Fen - The Dead Light review


72 users:
Band: Fen
Album: The Dead Light
Release date: December 2019

01. Witness
02. The Dead Light Part 1
03. The Dead Light Part 2
04. Nebula
05. Labyrinthine Echoes
06. Breath Of Void
07. Exsanguination
08. Rendered In Onyx

Last Winter, Fen pulled out all the stops. This winter, it appears they decided that sometimes less is more, and have cut back accordingly.

For a primarily atmos-black metal band, Fen have quite the diverse and opinion-splitting discography. Their debut, The Malediction Fields, received substantial attention from the underground, but the greater post-rock influence on Epoch and Dustwalker, whilst heavily appealing to some listeners, was less universally appreciated. Their most recent effort prior to The Dead Light, Winter, was a colossal (if not perhaps bloated) 75-minute atmos-black epic. This time around, the sound is deliberately more direct and riff-oriented, whilst still broadly retaining their signature atmosphere.

After "Witness", a measured, gradually evolving opening track draped in atmosphere, Fen throw a slight curved ball with the opening to Part 1 of the title track, leading with an opening riff that feels far more reminiscent of 2000s Enslaved than most of their previous material. This influence persists throughout much of this song, even as some of the more signature aspects of the band's sound gradually take hold, such as the extended sections of melancholy tremolo and vocal choirs. "Labyrinthine Echoes", the longest cut on The Dead Light, is more in the vein of their previous works, dominated grandiose, mid-tempo tremolo soundscapes that are only occasionally punctuated by more distinct riffs or blast beats.

There are occasional clean vocal segments, but usually they act as additional instruments, wordless and operating in sync with the instruments, with only "Exsanguination" notably deviating from this. My favourite release from Fen, Carrion Skies, effectively employed more substantial clean vocal arrangements to imbue tracks such as "Menhir - Supplicant" with considerable pathos. In addition to the absence of these vocals, I feel like the material on The Dead Light is generally missing that 'X factor' that has raised the best of Fen's material above the vast swarm of atmospheric black metal bands, and without it, songs such as "Breath Of Void" offer up passingly satisfying exhibitions of sustained atmospheric tremolo, but lack in terms of memorability. The quieter second half of "Exsanguination" is probably the most distinctive section of The Dead Light outside of the Enslaved-isms on the title track, and this song is arguably the strongest cut overall from the album.

Winter was something of an exercise in excess, pushing the limitations of what is acceptable within this sub-genre. Taking a more compact approach for its successor was logical, and The Dead Light displays many of the elements that have made Fen such a prominent force in the atmos-black scene, with the odd addition thrown in. The band's previous records have found their own distinctive fanbases, particularly The Malediction Fields, Dustwalker and Winter; how much this latest effort will appeal to each remains to be seen. Ultimately, whilst I enjoyed The Dead Light, I'm not sure it will hold the long-term appeal of some of their other works.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Production: 8


Written on 15.12.2019 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 2   Visited by: 70 users
16.12.2019 - 11:28
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
I doubt bsnd will have x factor in their music anymore
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
12.06.2020 - 18:54
Au Pays Natal
Amazing how a band can make every single album sound different. Excellent review and thanks.

Hits total: 2263 | This month: 7