Fen
Epoch


3.0
good

Review

by Kyle Ward STAFF
February 10th, 2011 | 135 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fen continues to do the same thing that other bands are doing better, but with Epoch they show that with direction there may be something worthwhile buried beneath the mud of their insipid songwriting

The progression made by Fen since their debut LP The Malediction Fields proves to be introverted and rather subtle, with their latest album Epoch clawing further down into their niche of atmospheric black metal, post-rock and shoegaze. It’s this very identity that has drawn comparisons to such titans as Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room, but those who continue to shell out such labels may need to think twice. Epoch, aside from its winding and heavily atmospheric structures that focus almost wholeheartedly on the darker and more surreal aspects of nature, is its own beast; drawing heavily from the sheer intensity of black metal while also leaving ample room for exploration into the ethereal soundscapes of shoegaze and post-rock to levels beyond that of their so-called counterparts in the metal scene. Whether or not these further elaborations add to or detract from the overall product is up in the air, but the flourishing ideas that are strewn about Epoch show a band that is on the cusp of becoming something worth talking about.

The album is at its best when it doesn’t seem to be so intent on driving home a particular mood or feeling. The clean vocals feel contrived and too concentrated on creating serious emotion to realize they are doing the exact opposite- pretentious cooing by a vocalist whose aspirations far outweigh his vocal ability, a trait perfectly displayed during the first several minutes of “Half-Light Eternal”. On the other hand, the down-to-earth and true emotion portrayed during such blissful segments as the second half of “Carrier Of Echoes” is simply astounding and wholeheartedly real- these are the makings for something truly special. The entire album seems to rest precariously on this motif, one that is trapped on a thin ledge between utter mediocrity and greatness, simply needing a small nudge in songwriting and a more well-thought out sense of direction to propel Fen’s sound to the next level.

The same can be said of the more aggressive side to Epoch, taking itself too seriously to integrate well with its laid-back and atmospheric backdrop. While far from being a waste of time, the intense black metal that riddles the album only partially acknowledges the fact that it isn’t the only sound present here. It’s as if the two are roommates who have exactly the opposite schedule- when one is at home the other is nowhere to be found and vice versa, with their few interactions both awkward and rather brief. The rasps of vocalist “The Watcher” are more than adequate; above-average, in fact, when compared to releases with similar influences. They are throaty and raspy, with an edge that blends well with the torrent of crashing drums and rumbling bass when the album picks up in intensity, making songs like “Ghost Of The Flood” noteworthy despite their clumsy attempts to work in the slower-paced aspects of Epoch that comprise the opposite face on the same coin.

Epoch is so very close to being something truly incredible, but the problem is that it has one final, monumental step to take before such things can be claimed. Fen need to sift through their songs and their goals and intentions, and need to have the eye to realize what works well and what doesn’t. It’s almost frustrating in a sense that the moments of brilliance within Epoch aren’t used to their full potential, and the precious balance between the calm and benign and the visceral and intense needs to be addressed with more focused and fluid songwriting. Yes, the faults contained within Epoch are massive, but I can guarantee that the potential held somewhere within the minds of the members of Fen shines through enough times here to warrant a listen, if only to hopefully capture a glimpse of what the future may look like.



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user ratings (97)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


16467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

More like a 3.25, and even that may be a bit too high personally. Objectively, though, I give them a lot of credit for what they do right.

Hawks
February 10th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I was waiting for this one. Great review as always. Still haven't had time to sit down and listen to this one.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


16467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm still on the fence about changing the rating of the review and my own rating to a 3.... it's truly in between the two.

EDIT- Changed the review to a 3, leaving the personal at a 3.5.

Hawks
February 10th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hmmm well I think it should be about how you feel. As you said in your first comment, you basically added on the extra .5 because of what they do well, but you feel it's closer to a 3. All up to you man haha.

wyankeif1337
February 10th 2011


6739 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i need this. really awesome review, conveys frustration on the part of the reviewer better than any review i've read for a long time.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


7318 Comments


Great review Crysis. Not a metal fan myself, but this review was open-ended enough in form and function that even a n00b like me could appreciate it.

Digging: Portishead - Dummy

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


16467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Much appreciated guys.

Hawks
February 10th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I need to listen to The Malediction Fields again too to see if I still like it as much as I used to. It's been a while.

Wizard
February 10th 2011


19616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review, this band sounds good. Might look into this later.

Digging: Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

Hawks
February 10th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah they're very similar to bands like Agalloch, Gallowbraid, and The Morningside so if you like any of those then you should find something to like here. Gonna listen to both albums back to back a few times tomorrow.

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


16467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

It delves more into post-rock than any of those bands and also has a steady helping of shoegaze as well.

Wizard
February 10th 2011


19616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I saw a Wolves in the Throne Room comparison and it had me at that.

Hawks
February 10th 2011


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Agreed that it goes more into post-rock. They also have that folk feel to them though.

wyankeif1337
February 10th 2011


6739 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It delves more into post-rock than any of those bands and also has a steady helping of shoegaze as well.


so sort of like Altar of Plagues?

Willie
Moderator
February 10th 2011


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Excellent review. I agree 100% with the entire write-up and the overall score.

Digging: Kenn Nardi - Dancing With the Past

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


16467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

so sort of like Altar of Plagues?

Sort of but you have to remember this band is not American so it has absolutely no association to the Cascadian thing, so it sounds different.

Excellent review. I agree 100% with the entire write-up and the overall score.

Glad you share my opinion, for some reason I thought this was a low 3/borderline 2.5 in your book.

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


18882 Comments


Looks cool, i really enjoyed the first album apart from the cleans, so hopefully those aren't the main detractor this time around. Pos'd.

Digging: Bee Mask - When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

Willie
Moderator
February 10th 2011


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It started as a 2.5, but it eventually grew on me to be a low '3' (I still ended up just deleting it, though).

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 10th 2011


16467 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks Chambered.

(I still ended up just deleting it, though).

Hahaha I'm just gonna keep it for now and see if I find myself wanting to listen to it in the future, but in all likelihood I will forget about it and forget to delete it so it will just stay there anyway.

Really good review, Crysis, one of the best you've done in recent memory. Pos'd.

This was one of those reviews (like my Converge one) where I just sat down and words kept flowing constantly with no real break. Really like it when that happens because you can tell in the finished product.


Willie
Moderator
February 10th 2011


16133 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah, definitely one of your better reviews.

Hahaha I'm just gonna keep it for now and see if I find myself wanting to listen to it in the future, but in all likelihood I will forget about it and forget to delete it so it will just stay there anyway.
I have a 160gig iPod Classic and I keep all of my music on there. It's cool because it keeps me from hoarding shit that I'd never listen to, and having a memory cap on my music keeps me from raiding blogspots like so many other people do.





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