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FEN

Experimental/Post Metal • United Kingdom


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Fen biography
FEN is a UK post/ experimental black metal act formed in 2006. The band is named after a region in England called The Fens where the band members grew up. The Fens is an area of marsh- and wetlands and is characterized by being a very flat and mysterious landscape. FEN find much of their inspiration in the atmosphere of this area.

The band consists of Grungyn ( bass, cries), Theutus ( drums), The Watcher ( voices, strings and woe) and Draugluin (keys, ambience).

The first release by the band was the Ancient Sorrow EP from 2007. FEN released an independent demo called Onset of Winter in November of 2008 before releasing their debut full-length studio album The Malediction Fields on the 16th of January 2009 through Aural Music/ Code666.

Their music is based in harsh black metal but has lots of ambient and epic elements as well as elements from post rock/ metal.

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Carrion SkiesCarrion Skies
Code666 2014
Audio CD$10.03
$10.02 (used)
The Malediction FieldsThe Malediction Fields
Import
AURAL MUSIC 2011
Audio CD$10.04
$8.88 (used)
Trails Out of GloomTrails Out of Gloom
CD BABY.COM/INDYS 2010
Audio CD$8.64
$4.68 (used)
EpochEpoch
AURAL MUSIC 2011
Audio CD$9.29
$7.29 (used)
DustwalkerDustwalker
Limited Edition · Special Edition
CODE666 2013
Audio CD$18.75
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FEN discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

FEN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.16 | 47 ratings
The Malediction Fields
2009
3.97 | 133 ratings
Epoch
2011
3.80 | 17 ratings
Dustwalker
2013
3.90 | 12 ratings
Carrion Skies
2014

FEN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

FEN Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

FEN Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

FEN Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 2 ratings
Ancient Sorrow
2007
5.00 | 2 ratings
Onset of Winter
2008
4.08 | 5 ratings
Towards the Shores of the End
2011

FEN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Carrion Skies by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.90 | 12 ratings

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Carrion Skies
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 'Carrion Skies' - Fen (75/100)

Any discourse I've had regarding 'post-black metal' doesn't last long without me bringing up Fen's second album, Epoch. The popular belief seems to be that their debut The Malediction Fields was a better record, but I stand by Epoch not only as Fen's best, but one of the (if not the) greatest post-black album ever made. To me, it was the fusion of precise songwriting and sonic vastness; whereas most bands would be lucky to succeed at one or the other, Fen were a rarity. To date, Epoch is one of that handful of albums that still begs me to listen to it, years since I first heard it.

There's no denying that unbeatable precedent has weighed heavily on the way I received Dustwalker, its 2013 successor, and now Carrion Skies. At first I loved Dustwalker, but a lacklustre second side has since dimmed my approval. I don't mean to infer that Carrion Skies is a bad album by any means, but with Fen's latest, my strongest reaction is one of disappointment, for the widening schism between the my idealized imagining of Fen, and the work they've actually been doing. Yet, Carrion Skies deserves to be heard; its merits nonetheless outreach its less subjective shortcomings, and though it falls short of the consistency and excellence I keep hoping to hear from this potentially world-class act, there are more than enough flashes of brilliance on the album to excuse Fen's less inspired moments.

In most senses, Carrion Skies represents a continuation of the approach and execution of Dustwalker. Once again, Fen are blessed with a pleasantly 'earthy' production, perhaps a nip murkier than Dustwalker, conjuring swampy images of the fens for which the band was so-named. If Epoch represented the aether and Dustwalker evoked earthly hardiness, let Carrion Skies be seen as their swampy equivalent; earth marred with the muddling effect of water. These superfluous associations with nature are unnecessary and pedantic, but it's only to Fen's credit that the images are evoked in the first place.

