It’s nice to see that black metal has matured over the last twenty five years. Colchester Arts Centre is, after all, an old church building that now functions as a music venue. Whereas previous generations of black metal bands would have seen such a building end up on the wrong end of a Molotov cocktail, it feels very much as though we’re past that now; with Winterfylleth the intention is to set the place ablaze only in a metaphorical, or musical sense. In support they find themselves in good, if a little different, company in the likes of local band Jøtnarr (tonight’s openers) and up and coming Suffolk black metal act Eastern Front, where all is certainly not quiet.
After a brisk but pleasant drink down the pub with Winterfylleth, it was time to head over the road to experience the crusty black metal that is Jøtnarr. Decorating the stage with lit candles was a nice touch to what was a thoroughly impressive set. Shunning the need for a bass player and instead doubling up on guitars turned out to be a good move for Jøtnarr, whose ridiculously heavy riffs interspersed with slightly more chaotic periods created a wall of sound that smacked everyone in the face harder than the fists of the Norse giants themselves. Although occasionally a little murky, the sound was necessarily turned up to eleven, and it was clear from faces all around (including tonight’s headliners’) that the band had earnt themselves some new followers. Eschewing time-consuming crowd interaction, there was a quiet seriousness underlying this set that added to the heaviness of the music. By far the most animated was the band’s drummer, whose technique may have been less orthodox than a Pussy Riot protest, but whose performance added that vital energy that this music needs.
Next onstage was Eastern Front. Marching out to the sound of triumphant military music, we straight away get the impression that this performance will be far more traditional. There’s a lot more dead-cow (or ‘leather’) and a lot more corpse paint. In this respect Eastern Front are something of an anomaly tonight, going much more for visual spectacle than the other bands. This does not detract from their sound, however, which matches up perfectly with the subject matter of their lyrics. At times they suffer from a slightly confusing mix, and one gets the impression that only someone familiar with their music on record will be able to pick out individual parts. That being said, the band play a solidly together set, and fans of their music will have plenty to bang their head about. Although the crowd are a little slow to react at first, by Blood on Snow at the end of their set, Eastern Front really succeed in getting people up to the front and showing their appreciation. Despite their excellent ability and the remarkable power behind their music, it still felt like something was missing, although it was not clear what. No fault in particular can be picked out, but one still can’t help thinking that they lacked some essential energy that would have topped off their performance tonight. Still, with such a beautiful first album and a second on the way, let’s hope that this band goes far.
And now, the band we’d all been waiting for. Or have we? Strangely enough, it seems as if there are fewer people here during Winterfylleth’s set than for Eastern Front. Stranger still, there seem to be even fewer by the end of their set. This is absolutely not a reflection of their performance, which confirmed the band’s worthiness of the headlining spot and their status as one of the country’s (and in the opinion of your humble reviewer, the world’s) greatest black metal acts ever to exist.
As soon as they took up the stage, Chris (vocals & guitar) beckoned the crowd forward, and was met with the kind of dutiful obedience that one would expect from such a well-respected band. Wintefylleth play their set with precision and passion, all the time retaining the cool and light-hearted air that they exude offstage. Their honest appearance and genuine likability as people makes their music all the more realistic, and we can really see that this music comes from their hearts. The friendship between bandmates is as apparent onstage as it was off-, with smiles often being exchanged and some tongue-in-cheek synchronised dance moves to boot. The seriousness of their music combined with the simplicity of their attitude captures nicely a balance that is rarely found in extreme music.
Musically, Winterfylleth seem to have that extra something that was perhaps missing from the other bands. Clean vocal harmonies were incredibly effective and were carried out with ease, acting as a tribute to the building’s former use as a church. Along with the slightly more folky aspects of Winterfylleth’s music, they gave a variety to the set that made it less of a performance and more of an experience. The music genuinely did inspire, and really conjured up images of the magnificent English countryside. Perhaps it was a benefit of setting, weather and sound, but Winterfylleth managed by far the best to transport us to another place tonight.
Some fan-filmed footage of Winterfylleth: