Fen - The Malediction Fields - 4.5/5
Combining roaring, thunderous black metal with more delicate and soothing post-rock elements, Fen create an atmosphere unlike any other. The vocalist, known as The Watcher, and the bassist known as Grungyn, were in another UK black metal act called Skaldic Curse, where their sound was more traditional rather than “post-black”. The main inspiration, according to the band is the place in which they grew up – the Fens region in England. These mysterious landscapes and desolation which they know so well are the main force behind the lyrics and atmosphere of “The Malediction Fields”, and that becomes apparent after a few listens. Their sound can range from soothing and dreamy post-rock with soft, clean vocals to crushing atmospheric black metal with ghastly roars and growls just in one song (see “Colossal Voids” for a good example of this).
The production on this album is decent, not raw and fuzzy but rather slightly clouded and echoing – definitely appropriate for the kind of music they make. On this album, we hear the band using clean vocals for the first time. On “Ancient Sorrow”, there were some clean vocals, but they were just in the background of the music for ambiance. Here, we hear very soft vocals performed by The Watcher that are more quiet and further back in the mix. It is not notably high-pitched or deep, rather somewhere in between. Some may say the singing is weak, but I think it compliments the rest of the music perfectly. The Watcher’s growls and harsh vocals on here are very intense and piercing, causing the music to have a booming and echoing sound. The guitar work on this album is often ethereal and chilling, with mysterious, deep and melodic riffs and the bass is not often noticeable, but still important in tying it all together. All of the instruments play a very important role in the atmosphere of the music, and the keyboards and ambiance, along with rather impressive drumming tie it all together successfully.
This album is near perfection. The only real notable drawback here is that the drumming is barely audible at times (mainly during the intense climaxes). The crashing of cymbals is all that can be heard during these parts, and I think the power of these crushing climaxes would be heightened by more a more noticeably aggressive sound out of the drums.
Highlights: Colossal Voids, Exile’s Journey, A Witness to the Passing of Aeons, Bereft