From Horizon to Oblivion
Fen's second album, Epoch, was released a mere four days before Towards the Shores of the End, a split album with Swedish one-man-band De Arma. I consider Epoch to be one of the finest black metal albums ever created, so I went into this one with some pretty high expectations. And I wasn't disappointed. Not only is Fen's half of the album excellent, but De Arma has also surprised with some great tunes to complete this split release. If you're someone who enjoys your black metal in atmospheric and downright beautiful variants, it'd really be a shame to let this one slip by. Although Epoch may be taking the black metal world by storm right now, this surely isn't an album to be forgotten about.
The first half (or four-sevenths to be exact) of Towards the Shores of the End is from UK-based post black metal act Fen - a band that has left me speechless recently. They play a style of post black metal with epic synthesizers and unforgettable melodies - that's no exception here. The first track, "Soilbound", opens up in heavy fashion before working in beautiful synth work. Clean vocals are implemented, and a beautiful post rock section segues perfectly into the heavy outro. "Ageless Thenody" opens with tribal-like drumming and hypnotic guitar patterns before moving into a slow-paced black metal riff. The title track is my personal favorite of the album, as it's filled with unforgettable and elegant melodies. An acoustic take on "Bereft" (from their debut album) closes off the first half of the split.
Although I expected excellence from Fen's half of the split, De Arma has also left me speechless. This one man project from A. Petterson is old school black metal with ambient touches, sounding something like Hvis Lyset Tar Oss-era Burzum. If you know my tastes in black metal, that's certainly a good thing. The first song, "Crimson Waters Ebbing the Shores", is filled with blast beats, fast tremolo picking, and an atmospheric synth pattern that harkens to the classic opening track of Filosofem. Slightly out of tune clean vocals compliment the song in ways unimaginable. "Noemata" is a more atmospheric, post rock-influenced track that sounds surprisingly similar to the other band in the split. "From Horizon To Oblivion" closes out the album, and is yet another spectacular track from De Arma. I simply cannot wait until this act decides to record more music.
The production differs between Fen and De Arma's halves of the split, but I personally enjoy both. Fen's production is done similarly to Epoch - this means that you'll hear a warm, 70's-influenced sound with nods towards the early black metal scene. De Arma's sound here is much rawer, but also clear and enjoyable.
Towards the Shores of the End may not completely match the masterpiece that was Epoch, but it's an excellent split release from two top-notch black metal acts. If you like your black metal with atmosphere and beauty, Towards the Shores of the End should warrant many listens for years to come. This great split release is worth a solid 4 star rating and a warm recommendation from this humble reviewer. It's rare that you hear music so beautiful, especially from the extreme metal end of the spectrum. De Arma and Fen both have spectacular things to offer - I wouldn't want to miss it!