Friday, March 25

Fen - Epoch



The high standards of a strong debut will forever be a challenge that plagues up-and-coming bands, especially in the more underground circles, and so it is incredible when a band succeeds in creating something that betters their first outing. This is most definitely the case with British post-black metallers Fen and their recent release “Epoch”, the follow-up to the evocative debut “The Malediction Fields”. They have successfully toed the line between keeping their original and quite unique sound and yet also bringing new elements which make it sound fresh.
“Epoch” opens in a traditional post-rock fashion, with layers of melodic guitar and some muffled drumwork. But what struck me instantly when I heard this song was the presence of an audible, even melodic bass section. The band then weave in a distorted riff before breaking out into a powerful slow black metal section. The first comparison I drew was with Insomnium's opener “Equivalence”, and they are not that dissimilar. The song then incorporates anguished screams and rasps in a DSBM style, with ethereal cleans floating in the background. Although the song lacks in structure, it is a fantastic way of explaining the sound of the album to the listener.

The album continues much in this style, alternating calm post-rock with varying tempos of black metal, and a narrative of brilliantly written nature-inspired lyrics of loss and desolation. An excerpt from my favorite track, is as follows: Illumination wavers in the strengthening grip of dusk/Darkness summoned something more than dreams and empty promises". The vocals are varied, although the mid-pitch rasp is the most frequent. They also employ some tasteful low growls that work surprisingly well. The cleans have improved markedly since the debut album, especially in “The Gibbet Elms”.

The musicianship is fantastic, with many a good riff or tremolo from the guitars, and even one section in “Ashbringer” that reminded me of Drudkh. The bass makes multiple appearances, including a brilliant solo in “Carrier Of Echoes”. Synths dance in the background, adding to the atmosphere but never taking center-stage. The drums are generally quite good, although not outstanding.

It becomes difficult to find issues in this album, although I can find a personal few. Firstly, there is a noticeable lack of structure to the songs, and it is possible for them to meld into one. Secondly, the production on the drums could have improved on the snare sound, and there are constant tom fills which break the structure. Finally, I feel that the album would end a lot better if “A Warning Solace” were to come after “Ashbringer”, as the former has more of a closing feel to it.

However, do not let these small errors put you off this album. “Epoch” is truly a fantastic listen, and anyone who has read this far should definitely consider giving it a try. Even if black metal may not be your usual port of call, there is something for most people to appreciate. Let us raise a toast, if this is the new epoch of black metal.


Angel's rating: 4/5

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