Musically, Carrion Skies is perhaps more riff-based than its predecessors, but the sound is instantly recognizable. Atmospheric black metal (with muddy reverb aplenty) and effective post-rock segues are once again the breadwinners of Fen's style. I might have hoped to hear some greater stylistic innovations over the course of four albums, but with a rare blessing of an already-identifiable style, switching things up is by no means an immediate concern for Fen. As such, most of my thoughts relating to the execution of Carrion Skies could just as well be transposed to any of their other works. I am usually as impressed by The Watcher's snarled vocals as much as I'm impressed by their surroundings. If the given passage feels evocative and purposeful, chances are the vocals will strike me the same way; ditto for whenever they dawdle. Fen's vocals (perhaps save for the effete cleans, about which I've had mixed views throughout their career) sound rightly placed in their black metal setting, although his aggressive delivery places The Watcher more along the lines of John Haughm's (of Agalloch) rasp than the average basement shrieker.

For better or worse, with the exception of the first and last tracks I remember the songs on Carrion Skies for particularly strong passages rather than the composition as a whole. The bending guitar part at the bass- heavy intro to "Our Names Written in Embers Pt. II" is very good. The mid-section of "Sentinels" has great lead riffs and cleverly atmospheric use of clean vocals. The build-up of "The Dying Stars" (accented with a brilliantly effective pick slide as the vocals emerge) possibly stands as the best passage on Carrion Skies. Even the post-rock introduction (a trope usually handled by bands with the same somnolent attitude they would approach wallpaper and how-to knitting videos) feels driven and motivated. With that excellent momentum, it's a shame that "The Dying Stars" seems to lose focus shortly thereafter, diving into a sleepy post-rock segue and re-emerging like a different song altogether. I get that impression from many of the songs here. There are masterpiece-worthy ideas here, but the songs they're part of are rarely perceptive enough to make full use out of them.

"Our Names Written in Embers Pt I" is a memorable track; nowhere near as powerful as Dustwalker's respective opener (and one of my favourite Fen tunes) "Consequence", but it's one such track with a pleasantly defined beginning, middle and end. However, nothing on the album could prepare for "Gathering the Stones". This track brings me back to the shock and awe I felt with Alcest's "Delivrance" earlier this year, a spectacular end to an otherwise underwhelming album. The central motif is run through a series of stages, each one more enticing than the last. It's a gorgeous monument that highlights Fen's skills with melody and atmosphere alike. Unlike much of the album, "Gathering the Stones" identifies its best ideas and actually [%*!#]ing sticks to them. Whereas the rest of the album was generally a frustration in that regard, "Gathering the Stones" sees it realized beautifully. This is the Fen I wanted to hear. If anything, it goes to show that Fen's potential can be seen on every album; the resulting quality of each album is determined by how much of the album is defined by that potential.

In more ways than one, I've linked this album to the recent fare by Agalloch, The Serpent & The Sphere. Not only do the bands overlap stylistically (they've toured together, if I'm not mistaken); in both cases I expected masterpieces in keeping with their past work, and both times the result was an otherwise solid album that fell short of the game-changer I was hoping for. Carrion Skies is the least impressive album from Fen so far, and in a sense, saying that should only serve to emphasize what a strong career they have had up until now.

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 Dustwalker by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 17 ratings

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Dustwalker
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars There may have been a slight line-up change since 2011's 'Epoch' with drummer Theutus having been replaced by Derwydd (the trio are completed by The Watcher vocals/guitar and Grungyn bass/vocals) but this is very much a continuation of where they were before as opposed to a new direction. Like many others I was incredibly impressed by 'Epoch' which brought in a desolation and bleakness not normally heard outside of Norway, and here the guys are back again with Black Metal that is being taken to a whole new level. Remember, these guys are from the fens in England not an isolated fjord yet they manage to bring in a real sense of loss and despair.

