Two years ago we did our first interview when the outstanding 'The Mercian Sphere' came out. Now that the third album 'Threnody Of Triumph' comes out, it is time for an update of things! How are you doing, since it is a stunner again?
Many thanks for the positivism, we really appreciate it. Glad the record has landed so well with you. We are really pleased with how the album turned out overall. We have been all over Europe and the UK playing festivals and shows since we last spoke, and of course writing and recording 'The Threnody Of Triumph'.
Well, looking back it seems I was – fortunately – not the only one who praised 'The Mercian Sphere' into heaven hehe. I think it was a great breakthrough album. Do you agree with that and how did you feel about this – deserved – sudden superlatives?
Yes I would agree with that, I think being signed with such an amazing and supportive label as Candlelight with such a great black metal heritage, really meant that 'The Mercian Sphere' could as you say 'breakthrough'. I think with the line-up change for 'The Mercian Sphere' that has been further solidified on 'The Threnody Of Triumph', made for much more in-depth and thought-provoking song writing. Certainly on 'The Mercian Sphere' we really started to find our feet and develop our sound into its own identity, and I think on 'The Threnody Of Triumph' we have refined our sound even further. Musically we continue to grow and the song writing seems to get stronger and stronger.
Did it cause extra pressure for writing the third album?
I think it was quite a daunting prospect coming into this record, and I think that I can speak for all of us when I say that it played on our minds a little bit when starting this album. Once we got into the writing and found our feet again, I think we bettered our last one and really pushed ourselves as writers. The songs feel more epic, passionate and developed than before and I think that is due to us all having more to contribute this time around and it being more of a team effort.
About that writing process… is this a group effort in the Winterfylleth headquarters or can we see certain members as the main songwriter? How did you write the long epics this time?
It is a group effort, definitely. Chris and Nick will come up with riffs and start to form song structures, I will assist in refining that structure and patterns etc. A song can change vastly from its initial incarnation to when it comes to actually recording it properly for release. A lot of the time songs will be inspired by things in history that inspire us, or beautiful sites that we have visited that we love and that we feel tells a story. Chris and I write the lyrics, which are often inspired by ancient texts such as the Codex Exoniensis, one of the oldest books to be written in the British Isles. We can really get a feel for the beliefs and spirit of the people who lived on our island thousands of years ago by examining such sources as the Codex Exoniensis.
In the meantime we could see the band live, mainly at selected festival gigs. Is Winterfylleth a band that loves to play live or do you prefer creating your long tracks in solitude?(
We do indeed love playing live very much, the passion of the music seems to translate really well live and we all enjoy the experience of playing our songs to people that are maybe seeing or hearing the band for the first time and of course people that own our albums, that want to sing along and celebrate the subjects and that we sing about with us at the tops of their voices. This is an aspect of the band that we all feel is really important. When it comes to writing new material, of course this process takes place in the solitude of our homes and is often inspired by one of our many and regular trips out into the British countryside that is so inspirational for us. Immersing ourselves in the rich tapestry of history, rural folklore and the vast and beautiful landscapes of the British Isles. It is these types of trips that inspire us as a band to write the material for our albums.
I remember you were humbled and touched by your first appearance at Bloodstock. Do you have other memories on next gigs that really touched you and can be seen as a highlight?
That first Bloodstock appearance was a truly humbling experience for the band, and this year we had the pleasure of being invited back to perform for a second time at Bloodstock Festival, and it certainly was an even more humbling experience. We hadn't really played many shows in the UK in 2012 by this point, only two I think. We had just been concentrating on playing on the continent in Europe, so to return home to the UK at the height of midsummer to perform at Bloodstock and to receive the reaction that we did was a truly special experience. We played the S.O.P.H.I.E stage and we were told that it was completely full, and to see people singing along your lyrics will always be special, but it felt even more special during this performance. We had also played at various other festivals around Europe during the summer, and particularly Hellfest in France and Graspop in Belgium were both very humbling experiences too. It was our first time playing in both France and Belgium and we were made to feel so welcome by everyone at the festivals, the organisers and the festival goers. They're both amazing festivals that I would recommend anyone to go to.
I found out you also did a tour with Primordial. What about this experience?
