Jun 082013

It’s probably inevitable that associations will be drawn between England’s Winterfylleth and Scotland’s Àrsaidh. Both bands play what might be called atmospheric, folk-influenced black metal. Both bands take the ancient heritage of their respective countries as the inspiration for their music and the focus of their lyrics. And the music of both bands is dramatic and serious-minded. In light of Winterfylleth’s well-earned rise to prominence, and the temptation of fans and critics to compare new bands to better-known ones, I’d be surprised if the comparison weren’t made. Hell, I think I just did it myself.

At a high level, all those similarities exist, and I would add one more: Àrsaidh’s debut album Roots is as deserving of attention as The Threnody of Triumph and The Mercian Sphere. In fact, Roots is downright brilliant. But there are important differences, too — beyond the fact that both albums come from cultures that have warred with each other for longer than they’ve (ostensibly) been united.

Roots really is deeply atmospheric, but it doesn’t rely on riffs or hard-hitting rhythmic movement. For most of the time in the album’s very long songs there’s a background wash of tremolo-driven distortion — rising, falling, sometimes almost pulsating — and racing, rolling, tumbling drumwork. This provides the bottom layer of these multi-faceted songs, to which Àrsaidh adds simple but affecting melodies that are carried by a variety of instruments — acoustic and electric guitar, piano, echoing flutes, synthesized strings (sometimes in the movement of a soaring chorus, sometimes the soulful voice of a single violin). Continue reading »