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‘The Hallowing Of Heirdom’ is een ultiem voorbeeld van de veelzijdigheid van de Engelse band Winterfylleth! Zij maakten naam met atmosferische black metal albums waarin al eens bijzonder fraaie akoestische passages opdoken. Nu heeft men zich op deze laatste discipline geconcentreerd en een volledig akoestisch album gecreëerd. Het klinkt prachtig en neemt je mee op een muzikale reis die verfrissend en beklijvend is. Met zanger/gitarist Chris Naughton gingen we in op de beweegredenen van dit initiatief. Op eloquente wijze licht hij ons in over deze andere zijde van Winterfylleth, waarbij we ook nog even stilstaan bij de verschrikkelijke terreuraanval in hun stad vorig jaar.

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder pagan / folk metal

Hey Chris! We already lifted a tip of the veil about the plans for an acoustic album when having an interview for former album ‘The Dark Hereafter’. Now it will be released! So, let us start with the very beginning of this idea. How and when did you start thinking about a full album acoustically, since usually you belong to the Atmospheric Black Metal genre?
I think it’s always been in the back of our minds that Winterfylleth could do an acoustic album and that it could make sense as part of our discography, but it probably wasn’t until about 2015 that we started talking about doing it seriously. Nick and I were writing a lot of acoustic material together at the time and had thought about maybe recording it as an EP, just under our own names or something like that. But the more time went on, and the more we thought about it, the more to made sense for us to expand upon the ideas we were coming up with, and to involve the other guys in doing it as a Winterfylleth album. As it turns out, it came at quite a good time for us, in that we were all in a similar state of mind, particularly Dan (our lead guitar player) who had also been working on his solo, Wolcensmen album ‘Songs From The Fyrgen’ - that happens to be in a similar vein. So, given that we were all in the right head space for it, we put our minds to it, under the guise of Winterfylleth and spent just over two years writing it and then recording it. I think, going into this album, we knew that we were stepping out of our comfort zones as writers and performers, so we really put the time and effort into it creating every aspect of this album. Primarily to make sure that it stood up to our metal albums and was just as emotional, moving or passionate as anything we’d ever done before. But also because we genuinely believed that we could make something great in this style.

And it is important to mention that these are new songs, not re-arranged older songs of yours. Was this one of the intentions from the very beginning?
Yes absolutely. All of the songs on this album are completely new compositions. It contains no re-workings of older songs, or anything like that. We toyed with the idea of re-working an older track for this album, but it didn’t really make sense when we were coming up with so many great ideas anyway. I think we probably have ideas for four or five more tracks than are on this album, so with so much new material coming out of us, it didn’t make sense to tread over old ground in the acoustic style.

Are there traditional songs amongst them - or parts of traditional folk songs?
No, it’s all new material. The only thing that is ‘traditional’ are some of the stories in the lyrics.

There are quite a few instrumental songs on the album, but lyric-wise we have the brave lyrics about Anglo-Saxon heritage and history. I can image there are some fascinating stories of old among them. Can you tell a bit more about some of the songs lyrically?
There isn’t that much about Anglo Saxon history on this album as it turns out. It is more wide-reaching and deals with other elements of British folklore such as riddles, odes, rhymes and folk tales, So, more than some of the Saxon poetry we’ve used in the past. Interestingly we’ve used pastoral poetry in some songs this time around, like the first track on the album, ‘The Shepherd’. ‘The Shepherd’ is based on a poem called ‘The Passionate Shepherd To His Love’ by Christopher Marlowe from 1593, which is one of the earliest examples of English Pastoral poetry. It is often studied by English Literature students and is quite a uniquely British type of verse, referencing views of pastoral idyll and a heartfelt love for the natural world. The words are used to create a private, flawless vision of rural life within the context of personal emotion and seem to profess romanticism for elements of the natural world. I think these kinds of sentiments echo our own feelings of romanticism for the natural world and instil a deeper feeling that it is a thing worth saving, rather than exploiting.

