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Fen - Epoch CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.91 | 144 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars As I write this review we are only just coming up to the half way point of 2011 and I dont know about anyone else, but I'm certainly finding it to be a good year for prog music. But, whilst I'm finding a lot of albums that are of a high quality, very few have blown me away. In fact, with the possible exception of the recently released Unexpect album (Fables of the Sleepless Empire) there is really only one album that has really got my attention and held it closely play after play, month after month and it's this one, Fen's second full length album Epoch.

For those that don't know, Fen are an atmospheric Black Metal band hailing from Britain playing in a style sometimes known as Post-Black Metal. Now, these days every genre imaginable has a post-whatever counterpart genre out there and I doubt I'm the only one that finds it a bit annoying and, well, lazy, and Post-Black Metal is one of those that I dont agree with. However, Fen are the first of these bands that I feel truly earns such a title, if one was needed, by incorperating elements of Post Rock into their brand Black Metal. They had done this on their debut album The Malediction Fields, but in a rather subtle way so taht it didnt jump out at the listener but the melding of styles has been increased here on Epoch with many songs utilizing guitar and keybaord passages that bring to mind Mono's most recent album, Hymn to the Immortal Wind, without ever getting close to plagerising the Japanese act. And though I'm not really a Post Rock fan I've got to say I love this, it seems to give Fen a sound of their own and allows them to stand out from the atmospheric metal crowd, a genre that is fast becoming bloated and filled with increasingly similar sounding bands.

In my review of the bands debut album I'd pointed out that one of its very few flaws was that several of the songs had openings that seemed far too similar to each other, making it difficult to distinguish between a couple of the tracks as you start listening to them but this is problem they have completely done away with as their composition and song writing skills have improved in the intervening time. Of the other two problems I noted in that review, both seem to have been addressed as well. One or two of the songs on The Malediction Fields, most notably Bereft, felt like they had been extended too far, going beyond the materiel they had to create that music but its a problem that never comes up here on Epoch, even the longest two tracks Half-Light Eternal and A Waning Solace feel perfectly developed from the ideas that spawn them. Lastly, the production is an improvement as well. Epoch takes the typical raw and distinctly unpolished sound that is so dominant in Black Metal but its very clear that its intended rather than just poor recording as each instrument is excellently mixed so that I have no problem with hearing each indavidual instrument and, unlike on The Malediction Fields, at no point does the sound become muddy either, its all very clear and, very importantly, well spaced out creating an effect that I feel like I'm being enveloped by the music.

The ability of the musicians is not to be underestimated as well. Other reviewers have already mentioned the prevailent skills of drummer Theatus in not just his excellent chops but also the way he feels the music and its no understatment to say that his playing contributes a lot the impact a lot of the music has. The bass playing og Grungyn proovs the perfect foil to Theatus drumming, solidly holding down the rhythm section whilst taking available chances to extend his bass lines into the melody and provide a regular counterpoint to the powerful and epic guitar playing of The Watcher. New recruite elwalh on keyboards provides the final piece of the puzzel in that his sound scapes provide a solid backing to the melodies and actually enjoy a far greater prescence than that of his predecessor. All four of them are without doubt excellent musicians, and in the cases of Grungyn and Theatus I'd go so far as to say they are the best musicians on their respective instruments in all of the atmospheric Black Metal scene, but without doubt the strength of this album lies in the fact that the sum of the whole is definitely greater than that of its parts.

Regardless of what I'm listening to there is always one thing that determines an exceptional album and thats its emotional impact on me as I listen to it and thats what this album does brilliantly. Epoch contains moments and passages of absolute beauty and brutal heaviness in almost every song and several moments where the distinction between the two gets blured seemlesly with the best examples probably being the endings of the epic Half-Light Eternal and Carrier of Echoes. Unfortunetly (or not, depending on your view), that emotional impact is not something that can be quantified by numbers or defined in words, but for Epoch its a certain something that makes me smile all the way through the album everytime I hear. The impact of passages like the opening of Ghost of the Flood or the middle section of The Gibbet Elms make me stop what I'm doing for a moment and just listen, and I've been listening to this album a lot over the last five months.

Words like beatiful, raw, brutal, epic, powerful, melencholic, uplifting and probably many others all go together to describe this album. It is definitely a dark, melencholic album that containes some very brutal and harsh moments, but its ofset by the fact that it seems to give a sense of hope to counter the melencholy, that the harshness is offset with its moments of beauty and power and of course it all melds together so that the overiding description of this album is that its simply epic. Best tracks on this album are probably The Gibbet Elms, Half-Light Eternal, Carrier of Echoes and A Waning Solace though the quality of all 8 tracks is so close that trying to pick out favourites almost becames a task in futility. Epoch is far and away the best album released so far in 2011 and will prove to be a very difficult album to top for any other band this year. More than that, its quickly establishing itself amongst my all time favourite albums, one of those that I can go back to again and again almost regardless of my mood and get something out of the listening experience, definitely a masterpiece.

sleeper | 5/5 |


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