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Fen - The Malediction Fields CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

4.13 | 53 ratings

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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.

Prog Sothoth | 5/5 |


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