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Fen The Malediction Fields album cover
4.00 | 63 ratings | 9 reviews | 29% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Exiles Journey (8:08)
2. A Witness to the Passing of Aeons (7:07)
3. Colossal Voids (8:32)
4. As Buried Spirits Stir (6:58)
5. The Warren (7:10)
6. Lashed by Storm (8:54)
7. Bereft (11:49)

Total Time 58:38

Bonus tracks on 2013 double-LP reissue :
8. Spell of Reckoning (5:28)
9. The Untended Altar (8:49)

Line-up / Musicians

- The Watcher (Frank Allain) / electric & acoustic guitars, e-bow, keyboards, lead & backing vocals, producer
- Draugluin / keyboards, synth, backing vocals
- Grungyn (Adam Allain) / bass, lead (3) & backing vocals
- Theutus / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Adam Allain

CD Code666 ‎- Code037 (2009, Italy)

2xLP Eisenwald Tonschmiede ‎- EISEN073 (2013, Germany) With 2 bonus tracks, new cover art

Thanks to UMUR for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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FEN The Malediction Fields ratings distribution

(63 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(29%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (22%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (8%)

FEN The Malediction Fields reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Malediction Fields is the debut full-length studio album by UK post/ experimental black metal act Fen. The album was released on the 16th of January 2009 through Aural Music / Code666. The band was formed in 2006 and released an EP in 2007 called Ancient Sorrow ( a very rare vinyl version exists of this EP limited to 250 copies on brown vinyl). They´ve also released a demo/ promo in 2008 called Onset of Winter. The latter features the track As Buried Spirits Stir which is also featured on The Malediction Fields.

The music is strickingly beautiful IMO. Ambient post black metal with lots of string sound keyboards and an excellent flair for melody. The basis is raw black metal with the typical raspy vocals and noisy guitar wall but there´s so much more to the music on The Malediction Fields than that. In addition to the raspy vocals there are also some clean vocals. The melancholic and slightly out of tune clean vocals remind me of how Jonas Renkse sounded on Discouraged Ones (1998) by Katatonia or the clean vocal style on some of the early Novembre albums. There are lots of clean guitar parts too which really adds to the melancholic atmosphere on the album. A touch of post rock. The overall sound on the album is grand. Almost monumental at times. All songs are of high quality but I have to mention Colossal Voids which is the song that has most clean vocals. It´s such a melancholic and beautiful song. The pace of the music on the album varies from slow to fast ( I wouldn´t call it blasting but close). I think the variation in pace is one of the strengths on the album. The album never get boring or too repetitive.

The musicianship is good allthough there´s nothing really challenging going on. This is music made to create an atmosphere. It´s not made to show off.

The production is raw but suits the music well. The drums are a bit low in the mix and sounds a bit muddy at times but it´s actually sort of charming. This kind of music really wouldn´t work with a crystal clear production.

The Malediction Fields is an excellent debut album by Fen. Fans of atmospheric and ambient post black metal should definitely check this one out. I´ll rate the album with a fully deserved 4 star rating.

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars One of the finest discoveries for me this year.

Once a metalhead is never an EX-metalhead, he-he-he. I judge from myself, but it's also obvious for most of my fellow melomaniacs. So when I came across a metal band, which was described as "experimental, proggy and even shoegaze-like", I wasn't hesitating that much. FEN's full-length debut is a mindblowing mix of Post-Black, Art Rock, Progressive Metal and many more genres, but the core of it all lies in old 90s Black. If I ever dare to play Black Metal, I would play it in FEN's way - experimental, melodic and fresh on the one hand and classicaly evil and utterly dark on the other. Don't dare to miss it, you'll definitely like it if you like AGALLOCH, ALCEST, A FOREST OF STARS, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM and ULVER. Highly recommended!

P.S.: "The Warren" seems to be one of the best Post-Black instrumentals I ever heard

Review by sleeper
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.

Review by Prog Sothoth
5 stars From the Fens arrives Fen, a band playing Fennish metal with Fennish accents about life and death on the Fens. Surprisingly enough, it's fentastic.

