Fen are a band that I can not get enough of lately. The Malediction Fields was quite a tour de force and I am very excited about how the band is progressing upon hearing this new split. Fen was formed in early 2006 by Grungyn, Theutus and The Watcher, and were joined by Draugluin in 2007. In early 2010, Draugluin was replaced by keyboardist Æðelwalh.The band have released one EP, “Ancient Sorrow” (2007, under Northern Silence), and one full-length, The Malediction Fields (2009, under Code666). Their second album, Epoch will be released in early 2011.
A new more experimental direction is apparent right from the start. Post-punk and 80’s new wave influences are showcased throughout Fen’s side, especially on the track “Soilbound.” The black metal heaviness of Fen is still apparent, but it is being pushed and pulled in so many interesting directions instead of the standard blast beat fury, as in “Ageless Thenody.” The Watchers screams are a highlight on the track and around the 4 minute mark he lets out his most tortured scream to date.
Fen is clearly continuing their musical journey with these 4 songs. I am even more excited for Epoch after hearing this split. Along with the Agalloch influence, there is the ever-growing progressive rock and post-punk/goth influence. The clean guitar passages give off a nice 80’s vibe without sounding out of place. Fen knows what they are doing when it comes to combining influences. The Fen half closes with an all-acoustic, instrumental rendition of the closing track “Bereft,” from The Malediction Fields. This is another aspect that makes this split more special and a reason to purchase. Lush acoustic guitars strumming major chords flow with piano and acoustic bass lines. It is always an interesting time hearing another version of a song you know from one specific form.
The cinematic influence of Fen’s music is also growing. Sweeping atmospheres that are so visual and thick are always present and I can tell the band is only going to move forward and continue to push the envelope and evolve.
This is my first time hearing the band and I am pleasantly surprised with the output. They produce solid atmospheric black metal with a great overall feel which is definitely a good compliment to Fen’s half. The riffs are a good mix of the standard trem-picked Darkthrone-inspired rhetoric and honest, creative black metal.
I am reminded of Ulver’s Bergtatt at times, especially when this Swede sings clean vocal passages. That Scandinavian 'epic' feeling is showcased throughout and the three songs are a great capturing of a band that has a lot of potential. I really enjoy the melancholic passages that have floating clean vocals over the top. It is a nice touch that really keeps the songs from falling into the ‘trve’ niche too far. It is no surprise that De Arma is on this split. The three songs again, reflect the Fen tracks well and are a great addition.
Overall this is a solid release and a great tease for Fen’s full-length, Epoch, due out February 15. Recommended.