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Review: Fen - The Malediction Fields
The Malediction Fields

Label: code666
Year released: 2009
Duration: 58:38
Tracks: 7
Genre: Black Metal


Review online: March 10, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers' Rating
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Rated 4.43/5 (88.57%) (7 Votes)

On their MCD Ancient Sorrow, Fen managed to blend post-rock atmospherics with a Black Metal miasma to create an album filled with promises of what might come. With the debut The Malediction Fields they manage to deliver on that promise, expanding their style to incorporate more spacey, ambient elements and dynamics, delivering a soundscape dense with melody and aural theatrics.

Album opener "Exiles Journey" begins with an acoustic guitar that floats its simple melody into a haze of distortion and smokey atmosphere that is buoyed with spacey keys and lingering, haunting melodies. It is an eclectic song that sets the tone for the album very nicely, switching between the calm, floating interlude-style atmospherics and the rough explosions of distortion that mark the much heavier sections. Fen strives to weave an atmosphere that switches from dreamy melancholy, through an edgy menace of flickering shadows at the periphery of your vision, to an uplifting swell that instills a nameless longing, and it is these elements that take the fore, crafting an album that simultaneously floats you in space and suffocates you with its claustrophobic feel. "A Witness to the Passing of Aeons" captures these feelings variously during its seven minute run time, switching seamlessly between more aggressive riffs with raspy vocals and swelling chord progressions and arpeggio style open chords under clean vocals. The approach comes off as a mix of Wolves in the Throne Room and Alcest, just like the debut, with a healthy addition of Agalloch-styled acoustic elements such as those found on their White or Grey EPs. "As Buried Spirits Stir" continues in the same spirit but picks the pace up dramatically with a most welcome wake up call after the dreamy trance induced by the songs so far, and it works really well, keeping the theme and feel of the album to date, but really picking up the aggression. It is however, the 12 minute closer "Bereft" which is the star of the show, showing off the depth of song writing and musical conversation between the instruments that is both exhilarating and exhausting, and serving to draw you hand out to press that play button again if only to be cradled in the ethereal palm of Fen's more serene moments.

Whereas on their debut MCD Fen's clean vocals were mere flirtations via some backing oohh's and ashh's, on this album The Watcher takes it further with a good amount of clean vocals. They are really quite hit and miss, and while the hits add immensely to the atmosphere of airy melancholy that pervades the album, the misses are not deal breakers but you notice them float off key on occasion. It is the vocals of bass player Grungyn that will make you cringe in places as he takes the lead on the serene "Colossal Voids" a track that incorporates a heavy "shoegaze" feel, but suffers from his off key caterwauling, especially on the chorus. Luckily we get some harsher rasping and growling to save the track and move it in a slightly menacing direction as both vocalists work together.

With The Malediction Fields, Fen has managed to evolve the sound from Ancient Sorrow into a more mature style, and manage to come off sounding unique. There is no other band that is currently doing this blend of styles, and Fen manages to do it extraordinarily well, crafting an enveloping atmosphere that effortlessly evokes an emotional response via the memorable melodies and songwriting. Black Metal fans whose tastes run to the atmospheric or experimental will find much to enjoy here, as will fans of all "post" genres, but the more hard line metal fans may find Fen's airy ambience a bit much though as there is little traditional metal on display here. Either way you should take the time to give this album a try because you might just discover something magical.

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