There seems to be a reactionary attitude towards a lot of these black metal acts that have sort of branched into a new sub-genre that disposes of the satanic ramblings and focuses on an almost dreamy atmosphere inspired as much by post-rock and some alternative elements as traditional black metal musical blueprints. Honestly, many of these groups do little for me, coming across as neutered in aggression and/or lacking in dynamics and skill. I wasn't expecting too much out of The Malediction Fields; in fact I was merely hoping for it to possess some element that sets it apart from the rising tide of Agalloch clones. In hindsight, my expectations were not only met, but surpassed by an astronomical amount. The atmosphere conveys the swampy terrain through its miasmic production that still breathes openly to allow a sense of vastness to the proceedings. The focus is mainly on the trebly guitars, yet all instruments are heard clearly enough, including the bass guitar, which turned out to be a revelation not merely because the genre doesn't usually showcase the bass playing, let alone mix it to be fairly audible, but this Grungyn guy is one hell of a good bass player. It certainly adds a whole intoxicating layer upon these songs, especially concerning the final track which boasts some brilliant bass melodies.

Vocals have usually been a tricky issue with me, as I can enjoy harsh and inhuman styles if they are delivered with passion and immediacy, and a good portion of extreme metal features vocals that come across as non- descript grunts, snarls and rasps that offer little more than lyric recitation in an indecipherable tone. Fen's vocalist has a harshness and rage to his rasping that is also quite expressive in approach. Aided by reverb, the vocals soar like some bizarre spirit over the marshlands, violent yet vaporous and complemented by 'clean' vocals which sound detached and pneumatic like those of a shoegaze band. The overall sound of this group actually does harbor a shoegaze influence, but it never overtakes the black metal aspects of the band, which is when they really are in their zone. Their instrumentation is tight and well played with the murky production endowing the music with a loose feel. Drums are a bit buried, but this works in adding atmosphere while not sacrificing heaviness as there are plenty of ripping fast sections to appease fans of extreme metal.

For now, The Malediction Fields remains my favorite of this branch of atmospheric black metal. It never veers too far into other genres to the point where you just wish they would ditch the metal all together and become an alternative or post rock band, and they shouldn't since they capture that right amount of ferocity combined with an otherworldly flair that the most transcendental black metal albums of the early 1990's similarly displayed. If you're not a fan of extreme metal already, this probably won't be the album to convert you due to its harshness combined with softer sections that remind me of Pink Floyd's Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun in style and aura, but for those seasoned in this genre, it's practically essential. A fine achievement.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Though I found that the followup, Epoch, suffered from a little sophomore slump, I was impressed enough by Fen's Winter to want to go back and explore more of their discography, and I find that The Malediction Fields is a superior example of their early sound. It's still atmospheric black metal with some blackgaze elements, but what makes this a keeper for me is the slightly more prominent post-rock influences, making Fen a sort of UK answer to the likes of Agalloch. Deftly balancing harsher and more gentle musical stretches, Fen display a deft command of atmosphere here, which of course is the name of the game in this particular black metal subgenre.
Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The debut full-length major-label release from these from experimental British black metal artists.

1. "Exiles Journey" (8:08) a truly engaging introductory piece: atmospheric and melodic turning into frenzied black metal while maintaining distinctive instrumental representation throughout. Great touch, those synths, acoustic guitars, and choral vocals. And the growl voices have an almost theatric effect in their unique contribution. (14/15) 2. "A Witness to the Passing of Aeons" (7:07) sounds as if it should come from some horror film soundtrack, but then that B part! What an awesome wall of sound! (13.5/15)

3. "Colossal Voids" (8:32) opens in such a pleasant, almost-Neo-Prog way! Even the growl-less vocals are, I have to admit, a surprise. One-time lead vocalist Grungyn" (Adam Allain) does not have the control or experience and command that brother Frank has; his voice is pleasant but weak (which is probably why it's been mixed so deeply into the music). There is a touch of Post Rock in the way this song slowly builds to its crescendo in the sixth minute. The post-coital malaise that follows is unexpected, but then things quickly amp back up for the second dénouement before finally slowly decaying into its dreamy weave of arpeggiating treated piano and guitar. Nice! A little more flawed than the previous two songs but, at the same time, more adventurous and creative. (18/20)

4. "As Buried Spirits Stir" (6:58) straight black metal delivered in a straightforward way. (12/15)

5. "The Warren" (7:10) opens with two minutes of étude-like instrumental threads weaving their way as if a folk or Celtic song. At 3:15 there is a breakdown and shift in tempo and sound palette, using arpeggiated guitar and e-bow lead to build another minimalist weave before drums, bass, and growl vocals jump in at the five-minute mark. Reminds me of Viking death metal--or Einar Selvik and Ivar Bjørnson. (13.25/15)

