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Review: Fen - Ancient Sorrow
Ancient Sorrow

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Year released: 2007
Duration: 28:21
Tracks: 3
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal


Review online: March 2, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.75/5 (75%) (8 Votes)

Fen's Ancient Sorrow blind-sided me somewhat when it came out. I was browsing through Northern Silence's web store listening to their samples, and when it came to the "The Gales Screams of Loss" sample I immediately clicked the "Buy Now" button. The heavily post-rock influenced riffing came across as some kind of weird hybrid between Wolves in the Throne Room and Alcest with enough of its own sound that "influence" was a much more appropriate word than "rip off". I eagerly awaited the arrival of the CD.

A mellow clean guitar is joined momentarily by the bass before the whole band weighs in on album opener "Desolation Embraced", a track that shows a strong influence from post-metal masters such as Isis. Unlike Isis though, Fen do not make the mistake of trying to draw their sound out into the oft-boring "slow build up" songwriting style of that genre, instead getting straight down to it and giving us songs rather than self-important "compositions". "The Gales Screams of Loss" opens with a riff that sound like it came straight of Wolves in the Throne Room's "Two Hunters" but with a completely different drum pattern. It works superbly with the sorrowful clean vocals that soon move into harsh, cold rasps, and the clean electric melody line, all lining up to create a lush but warmly melancholic atmosphere that instills a yearning for those days locked away in happy memories. In this respect the atmosphere conjured is similar to that of Alcest's Souvenirs d'un autre monde although the two albums have little in common musically. "Under the Endless Sky" continues along the same route with that wall of fuzzed out distortion, but introduces the same near blast-paced beats that work an odd counterpoint to the guitars. It's not long before the pace slows back down and resumes that languid quality, this time with some ethereal keys peaking through the clouds to draw your gaze upwards toward the sun. With a running time over twelve minutes, the track never comes close to being boring and again the comparison with Two Hunters is perfect with a mid-section that is similar in feel to that of "I Will Lay Down My Bones…", largely due to the heavy post-rock/metal influence evident on both albums.

The production here is very lush with a huge fuzzed out wall of sound type of distortion that makes the guitars sound distant yet urgent at the same time, creating a very dense sound that is just a little bit smothering. The bass presence is very noticeable and occasionally rolls forward like a deep wave to provide a melodic crest for the guitars to follow along. The vocals of front man "The Watcher" waver between a wispy rasp and deeper growl, and what they lack in dynamic they make up for in atmosphere, and it is clear that that is the point – there is no virtuosity of any kind in either the vocals or the music, everything is crafted with the sole intention of creating that wistfully melancholic atmosphere with those different elements combining to forge a compelling album that is greater than the sum of its parts. Pinpointing it into a particular genre is impossible, and although it is fundamentally Black Metal, it swells well beyond those borders creating its own unique blend, and while the individual components are not original, the whole is, and this sets Fen apart from the pack.

More about Fen...
Review: Ancient Sorrow (reviewed by Pagan Shadow)
Review: The Malediction Fields (reviewed by Brett Buckle)
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