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Fen - The Malediction Fields CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.14 | 52 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars For much of the last 10 years or so the more progressive side of Black Metal has been seeing something of a renaissance, with acts like Enslaved and Borknagar moving beyond the classic sound and new bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Alcest, Drudkh and others all appearing and adding their own take on the genre whilst following on from the experiments of In the Woods... and Ved Buens Ende. Fen, a new British band that comes from the fens, added their own sound to the mix with this, their debut album The Malediction Fields.

Fen play in the style known as Atmospheric Black Metal but freely add in elements of Shoegaze and Post-Rock to create a very airy and rich sound. The band themselves describe their music as trying to conjure up the feeling of loneliness and desolation that charecterises the region of the fens that is clearly a major part of their inspiration. And personally, I reckon they've done just that along with a strong melencholic feel that pervades much of their music and, surprisingly, an aspect of hope, that even though you might be "lost in colossal voids", it is not the end. Its this emotional aspect of their music, and that it works so brilliantly, that draws me to this band more so than other Atmospheric Black Metal bands. What Fen seem to have over their competition is that they haven't aimed to create a cold atmosphere like so many others have, its just a by product of their other elements and so the sound is totally organic, it doesn't feel forced.

As far as musicianship goes, Fen are amongst the most skilled of this genre, though admitedly its not a style that lends itself to displays of technical proficiancy as they could prove counter-productive. Much has been made of drummer Theatus ability (particularly on the second album, Epoch) and he deserves all the accolades here as he seems to posses a real feel for the music, there's barely a hint of the excessive thrashing on the snare drum that is so prevailent in pretty much all forms of Black Metal, and that so iritates me, and instead he makes excellent use of the toms and cymbals. What does surprise me is that bassist Grungyn doesn't get much talk as he's quite probably the best bassist in Black Metal. Its the ability to play bass runs that are so suitable for each section of music that grabs my attention, in a melodic fashion reminds me to some extent of Isis Jeff Caxide. Guitarist/vocalist The Watcher, as the main writer/composer, is the man largely responsible for creating the atmospheres that pervades Fen's music through his guitar playing. It must also be said that he provides some of the best vocals in Black Metal, with the charecteristic rasp set at a lower pitch than many use and that just seems to appeal to me far more than Black Metal vocals usually do. Draugluin's keyboards serve in the usual capacity of emphasising the atmosphere. The sound quality of The Malediction Fields is also pretty good, each instrument can clearly be heard, the bass even gets plenty of time pushed to the fore in the cleaner sections and doesn't get lost in the mix the heavier parts, which can so easily happen. It also has that very raw, unpolished sound and I think it works perfectly for this kind of music.

Despite the glowing praise I've heaped onto the band so far it is not a perfect album.Four of the songs all seem to start out the same way with a clean guitar arpegio defining the melody as the song build up for a couple of minutes before the heavier riffs start up. Though each is different, there's a bit too much similarity between them for comfort showing the bands inexperience, though admitedly with The Warren the slow build up before the explosion works exceptionally well and marks itself out as being a bit different to the others. It also needs to be said that for most of the album Draugluin's keyboards aren't all that necessary, and it will prove to be the only full album that he takes part in. Last of all, I find the closing epic, Bereft, to be a little too long. Its still a very good song, a couple of minutes could have been cut from the early parts and the end, tough it has to be said that Grungyn's bass run/melody at the 8 minute mark is excellent and makes the song worthwhile.

Picking favourite tracks from these seven is rather difficult, bit if there was anything on here that I'd say people really have to hear, it would be Exile's Journey, A Witness to the Passing of Aeons and The Warren. As most people on forums here seem to agree, 2009 was a very good year for Progressive Rock/Metal with numerous releases that gathered high praise. Fen's The Malediction Fields is one that seemed to pass under the radar that year and its a shame because I honestly rate it amongst my top 10 for that year. An excellent album that promises much for the future of this band, 4.5 stars from me.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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