This is the first release of a new three album deal with Code666 and I bet the label are well- pleased with his outing. From atmospheric gentle keyboards and riffs to something far more hellish this really is an album that shows that British BM can be just as unforgiving and dynamic as that from the European mainland. The more one listens to this the more there is to hear, with a simple complexity that is going to gain this band a lot of praise. Evil comes to those who wait and there is a foreboding and presence in this music that contains plenty of that. www.auralmusic.com

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 Dustwalker by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 17 ratings

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Dustwalker
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars "Dustwalker" is the 3rd full-length studio album by UK black metal/shoegaze act Fen. The album was released through code666 in January 2013. Since the release of "Epoch (2011)" drummer Theutus has been replaced by Derwydd and keyboard player ''elwalh has left the band. As a consequence "Dustwalker" was recorded as a trio consisting of Derwydd (drums), The Watcher (lead vocals, guitars) and Grungyn (bass, vocals).

...the new trio format and the lack of a keyboard player replacement, have quite a bit of impact on how "Dustwalker" sounds compared to the first two albums. But then again, the basic core of the band's music is still intact and you are never in doubt that it is Fen you're listening to. I'd say "Dustwalker" leans a bit more toward the shoegaze part of Fen's sound, but there are still several raw yet atmosperic black metal parts on the album too. The epic majestic element that was often created with the use of keyboards on the first couple of albums, is not as prominent on "Dustwalker", but I'd still call the music epic albeit in a slightly different way. The vocals alternate between raspy black metal type vocals and melancholic clean vocals. It's still the influence from artists like My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive that are most prominent in the music (of course paired with an atmospheric and raw black metal sound) but the vocal delivery in "Hands of Dust" also brings Joy Division into the picture as an influence.

The organic and raw sound production suits the music perfectly and proves to be another asset to an already great album release by Fen. The tracks are generally very long (most of them between 7 and 13 minutes long) and the 66:48 minutes long album requires both patience and many spins before all details unveil themselves. It will probably be debated among fans if they prefer they "old" sound with the dominant synths or the more organic and simple three-piece sound of "Dustwalker". Personally it took some getting used to, but upon conclusion I think it's great that Fen have opted for a slightly different musical approach this time around. Both because it works really well but also because it makes "Dustwalker" stand out from their first two albums. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.

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 Dustwalker by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 17 ratings

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Dustwalker
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

5 stars 'Dustwalker' - Fen (9/10)

Around this time two years ago, Fen offered its second record to date, "Epoch". Adorned with an inconspicuous blue cover and coming from a band I had then-heard very little about, I would never had predicted that it would become one of the most powerful experiences I'd ever had with metal overall, let alone any of the specific sub-genres listeners claim the band fit into. Boasting a style fusion of atmospheric black metal and post-rock popularized by some North American bands (namely Wolves in the Throne Room and Agalloch), Fen put their own twist on the tried-and-true formula, evoking an atmosphere like few I'd ever heard before. To this day, I've considered "Epoch" one of the greatest black metal albums to come out of the contemporary period, and it comes as no surprise, then, that "Dustwalker" was, and still is an album that inspires quite a bit of excitement in me. Although it may still be too early to tell how "Dustwalker" will ultimately stand against its near-perfect predecessor, I can't think of a better album to have started 2013 on. It's a rich, darkly beautiful exploration of the feelings between hope and despair, and I wouldn't be surprised if it's just as impressive by year's end.

Especially considering the effect "Epoch" has had on me, it's only natural to have approached "Dustwalker" wondering how it would stand up to the one before. Although albums have been cut from the same proverbial cloth, there is the sense that Fen wished to reinvent themselves here, however subtle the changes may be. While "Epoch" gave the impression of an air, or aether-based album, "Dustwalker" offers an earthier experiences. Many of the superfluous background synths have been taken out of the mix, now replaced by a greater focus on clean guitar tones. Although the emotional emphasis on melancholia and sober reflection has never faltered within Fen's formula, the way they convey the atmosphere feels far for natural. Rather than "Epoch"s experience of soaring lonesome over a dark forest, "Dustwalker" plants you beneath the tree canopy, looking from the roots up and feeling all the more insignificant as a result.