We have always been big fans of Primordial as individuals and it is no secret that they have been a massive inspiration to us, both musically and ideologically. We became friends with them after attending various Primordial gigs over the years and also having recorded our last two albums with our friend and producer Chris Fielding at Foel Studios who has also recorded the most recent two Primordial albums. We were told that they first heard 'The Mercian Sphere' when Chris Fielding played it to them in the studio, and since then we became good friends and Primordial invited us to tour with them when they played some exclusive shows in the UK in April of 2012. We were honoured and humbled to play these shows, they were a lot of fun and a great success. We get on really well with the Primordial lads and just performed at Damnation Festival with them in the UK in early November. They have also invited us to perform with them at a special festival in their home-town of Dublin in the Republic of Ireland called Redemption Fest next February (2013) which features various bands hand-picked by Primordial themselves, and they themselves headlining. Having travelled to Ireland to witness their anniversary show a year ago, it promises to be a special show indeed.
The lyrical idea behind the band since the very beginning is a reflection on English/British history and heritage, an endless subject I guess… Can you go deeper into the lyrical concept of 'Threnody Of Triumph' in particular?
The concept is about a deathly ode – or Threnody - to those ones who have died, and is about how our ancestors in the British Isles viewed spirituality in the sense of how the soul and the body were connected. The album also has a broader concept about celebrating the lives of those who have passed away. We felt that a contrast between the darkness of loss and the epic-ness of celebration needed to come together in the songs, so that had an influence on the writing. I hope this comes across in the finished product - where we contrast darker, faster black metal with soaring leads and rich vocal harmonies.
We have always wanted to have a link with, or at least pay homage to the more traditional elements of the music of the British Isles. We have done this by writing folk influenced songs on the album (as well as metal songs) that utilize repetitive melodies or Gregorian-esque voices that harp back to the folk music that has always been an intrinsic part of story-telling on our islands. Every day people would know and sing these kinds of songs as a way of passing on traditions, recounting moral stories and celebrating certain events or times of the year; serving as a way of linking communities with their land or their history, in a way many do not appreciate in the modern world. It also incorporates an element of rural folklore and history from near to where we live on songs such as 'Æfterield-fréon'.
'Æfterield-fréon' is a story about the 'Elder Mother' or 'Old Girl' as she was known. The Elder Mother was thought to be the guardian of the elder trees, protector of the entrance to the underworld, and it was said - until recent times in various parts of England, Britain and Scandinavia - that to take wood from the elder tree one would have to ask the Elder Mother first, for fear of bad luck coming upon the woodsman. The woodsman would have to ask the Elder Mother permission to cut down the tree, stating "Old girl, give me some of thy wood and I will give thee some of mine when I grow into a tree". Also, around Derbyshire and the High Peak near to where we live there has always been a tradition of putting Elder Tree's on peoples graves as a way of protecting the dead from evil spirits – as a mother would protect her children - and as a way of transitioning a person's spirit to a happier place. So in terms of the concept of the album and the progress of spirits moving on from the living world, this really fits in with the whole concept and is also an interesting folk story from the place that we are from.
You returned to the Foel Studios. Did you work with Chris Fielding again? Can you tell a bit more about your time in the studio this time?
Yes indeed we did. He did such an a great job recording 'The Mercian Sphere', and Foel Studios is such a perfect environment to record the sort of music that we write, being so rural in location. Working with Chris is a genuine privilege as he is easy to work with and, as a fan of metal, 'gets' what you want to do with your songs while helping you to achieve it in the best way. When you are so focused on your own album it's great to have his independent view on things, as his suggestions are based on working with new bands every few weeks and are usually a breath of fresh air in uncertain situations. You only have to look at the quality of his recorded output to see why we keep going back to work with him, for example the last two Primordial albums. Also, we aren't from nineties Norway, so we've not tried to restrict the instruments in any way. Hence the warmth and tones we have on the album. Chris is great at capturing the live sounds of the instruments and I think that really adds a feeling to the albums.