Did you ever play an acoustic gig before? (since there is mostly one acoustic song on your albums, except on the latest one)
Yes, we’ve been playing a few acoustic shows support Dan with his Wolcensmen project over the past year. But we have never done any Winterfylleth shows like this yet, so 2018 will be an interesting year for us in that regard.

Which new instruments (for you) did you introduce on this album, since this is a totally different approach of making music of course?
I don’t think we introduced any new instruments particularly. We just transferred to using nylon and steel stringed acoustic guitars, rather than electric guitars. I guess the only truly ‘new’ instrument would be the cello which is used on most tracks of the album.

How did you select the guest musicians and can you tell a bit more about them?
We initially brought session players in to the recording sessions, fill a need in recording and performing those parts on the album, as none of us could play the cello or the violin. But having worked together and become closer friends with Jo (Quail, cello player) particularly, I don’t think any of us could have imagined how the album could have turned out that way without her. Her playing is so passionate, emotive and atmospheric that it added a truly otherworldly dimension to the album. Equally, the violin and viola playing was done by an amazing lady called Victoria Bernath who also brought her unique style and talents to the songs as well. String instruments like this can sound so amazing, or, so desperately poor depending on whose hands they are in. So, I feel like we were truly fortunate to have Jo and Victoria playing on this album.

In ‘The Nymph’ we hear spoken words by a woman. I think she recites a poem... Can you go deeper into that song and text?
The song is a poem by Walter Raleigh called ‘The Nymph’s Reply To The Shepherd’ which is a line for line rebuttal of the opening song ‘The Shepherd’. It’s a slightly sarcastic, take on the pastoral romanticism of the opening track and provides a deeper look into the somewhat jaded nature of British humour, and was an interesting companion song to the opener. It was performed by Angela Deeks, who is Mark’s wife and also a very talented stage performer in her own right. It was also a nice change from the mostly male voices on the album, and was fitting for a track which is supposed to be the words of a female field nymph replying to a male shepherd.

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In Autumn 2017 you did a tenth anniversary tour in Europe. What are your memories on this trip and celebration?
I think that when you’re in a band, you can often overlook these kind of landmarks, so for me it was good to be able to honour our ten-year anniversary in some way. The tour was excellent, and it was great to be able to do a more extensive run of shows with our friends in Fen. It was also great to be able to bring Wiegedood to the UK for a tour for the first time, and you can see them going from strength to strength now. It was also good to bring out a newer band in Necronautical and give them a bigger tour and a platform from which to launch their new album. There were some great shows, some great shared times having fun and drinking beers together. It was just a perfect, no stress, tour that saw some of our biggest headline shows come to pass. A real celebration for us. I just wish it could’ve been longer!

Alas we also had a terror attack in Manchester in May 2017. How did you hear about it and what was going through your minds when you realized it was happening in Manchester!?
I was in Croatia on holiday with my fiancé, Heather when we found out about the terror attacks. We were in a hotel in a city called Split and were due to fly home early the next day. It was doubly scary to find out this had happened in Manchester, and at the arena, because I have a close friend called Tom who is quite senior in the management team where the terror attack happened. So, my immediate thoughts were of him and his safety, but also of the horror that this had happened in OUR city and that so young people were subject to this for just going out to a pop concert with their friends. It was sobering to me because I’m sure that most of us feel numbed to terror attacks being ‘just things that you see on the news’, that always happen in faraway places. It just made it SO REAL for me that it happened somewhere that I regularly visit for shows and near to people who I care about.

As I said, we were due to fly home from Split to Manchester a few hours after finding out, so Heather and I were also quite scared as to what the situation might be when we landed. It’s quite daunting to be flying home to the airport of a city that’s just been attacked by a bomber. We thought the security would be crazy and the place would be on lockdown. So, it wasn’t the greatest flight as a result. I’m not the most willing flyer at the best of times, and I was certainly unsure of arriving and what might happen. As it turns out, things were ok, but the city was on lockdown for days and the feelings of abject sorrow that came over us both were very strong.

