The Malediction Fields

Written by: EW on 19/01/2009 20:48:37

Having recently borne witness to England's Fen in the live arena I summised at the time through an indifferent review that potential was evident in their sound but that their sprawling ambient black metal was more likely a home-listening proposition. Well without blowing my own trumpet (toot toot) I was right; their debut album "The Malediction Fields" is a brilliantly atmospheric and deep record, possessing too grand a sophistication for the unknowing ears of mine to detect in a pub setting. Being a stew of Agalloch, Primordial and Opeth with a sprinkling of Falkenbach, Fen settle on an at times uncomfortable collusion of soaring, majestic ambient, darkened folk with the blackened spirit of a BM band, minus the pretension. The Watcher (ok, some pretension exists) ranges from a blackened growl/shriek similar to Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) of the overriding majority but he isn't afraid to dip his toe into clean vocal territory either; just see "Colossal Voids". The dynamic and loose song structures incorporating both clean and harsh vocal draw the comparison to early, darker, Opeth works, and though The Watcher's clean vocals don't compare to Mr. Akerfeldt's one feels the potential is there for improvement on future works.

It is with America's own Agalloch that Fen bear closest resemblance however; passages of interwoven clean and distorted guitar sounds submerge with heavy usage of synth that is both highly successful and pleasant on the ear. In the "The Warren", dramatic lead guitar pierces in between the rhythm sections for a truly mind-bending altercation into another world of the kind that I have known but Agalloch and a few select others to possess. Yet there is also the time in the song for the strong ambient edge of the band to make itself known as if not wanting to be outdone by the creativity on the strings - the benefit of long well-written songs. "A Witness To The Passing Of Aeons" is as dramatic as the title suggests, if not a little twee in the very opening stages but a demonstration in careful composition and structural knowledge to keep the keys of Draugluin in perfect harmony with the rest of the band, a feature that has been the undoing of some bands metal bands before them. Keeping the long songs (shortest is 7 minutes) interesting is done without any considerable effort on Fen's part as they flow so much quicker than their lengths' suggest, which at such an early stage in the band's career can only hold them in good stead.

I dare not hype Fen up to the gods as rarely is that a good idea but "The Malediction Fields" starts and ends in a confident form; albeit not of the sonic variety us extreme metal fans are used to. Albums of this kind are tricky concoctions, where the natural beauty of the piece can sometimes teeter precariously between tacky and genuine, but there's no doubt which side of the fence Fen sit. Just wishing I knew "The Malediction Fields" before their live jaunt, I however now look forward to what they will follow this up with.


Download: The Warren, Colossal Voids
For The Fans Of: Agalloch, Primordial, Opeth
Listen: Myspace
Buy: iTunes

Release date: 16.01.09
Aural Music / Code666 Records

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