Fen - Winter
Code666 Records
Black Metal / Post-Metal
6 songs (75' 2")
Release year: 2017
Fen, Code666 Records
Reviewed by Andy

Fen's fifth album is a welcome arrival this year. After their arrival on the scene with The Malediction Fields, they very well could have taken the easy way out and let the post-rock sparkliness of their sound dominate everything. Instead, they doubled down on both the atmosphere and the riffs, resulting in years of high-quality output. Which leads up to the latest -- Winter, a beautiful, nearly flawless album incorporating the band's trademark post-black style.

A lot of the praise for the album can be directed at the The Watcher, the group's frontman and guitarist. His sparkling, Alcest-like clean portions are great for the atmosphere, where he has a real fondness for little arpeggio riddles, but the best parts of the indulgently-paced tunes are the heavy-duty riffing that live on the distorted portions, which dominate the songs. The blastbeats and tremolo picking of traditional black metal put in an appearance, but they're coopted as part of a large, symphonic whole, as large and strange as the Fens in the UK that the band originated from. And in the absence of a keyboard, which they had ditched by 2013's Dustwalker, the feedback-wailing of The Watcher's guitar serves as an effective sustained instrument for the quieter, more reflective portions of the tunes.

Fen has always shown mastery in mixing sensitivity together with ferocity in their music, and Winter is no exception. Emotional vocals on a fairly steady set of power chords give way to the same lyric phrases, sung blackened-style, over a set of blastbeats hitting harder and harder, to end in slow grinds -- once even to the sound of a fine guitar solo, a rarity in Fen's repertoire. The band had described this album as a "back to the roots" type of album where they revisited their earlier sound, but that didn't really strike me most of the time; the emphasis on black metal and less on the introspective atmosphere originally conceived on their first album is rarely there. The band has gotten more experienced, and their approach to composing music, perhaps, has changed.

Well, except on VI (Sight). The clean vocals sung over the ringing guitars and blastbeats are a dead giveaway, and so are the dropped-an-octave lower chords under them. But even this track is more aggressive than the band's early days. When I picked up The Malediction Fields in 2009, it was hard to imagine that a band like this would get heavier. But I am very happy that they have.


Killing Songs :
All of them
Andy quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Fen that we have reviewed:
Fen - Dustwalker reviewed by Andy and quoted 89 / 100
Fen - Epoch reviewed by Charles and quoted 88 / 100
Fen - The Malediction Fields reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
Fen - Ancient Sorrow reviewed by Alex and quoted 83 / 100
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