In 2009, Fen came out with
"The Malediction Fields" which has been one of the best debuts to come out in
recent years. Fast forward two years, and Fen is at work again, with a full
length set for release in addition to the subject of this review, a split with
the band De Arma.
Fen's portion of the split wastes no time in letting you know how much ass they
are ready to kick. Following the opening riff of Soilbound, they jump into a
tough, syncopated riff that is far heavier than anything they featured on
Malediction Fields. Following that, they settle back into familiar atmospheric
post-rock territory. Ageless Thenody follows a similar pattern, with a short
build up before kicking into a very tough riff, and then settling down again.
As far as the three new songs on the EP ("Bereft" is an acoustic reprise that
originated from the first album), they seem to stay more on the post-rock side
of things, eschewing more of the dingier black metal that carried the first
album. The songs are extremely atmospheric in nature, creating a bleak
soundscape that is reminiscent of the swamps from which the band derives.
Musically, Fen does a lot of things extremely well. The keys succeed in creating
an atmosphere you can fall into, but they never carry the action. The harsh
vocals are above average and the clean vocals are almost lull you into a soft
sense of security, only to be disrupted. But the real king here is bassist
Grungyn, whose bass lines are among the best in all of metal. When you listen to
this album, pay special attention to them because that's where the real magic
With a split, you always wonder how the flow from one band to the next will go
and Fen and De Arma works well together. Before hearing this, I knew nothing
about De Arma, but apparently it's a project of A from the defunct Armagedda
(minimalistic black metal). They deliver three solid black metal tracks that
leave me thinking I'm about to get sucked into some reddish vortex.
The "clean" vocals feature some extremely cool distorted harmonies. "Crimson
Waters..." is a more aggressive opening that maintains a quick pace throughout
focusing on black metal aspects. "Noemata" is a little bit slower and has more
of the post-black/post-rock feel to it (which surprisingly makes it seem more in
line with Fen's Malediction Fields than Fen's tracks on the split). "From
Horizon to Oblivion" features a cool theme riff and features a cool evolution as
the track progresses.
In all, this split ends up being a home run. Fen shows that it isn't going to
lose any momentum from Malediction Fields and De Arma has etched itself in my
mind as a band to watch going forward.