primarily a black metal album, the folk elements are absolutely not put on the back burner.

Of course, not all is perfect on album number four. The heavier sections have a tendency to blend together, leaving a couple tracks to have that dreaded “samey” feeling. Some of that is due to how impressive the folk arrangements are, as they undermine the blast beat-led sections. However, that minor flaw isn’t a killer. This is absolutely a top-tier black metal album, one haunted by memories of England’s past. (Nicholas Senior)

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