I think it’s taken a long time for people to come to terms with it here in Manchester, and there are lots of tributes in the city, everywhere you look. I like the defiance of the people from our city, to just carry on and get past this. But, while that is admirable, it seems to be a sad reflection of our political world and of our foreign policy that we now live in a world where things like this seem to be happening more regularly.

You recorded ‘The Hallowing Of Heirdom’ with trusty Chris Fielding again, but for the mastering Markus Stock of Empyrium fame was engaged. I think you could not find any better master in this acoustic style, since they made ‘Weiland’ so many years ago, isn’t it? What about your adventure of working with him and how did you come to the decision to involve Markus?
I think we always knew that this album needed a different approach to the others, and getting Markus involved was a no brainer for us. We wanted somebody to master the album who knew this kind of music and was comfortable with what it is supposed to sound like. Empyrium are an essential band in this style and Markus a great engineer. So, it made sense to put the album in his capable and safe hands. I think the warmth and the beauty really comes through because of the finishing touches he put to the album.

To be honest, your approach sounds Empyriumish... with crystal-clear acoustic guitars that hold tension within and the beautiful string parts! Can you find yourself a bit in that feeling of mine?
Empyrium are an excellent, and in many ways, a ground breaking band of this style. They are also a favourite of ours as well. But I think if we are critical here, you can tell the Winterfylleth album is quite different sounding to theirs. That we’ve both made acoustic albums is true, but there is a different spirit and sound to theirs I feel. I don’t think many fans have a wide frame of reference for this type of thing, so I’m glad more bands are starting to do it and open doors into a different musical world for the fans.

Is there more work on preproduction of the shows, now that you have several acoustic shows in the planning?
Yes, absolutely. These kinds of shows require a much bigger production than anything we’ve done before, as they include string players as well. So, the venues and the rehearsals have had to be very different to accommodate that.

However, this time the cover artwork happens to be an oil painting. How did you find it and please tell us a little bit more about it and about the artist?
I think that all the album covers are a way of depicting the purity and majesty of the natural world for me. They represent an untouched, unsullied and thriving ecosystem that has been there for millions of years; before the toxic inferences of mankind. They also represent the beauty and the fragility of this outside world. One that we all seem to take for granted - or maybe not even think about! They further visualise, for me, how our own lives are intrinsically linked to the fate of the natural world and that it – as well as humanity – are worth looking after. We need to collectively lift our heads up from our desks and do something about that however. This time we had a painting done by a guy called David Taylor who captured an image of ‘Sycamore Gap’ on Hadrian’s Wall, at dusk. It’s beautiful and in-keeping with the more personal feeling of this album. We came across him by chance really, after searching images online and being struck by one of his. He does these paintings that he terms “moodscapes”. They are fantastic. Check him out here:

Are there plans for video clips?
Yes, we are due to release the title track as a proper video in the coming weeks. The first time we have ever done a full music video as a band.

We are looking forward to that! Can you tell anything about the four bonus tracks on the Deluxe Double CD edition?
There is one additional new track on it called ‘Across Silent Fells’ which is also from the album session. There are also two alternative versions of the tracks ‘Æcerbot’ and ‘The Nymph’. The former features flute layers from the excellent Jake Rogers and the latter is vocally performed by Mark, rather than Angela on spoken word vocals. The last song is an alternative demo version of ‘Elder Mother’ that we released as a single a few weeks ago.

I see several gigs announced. So what are the plans for the near future?
Our new album, ‘The Hallowing Of Heirdom’ comes out on April 6th 2018, so following that we will be doing some launch shows for that with some great session players, in some unique locations through the UK. After that we will be building towards some more metal shows in the summer and hopefully a more extensive acoustic tour in September/October 2018.

If there is anything you’d like to add, please feel free to do it here...:-)
We hope you all love the album and would like to see you down the road somewhere in 2018.

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