FEN — Winter

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FEN - Winter cover
4.36 | 14 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2017


1. I (Pathway) (17:08)
2. II (Penance) (10:02)
3. III (Fear) (10:36)
4. IV (Interment) (14:52)
5. V (Death) (12:40)
6. VI (Sight) (9:44)

Total Time 75:02

Bonus tracks:

1. The Keening Soils
2. Sight (Reprise)
3. Penumbral Whispers
4. Temples Beyond the Shoreline


- The Watcher / Guitars, Vocals
- Grungyn / Bass, Vocals
- Havenless / Drums

About this release

Format: CD, Vinyl (300 copies), Digital
Label: Code666 Records
Release date: March 17th, 2017

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition

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FEN WINTER reviews

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I hadn't found Fen's second album, Epoch, to be much of a keeper, feeling like it was riding along on the blackgaze bandwagon without really contributing much of its own. I'm very glad to find that on hearing this latest release of theirs I'm much more taken by their sound; perhaps they've improved and matured in terms of their overall atmospheric black metal mastery, or perhaps it's that the album shows a bit more original ambition this time. Constructed of one continuous multi-part suite, it takes the listener as promised on a journey through chilly landscapes - and whilst winter-themed black metal isn't something there's a shortage of, Fen's baroque, intricate take on it is a real treat.
Kev Rowland

Formed in early 2006 with the goal of producing Atmospheric Black Metal that incorporates elements of post-rock, Fen have, since then, found themselves at the vanguard of a resurgent UK Black Metal scene. With an EP, four full length albums, several splits and compilations to their name so far, this their latest full-length album (released March 2017) is their most ambitious to date, as they have combined Black metal with many other styles to create something that is very special indeed. Conceptually, they have returned to the roots of their ideology, seeking to embrace and distil all that inspired them when they first set out on this path over a decade ago – that is, to invoke the ambience of bleak reflection and ancient sorrow that permeates the mysterious landscapes of the fens of Eastern England.

According to singer/guitarist The Watcher this album “very much describes a journey towards sanctity and redemption across a landscape steeped in mystery, hints of forgotten darkness and sorrows long since drowned in the distant past.” There are six songs, but the only real way to play this album is to put it on at the beginning and be prepared for seventy-five minutes of music that will take you well away from the comfortable world you reside in, to a place that is far more barren and bleak, filled with foggy atmosphere and danger. How just three guys (The Watcher is joined by Havenless on drums and Grungyn on bass and vocals) can produce something as majestic and over the top of as this is just beyond me. It shows that although the Scandinavian countries seemed to have very much a stranglehold on this type of music for a long time, that is no longer the case. Fen have been going for ten years now, and they are just maturing and getting even better with age. The record label describes this as “atmospheric Black Metal and delicate, spacious cleans, married with aspects of 70s progressive rock, shoegaze and doom metal”. I can make it much simpler than that. This is genius, nothing less.
The United Kingdom has become a bit of a little hotbed for a certain brand of atmospheric black metal act in the last ten years. There's a trio of bands that have long stood out that represent this niche; Winterfylleth, the sadly now defunct Wodensthrone and of course the subject of this review, Fen, who to my ears have proved themselves the pack leader for their high quality, consistent output all the way back to debut album The Malediction Fields (2009). The band, which has revolved around The Watcher (vocals, guitars) and Grungyn (bass, vocals) since their 2006 formation, have continued to impress with each release, with up until this point the standout for me being Dustwalker (2013), which a few years down the track I've started to think of as their underrated release. Now presenting their fifth album Winter (2017), I have little reason to think that Fen will be giving their fans anything to worry about.

And that's absolutely the case, naturally. Masters of their craft, on Winter we find Fen delivering a set of six tracks that flow into each other, making the experience like listening to one seventy-five minute song, an impression only further cemented by them being titled with Roman numerals, with the rest of their names in brackets, making them appear more like sub-titles. Each track breaks or at least gets very close to the ten minute barrier and includes the band's longest track yet, the 17:08 I (Pathway). The shortest is the last, VI (Sight), which still lasts for 9:44. Though broken up into these hefty chunks, each of which carries it's own feel and identity, Winter is an album that deserves your full attention from beginning to end without a pause and it's for that reason that I shan't mention any particular track as a clear highlight. Winter is the highlight.

Musically Winter blends many elements familiar to the Fen sound such as atmospheric black metal, post-rock and a mix of harsh and clean vocals. While they are not a band whose sound tends to vary too much between releases, the biggest shift in the past being between second album Epoch (2011) and Dustwalker when they dropped having a keyboardist in their line-up, meaning that Winter is unmistakeably the work of Fen, they have never been a 'heard one, heard them all' kind of band and that's especially true of this album as it finds Fen adding more progressive metal airs to their sound, with the album featuring some riffs of added complexity compared to the blackened atmosphere that their genre typically serves up. I (Pathway) is quite noticeable for this and is quite a direct progressive black metal sounding section of the album for a good chunk of its length, while other tracks tread more familiar ground.

A long album such as Winter has every chance of coming across as overwhelming or even simply being too much of a good thing. That is not the case here. Like other Fen albums the first impression was incredibly positive and further listens have only shown the album to keep on giving the more it is explored. Speaking as someone who has loved all of Fen's prior work, to my ears Winter is on a whole other level. An ambitious release and one that the trio pull off smoothly and with finesse. For my money, this is the best album from Fen yet.

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