Along with their fellows Wodensthrone, Manchester's Winterfylleth represents one of the brightest hopes from the Old Country in terms of honoring their forebears with forceful, melodic reckoning sorrow delivered like a charge to battle. The young band's debut The Ghost of Heritage was a fresh record when it released two years ago, and the band seek to expand upon that and perhaps take advantage of their leap from Profound Lore to Candlelight Records. Armed with tales of warfare and pride, they've lined up nearly 70 minutes of newer material, with the exception of the newly revised "Defending the Realm", which has an additional minute tacked on.
The style is not exactly novel for a band with pagan intentions. Black metal rasps or hymnal clean vocals over riffs that are perhaps more melodic and atmospheric than the genre's occult/Satanist forefathers, and through the storming assaults the band will break for an acoustic piece with some whispered vocals, like the winds of olde that have carried their inspiration into the young minds (i.e. "Children of the Stones", which is somewhat haunting). I was quite surprised to find many of the longer, harder tracks not so fulfilling, like "Gateway to the Dark Peak/The Solitary One Waits for Grace (The Wayfarer Pt. I)" or "Awakens He, Bereft of Kinsmen (The Wayfarer Pt. II)". The album sounds excellent, and the band do not lack for dynamic ability, its merely a lack of truly inspiring riffs.
Once one delves further into the album's contents, though, they meet with more satisfactory results, like the glinting steel that shines beyond the rolling tones upon "The Fields of Reckoning", or the epic "The Honour of Good Men on the Path to Eternal Glory", which mixes a tasteful, substantial acoustic intro with some desperate, hard riding rhythms that descend one into the melancholy of more innocent times. Days when conquest and honor were acceptable mediums, before England and Europe began its descent into corporate cess and the inevitable identity crisis it now suffers. The other lengthy piece, "To Find Solace...Where Security Stands (The Wayfarer Pt. III)" is also quite worthy, never quite risking to bore the listener. I also enjoyed the sprightly acoustic "When the Woods Were Young" and the swollen glories of "A Valley Thick With Oaks".
I won't say I was thrilled with The Mercian Sphere, and in fact I was not as impressed as by their debut album, but this is hardly a letdown if you're seeking something inspired by more than the usual demons and goat sacrifices, and I'm always happy to see a group of men or women grasp their roots with fondness rather than forgetfulness. They can write, they can play, I just think they could write material a little more interesting than what we're given on the sophomore. Half the tracks are bloody good, but the remainder are just passable. A slight push in variance, a more complex twist in some of the thundering, melodic barrages, and they'll have a master's grasp on their rustic window to the past (and, if society continues to fall to pieces, their potential future).
Verdict: Win [7/10]