6." Lashed by Storm" (8:54) seems to quick-rise out of the ashes of the previous song, quickly establishing its quick pace, thick guitar-laden walls of sound, and growl vocals. Synth lines become more prominent with the second verse. Great chord progression in the instrumental interlude in the third minute. Quiet interlude of sparse, arpeggiated instruments (two guitars, bass, simple drums) in the fourth minute. This then slowly builds with more independently directed threads from each of the instruments until some vocal satisfaction growls signal a switch into more metallic sounds and quicker pacing. As the band achieves full return to walls of sound at 6:30 the growl vocals return, returning to verse singing as in the beginning. The final 90 seconds sees an unexpected return to melodic chords and "normal" voice singing (from, I believe, Grungyn). Interesting and, I have to admit, totally unexpected song development/twists and turns. (17.75/20)

7. "Bereft" (11:49) the song with, in my opinion, the most "shoegaze" sound that will become so integral to their wonderful next album, 2010's Epoch. Even the bass lines remind me of something from RIDE or Simon Raymonde. Tempo and key shifts as well as shifts in sound palette continue to impress and make this album one of the more remarkable heavy prog albums of the Naughties. At 7:40 everything drops out and becomes atmospheric and beautiful, but then "The Watcher" reenters with his growl vocals for a minute or so before he fades out and the synths and arpeggiated guitar chords take us out gently. Wow. Nice. (22/25)

Total Time 58:38

B+/4.5 stars; a surprisingly refreshing album--one that portends great things for this creative band--and excellent addition to any prog lover's music collection.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars One of the early pioneers of what has become known as blackgaze, the London based FEN has been referred to as the English Agolloch and for great reason. Both bands develop lengthy soundscapes that evoke vast desolate terrains that are bereft of hope and fuse the world of atmospheric black metal with post-rock, acoustic guitar passages and nightmarish atmospheres although FEN while following Agolloch's footsteps, took things into even bleaker depths of depression and without the folk elements.

Formed in 2006 and named after the Fens of East Anglia, the quartet of The Watcher [Frank Allain] (vocals, guitar), Grungyn [Adam Allain] (bass), Theutus [Daniel Spender] (drums) and Draugluin (keyboards) released the EPs "Ancient Sorrow" and "Onset of Winter" before unleashing this ferocious debut THE MALEDICTION FIELDS onto the world. Given the success of the first blackgaze band Alcest, FEN followed the stylistic approach only kept the fiery black metal aspects in tact making their debut sound like an early second wave black metal album that incorporated the world of post-rock.

The seven tracks that make up THE MALEDICTION FIELDS feature atmospheric and ambient soundscapes that alternate between depressive acoustic passages and caustic black metal outbursts and everything in between. While black metal in general is usually uptempo with blastbeats in a furious rampage, FEN opted for a mellower mid-tempo trot. The band has been called the perfect mix of Agalloch, Negura Bunget, Primordial and Burzum but of course that only gets you in the right ballpark. Like many of these bands, The Watcher's vocals range from raspy screams to clean melodic ones.

Unlike much post-rock and -metal, FEN offers melodic song structures that simply extend the playing times with long repetitive and hypnotic extensions. The track lengths all exceed seven minutes (minus one that misses by two seconds). The song structure also adopts subtle influences from progressive rock with complex arrangements that don't seem quite so because of the slower ratcheting up effect. Like most bands that fall into the world of blackgaze, this one sort of meanders and implements the harsh tones, timbres and distortion of black metal but basically in the music itself falls into the world of post-rock and mellow prog.

This was highly touted as the next best thing when it was released in 2009 but i can't say i'm the hugest fan of THE MALEDICTION FIELDS. It's definitely an interesting and unique experience but it seems lopsided in many ways. While the black metal parts are performed exquisitely, the clean vocal parts are quite weak to my ears. There's just something that seems to be missing and i can't quite put my finger on it. The album is also way too long with one too many sprawlers for my liking. The most unsavory parts come when the raspy black metal vocals are singing in tandem with the clean vocals. Some sort of beauty and the beast take that falls flat. Innovative for sure but pleasant to listen to over the long run? Not really. This is definitely one of those albums that once the wow factor wears off it becomes quite average.

3.5 rounded down

Latest members reviews

5 stars A journey that will take you to the mos desolate lands, bring you back to beautiful landscapes and then back again to desperation, aggressiveness, and back to loneliness, winter and death. Epic at its best, Fen delivers a masterpiece of post folk metal, that needs to be listened several times. ... (read more)

Report this review (#549732) | Posted by TheOppenheimer | Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Above all, I am a proghead. Believe it or not, in certain circles, I am known as the Duke of Prog. Some of my favorite bands include: early-Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Premiata Forneria Marconi, and other 70's era prog pioneers. So why, over all of the progressive rock albums released in 2009 ... (read more)

Report this review (#263804) | Posted by brotherbartholomew | Monday, February 1, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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