As one may imagine, Fen's black metal aspect has become grittier with this earthy atmosphere and production. Even so, Fen's style seems more rooted in post-rock aesthetic than ever. Although the distorted guitar tones have been kept true to organic form, there's nothing about the sound that grinds against the ears; it's a rare case where I would call a black metal album beautiful from the classical aesthetic. Much like Fen's past work however, "Dustwalker" enjoys a fair deal of cinematic complexity birthed by an influence in progressive rock. Most of these tracks linger around the ten minute mark, and there are ideas enough to keep each of them vibrant and engaging throughout. Among these, the first three tracks ("Consequence", "Hands of Dust", and "Spectre") are the best things the album has to offer. "Consequence" takes a more progressive approach to songwriting than previously seen from the band, whereas the second and third opt for a slower-paced, 'cinematic' feel. "Spectre" may very well be the greatest thing Fen have ever done, opening with warm acoustics and brittle-yet-tender clean vocals, before ultimately building up into an almighty climax that has never lost any of its staying power. The second half of the album follows a similar stylistic direction, but it never feels quite as memorable and emotionally perfect as the first three tracks.

Although it has higher highs than "Epoch", "Dustwalker" is not quite as consistent as its predecessor. Regardless, Fen have successfully innovated their sound just enough to make this album take on a life of its own. It will be curious to see if any other atmospheric black metal band this year is able to knock off Fen off of their early throne. Ultimately, it will be up to time to decide where the album stands, but it's rare that an album leaves such an immediate, yet lasting impact on me. 2013 is now upon us, and it is sounding incredible.

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 Dustwalker by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2013
3.80 | 17 ratings

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Dustwalker
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer

2 stars 4/10

An unfortunate, missed attempt to evolve Fen's sound.

Fen is an English Black Metal band, and Dustwalker is their third full length album, the follow up to the beautiful and emotional Epoch, most definitely one of the most unique and precious albums of 2011. However, listening to Dustwalker was an immense disappointment; it looks like the band has stepped down to being an average Black Metal band that uses reverb and atmosphere as nothing but a pretentious gimmick.

Although the production remains more or less similar to the band's previous works, the really good musicianship persists, and there still is a progressive attitude in terms of song structure, the band has lost the most important thing on their way to accomplishing Dustwalker: good, memorable songwriting. None of the songs have that touching beauty that embraced so many spots of Epoch, despite a few nice, gentle guitar passages and a few pleasantly thick atmospheres. The melodies are way too generally written to be memorable, and as a result boredom dominates the listener easily.

The song that stands out the most is "Hands Of Dust", which boasts a beautiful first half that reminds of some moments from the band's previous album, and a decent second half that goes full-on aggression. The following track, "Spectre", tries to repeat the same formula but doesn't feel as effective, because of the songwriting. After an interesting interlude diving the seven tracks into two different parts, songs that are part of the latter part of the album are incredibly weak in terms of melodic passages and although the band's execution is still very good, there really isn't much to execute that will linger in the listener's head.

On a personal point of view, Dustwalker is much of a disappointment, considering how of a great impression Fen did to me two years ago with Epoch; such a good one in fact that I'll certainly continue to follow this band, regardless of this decline of theirs. Hopefully, it's just a brief parenthesis of their career.

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 Epoch by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.97 | 133 ratings

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Epoch
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

4 stars Fen's second album doesn't deviate significantly from their debut, but their outside influences such as shoegaze and post rock have gained a bit of ground here to mesh with the atmospheric black metal while not softening their aggression. The individual tracks play out like sonic journeys in which the shifts in style tend to flow rather than jar thanks to the miasmic production that envelopes Epoch.

The shimmering and frequently buzzsaw toned guitars take center stage, lurching from melodic gloomy jangly passages to sonic bombast effortlessly with many of the riffs being memorable while not overstaying their welcome. Synth washes back up the guitars by adding atmosphere yet not overpowering them by any fashion. My favorite element of this band has been the rhythm section, in which the drumming remains unpredictable and technically impressive without being overbearing. Bass playing, as with their debut, is their ace up the sleeve, but unfortunately for me it's not as prominent in the mix, though still audible.

