|Winterfylleth live at Metal Camp|
For years, the folk metal jollies were sweeping the nation (as well as most of Europe and America) which was all well and good, until there seemed to be in the air a craving for something a little more serious by nature. Picture the scene: a bikers' pub just outside Leicester. A few fairly decent folk metal bands have just performed, with a good reception, when six woad-painted warriors take the stage. At the time, they are known by name and reputation, but their praises are seldom heard being cried from the rooftops. What then ensues is a cosmic barrage of relentless black metal savagery coupled with beautifully executed ambient passages. Haunting riffs create cavernous depths from which the archaic screams of the past are heard, urged forward by the precision battery of war drums, enriched by the enchanting spells of synthesised mysticisms… You guessed it; this band is Wodensthrone, and I imagine that for many present, myself included, this is the first glimpse of what the most recent wave of UK black metal is all about.
Here in the UK, we seemed to be just that little step ahead of everyone else with all this. While our European counterparts and American cousins were mostly stuck comparing battle axe sizes, there seemed to a be a definite and noticeable subconscious shift in the way we were thinking about the scene. Folk metal and black metal had long been brothers in arms, yet slowly the dominant brother began to get more of the attention, attract more pretty girls (or, rather, bearded men) and generally find his way to the forefront of people's interests. Perhaps it was indeed our yearning for something that bit more complex, more deeply rooted and more revolutionary that black metal began to take the UK metal community by storm. Don't get me wrong, black metal has always had a huge underground following here, but this particular surge in popularity was being led by none other than our very own, home-grown breed of bands. It's hard to define the attraction; for me, I believe that what was so exciting about the emergence of this new wave was the overwhelmingly distinct sounds being created. Credit where credit's due, bands like Drudkh, Emperor, Negura Bunget, Wolves in the Throne Room (groups I consider to be firmly rooted in the more 'ethereal' side of things) certainly paved the way for what was being written on these shores, but the passion and ferocity with which our boys were delivering appeared to set us worlds apart from the largely stagnant worldwide scene.
All Inclusive Deal
|Darlington's Old Corpse Road|
For me, one of the most remarkable things some UK black metal bands seem to be doing these days is not giving a solitary fuck about going out of the way to look or act like a black metal band 'should'. Take Winterfylleth as prime example, with the guys simply rocking up in band t-shirt/jeans/trainers combinations - would that be allowed in the European black metal rule book? I doubt it, but they pull it off by simply playing music that is distinctly above average. There they are on stage, just four normal fellas playing incredibly well-written, passionate, intense music which carries itself. I often get the impression, without over-inflating our collective head, that perhaps we British are on a higher level of thought when it comes to black metal, that we appreciate it purely for its intellectual and emotional values; I'm not saying all Europeans are only interested in blasphemy and corpse paint, but hopefully you understand what I mean… This goes for UKBM fans too; I noticed at one point that black metal over here almost became the new 'in' thing to listen to. I remember at work once, a lad came in wearing a checkered shirt, skinny jeans et al - but underneath was a WITTR shirt. This guy would have looked pretty at home at some hipster gig (nothing wrong with that, like), and there he was brandishing his love for atmospheric black metal, shock horror! To see someone like that at a black metal gig in the UK these days is pretty commonplace; catch them at a death metal gig and you'd immediately think "scene poser wanker". Go on, admit it, you would. He didn't have a fringe though, to be fair. The point is, for a genre that has always given such a cut-off-from-the-world impression, we in the UK seem to have carved out our own little niche which is seemingly, and proudly, very much inclusive. Ironic, given the spiel that some over-conscious ignorant beings come out with whenever some of these bands are mentioned, eh? But I won't go into that old business…
|Fyrdsman 'Forgotten Beneath the Soil'|
Of course, we all know there are many fantastic black metal bands doing things a little differently on the Continent, but in my opinion a large majority appear to be stuck in a cycle. To be fair, the current wave of UKBM might not even have come to exist without the influence of some of these groups, but our scene is upping the ante, it has to be said. As a nation we've always been bloody good at leading the way in metal - all in all I'd say we have a pretty good thing going, and it's only getting bigger.