This year April saw the re-release of your first album 'The Ghost Of Heritage'. But there should be differences, like bonus tracks, remastering, other artwork… Please tell us more about that…
Well, when 'The Ghost Of Heritage' was originally released, we used artwork that was created with relatively bad photographic equipment and none of us felt that the cover image really captured the atmosphere of that particular location (Castleton in the Peak District looking across to Mam Tor hill fort), so we really wanted to re-do the entire artwork using much better photographic equipment that was now available to us (which I myself photographed), and with the skills of Dan Capp who has done all of the layouts on 'The Mercian Sphere' and now 'The Threnody Of Triumph' too (www.dancapp.com). Of course 'The Ghost Of Heritage' originally came out on Profound Lore Records, and Candlelight wanted to re-issue it, so that all of our albums to date were under the Candlelight banner. Given this opportunity we went about re-photographing the cover. When we originally recorded 'The Ghost Of Heritage' back in 2008, we also recorded the first versions of the tracks 'The Honour Of Good Men On The Path To Eternal Glory' and 'The Ruin', which were going to be used on a split with our friends in Wodensthrone. This split release didn't happen for various reasons, so these versions of these songs remained unreleased (not appearing on the original version of 'The Ghost Of Heritage'). We then re-recorded them in Foel Studios when we recorded 'The Mercian Sphere' and they appeared on that album. However the original versions of the songs had never been released, so we thought it would be a nice addition to the re-release of 'The Ghost Of Heritage' to include them as bonus tracks, with the whole album including those two songs re-mastered.
You are from Peak District I think. What can be seen as typical things in that region and what about its specific historical past? Did you discover special things that happened over there in history?
The Peak District is a very special place in England, and we are lucky enough to live near its most hilly and mountainous region, known as the High Peak. I spoke of the song 'Æfterield-fréon' earlier in this interview, that burial rite takes place in the High Peak and is the only place that still practices it in the British Isles, the planting of Elder trees on graves to assist the soul on its path into the afterlife and back into nature, the tree being associated with death and the afterlife down through the ages. This ritual has been practiced in the region for thousands of years. It is a very hilly, remote and mountainous region amongst some of the most beautiful scenery to be found in the British Isles. Favourite places for us are the village of Castleton with its many caverns, historic monuments and also the site of the beautiful Celtic hill fort known as Mam Tor (the Mother Hill). In Castleton every spring they celebrate Garland day, a procession and ritual to welcome in the spring and new life. Various places around the Peak District still practice the rite of Well dressing, where locals ritually adorn natural water springs with flowers, a kind of natural blessing rite. There are various stone circles and ancient sites all over the Peak District region. The Derwent Valley is a beautiful place, it's name translating from the original Celtic language to meaning 'A Valley Thick With Oaks', which is the subject of the track 'A Valley Thick With Oaks' on 'The Mercian Sphere' album. It is a special area of England that I'd encourage anybody visiting England to visit.
Your artwork is always breath-taking beautiful, depicting magnificent landscapes. So please tell me about the artwork and lay-out for 'The Threnody Of Triumph'?
The cover image was taken by Sara Lovisa at Austere Photography in the Snowdonia region of North Wales in the British Isles. It is as you say a breath-taking photograph and one that we feel represents the spirit of what we are trying to convey musically. The artwork was put together by Dan Capp (www.dancapp.com) who does all of our graphic design, and is in many ways the fifth member of the band in that sense; bringing the artistic concept to the album. All of the images inside the album were taken by me. They are more local and feature beautiful areas of the Peak District near to where we live.
Are you hoping for more gigs in the near future? Can we see Winterfylleth doing club shows all over Europe one day? (I hope so – Graspop was ace, but short)
Yes, hopefully there will be European tours in the future, probably next year. Also we are playing in London at the end of November with our label mates Anaal Nathrakh, We will also be playing in Dublin with Primordial next February, Hammerfest in North Wales with Enslaved and Candlemass. There will hopefully be various international dates, tours and festivals, which we will announce as soon as they are booked and confirmed.
What are the further plans for the near future?
As I mentioned, the band is looking to undertake some touring and getting out to play the summer festivals to support the new album in 2013, so we will be planning that quite soon. Also, we have recorded a three track folk EP that will come out after the album. The new album is out now so pick up a copy and keep supporting what we do, as we couldn't be where we are without you all. So we have a good few things on the horizon. For now we will be getting into the rehearsal room to polish up on the new album songs, so we can bring some of those out for the future performances.
Thanks a lot for your engrossing answers! You have created an amazing record again and hope to see you live soon. I wish you luck with all your endeavours…
Thank you for the great interview questions, and all the best from Simon and Winterfylleth.