The production in general is my only concern with this sophomore effort. Not just the bass, but vocals tend to be mixed a bit low, resulting in the clean vocal sections where The Watcher's dreamy delivery gets buried to the point of frustration at times, and the rasps possess less of an echo, sacrificing some of the haunting majestic ambiance in the process. The drums, despite being a highlight, are engineered with an almost gunshot sounding snare, which took some getting used to as well.

As compositions, the band continues to excel at their craft, heightening their sense of adventure to a small degree while remaining as ferocious as ever. There's no shoegaze ballad track you can coax your non-metal friend to enjoy; every tune at some point goes ballistic. I can't say Epoch is an improvement over The Malediction Fields, since to me their prior release was produced to a raw perfection concerning their aims of conjuring swampy and foreboding landscapes through extreme metal, but fans of the genre and those who like Floydian elements juxtaposed with Starbucks crowd clearing walls of sound will find much to enjoy here.

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 The Malediction Fields by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.16 | 47 ratings

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The Malediction Fields
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Prog Sothoth
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

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.

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 Epoch by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.97 | 133 ratings

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Epoch
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by bartosso

5 stars Epoch of raw beauty

Yes, Fen has a new fanatic. I haven't been so excited about an extreme metal band since discovering Opeth, that means since 2005! The music these guys play is absolutely haunting, beautiful and intriguing extreme metal, deeply rooted in black side of the genre. Did I mention that black metal is not my cup of tea?

When it comes to mixing styles I consider myself quite a picky person. I hate bands that clumsily combine different genres, creating an inconsistent medley. However, Fen mixed all elements with such a talent and intuition that I couldn't be dissatisfied. Obviously, the core of the whole is black metal rawness, but what Fen has built on that idea is a pure bliss. EPOCH is a fascinating journey where black metal savagery meets psychedelic and wistful sounds of shoegaze seasoned with post rock lightness and dreamy atmosphere of foggy wilderness. The music is emotional and bleak but you won't find any cheap or imitative solutions used to achieve the result. Everything stays in balance, just like in nature. Softness and harshness merge in one consistent and unique piece of art. There's originality of riffs and progression of rhythms but with ambiance in the foreground; there's fury and rawness of black metal with genuine passion being of prime importance. Really, in terms of creating unique and moving harmonies Fen are Opeth of black metal.

There's one thing that gets on my nerves when I listen to typical atmospheric black metal band - that is monotony. Lengthy and simple parts that cause impatience at best and boredom at worst. I was all the more surprised when I realized that I didn't get bored, not even once, while listening to EPOCH. I sat, speechless with wonder, listening to heart rending final of "Carrier of Echoes", evocative "Ghosts of the Flood" and haunting "The Gibbet Elms".

CHECK IT IF YOU LIKE: Drudkh, Alcest, Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Opeth (especially first 2 records)

TRACKS BY RATINGS: 10/10: Carrier of Echoes; Ghosts of the Flood; The Gibbet Elms 9/10: A Waning Solace; Ashbringer; Of Wilderness and Ruin 8/10: Epoch; Half-Light Eternal

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 The Malediction Fields by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2009
4.16 | 47 ratings

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The Malediction Fields
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by TheOppenheimer

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.

1. Exiles Journey (8:08) 9/10

2. A Witness to the Passing of Aeons (7:07) 10/10

3. Colossal Voids (8:32) 8/10

4. As Buried Spirits Stir (6:58) 8/10

5. The Warren (7:10) 10/10 (this song builds up and then explodes creating the most intense tune I've ever heard. truly powerful and inspiring.)

6. Lashed by Storm (8:54) 9/10

7. Bereft (11:49) 10/10 (the last epic, simply beautiful)

Pro tip: go to the woods, turn on your mp3 player. Enjoy.

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 Epoch by FEN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.97 | 133 ratings

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Epoch
Fen Experimental/Post Metal

Review by sleeper
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 Ęšelwalh 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.

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