Fen
Dustwalker


3.5
great

Review

by Hernan M. Campbell STAFF
January 23rd, 2013 | 71 replies


Release Date: 01/21/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Atmosphere, melody, and brutality mixed together into a potent musical brew.

Dustwalker embodies a spectrum of moods and sounds that convey a rather compelling musical performance. It's a very meticulously arranged collage of atmosphere, melody, and brutality that exhibits an eclectic range of musical styles. Throughout the album, we witness Fen regressing back to the nature of their previous albums, while yet fusing them with a better understanding of themselves and what emotion they want to convey in their music. There's an array of genres and concepts present within the album as we continue to see Fen embracing an affinity for borrowing and breaking down whatever musical styles appeal to them, and then mixing them together into a potent brew of melodies and rhythms that go well beyond the average metal repertoire. In a nutshell, Dustwalker retains the aggression of Black metal, while adding a delicate touch of ambience and euphony to their music. Certainly an elaborate plot to work with, but it's nothing that hasn't already been explored by other artists. There's a very conspicuous influence which can be felt throughout the album that is distinctively derived from other bands well within their musical vicinity, such as Agalloch, Negură Bunget, and Altar of Plagues who have all pioneered the various possibilities of connecting the charismatic essence of Black metal with outside influences like Shoegaze, Folk, Post-rock and even to an extent, Progressive rock.

A song like "Hands of Dust" really illustrates the overall musical concept of Dustwalker. There's an array of different musical conventions uniting here to compose a sound that aspires to be as engaging as possible, and in that aspect, it succeeds with ease. "Hands of Dust" opens with an introductory guitar arrangement that is embellished with a graceful echoing dissonance, thus exuding an ambient allure to ease our descent into its ever-fluctuating musical realm. This is one of the many times in the album where the progressive influences are at their most consciously evident, because this whole song is a constant ascension to a different mood with every passing second, yet it tends to operate with rather contrasting dynamics in style. For example, during the song's dreamy shoegaze section in the beginning, we hear the vocals alternate from a soothing tone to a more frustrated growl, and yet the music remains well in its calming state. And it isn't until the latter portion that we hear any distorted riffs and relentlessly manic drumming, but even then, though discreetly lingering in the background, we can still hear the echoing remains of its initial ambient texture.

"Spectre" yet again reflects the band's affection for spacey musical environments, though this time they incorporate a more folk-influenced sound. The primary melodic framework of "Spectre" is exuded by a gentle acoustic arrangement, which is accompanied by an electric guitar that lets out a sonic wave of psychedelic radiance in the background. This is definitely one of the highlighting moments of the album because it is just such a beautifully composed piece. The vocals, especially, are sung with an exquisite harmony that really vitalizes the music with a graceful aura. The only flaw in "Spectre" is that it probably lasts longer than it should. After the vocalized section reaches its climax, the song arrives into an instrumental passage that dissolves among a haze of ethereal ambience. And as mesmerizing as these soundscapes may be, you will indeed find yourself noticing how needlessly prolonged this interlude gets after the first 2 minutes, which kind of makes "Spectre" lose some effect from its trancing spell, but overall it is still an exceptional piece. Depending on the preference of the listener, one may find that this sense of repetition actually works thematically with the atmospheric ideology of "Spectre", but Fen, whether consciously or not, tends to exhibit a lot of monotony and repetition within their other compositions, though to a less than inspired degree.

The final two epics, "The Black Sound" and "Walking the Crowpath", seem to surpass their state of relevancy long before they reach their end. Both songs clock in a little over 10 minutes, and within that time Fen embrace their metal attributes much more intimately than any other moment in the album. There's an excessive usage of slow tempos and heavy rhythms being deployed here that express an overall pessimistic sentiment, and though there are some invigorating riffs and bombastic drum rhythms to be found, that's all they really have to offer, lacking any sense of ingenuity to coerce our intrigue enough to eagerly hit the repeat button. "Wolf Sun", on the other hand, is the one and only redeeming song in the latter half of the album, and the reason for that lies in the one quality that "The Black Sound" and "Walking the Crowpath" failed to harness, an innovative approach. "Wolf Sun" displays a combination of alternative rock instrumentation with infuriated Black metal shrieks and raspy vocals. Of course, there is prominent usage of 'clean' singing throughout the song as well, but it is still very compelling to hear the two contrasting musical styles compliment each other in such an irresistibly harmonic fashion.

At its final moments, Dustwalker can very well be considered an even further progression in style from Fen's prior efforts, The Malediction Fields and Epoch, one that focuses more on their Shoegaze and Post-metal influences rather than Black metal. For anyone that was hoping this would be the direction Fen would explore more after hearing Epoch, then Dustwalker will be an experience well worth your time. As I mentioned before, there's an impressive level of creativity being expressed in their songwriting here, particularly in the methods of combining their different musical influences in a way that is both coherent and appealing. This is definitely a 'fan-pleaser', and though it's merely an addition to atmospheric Black metal and nothing that is particularly revolutionary or innovative in the genre, it still makes for a truly satisfying listen to anyone willing to give it a try.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SgtPepper
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


4424 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm not even going to pretend to be an expert on black metal and its subgenres because I'm far from it, but I am becoming quite fond of it all and I intend to talk more about it. So here's another write-up on the subject. I wanted to turn this in tonight before I went to bed. I've got a serious case of the flu so if there's any mistakes or typos let me know and I'll fix it in the morning.


Anyway I hope you enjoy the album and the review.

This review was also uploaded in these fine music sites:
http://mediasnobs.com/
http://www.thealtreview.net/

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


20654 Comments


Excellent review bro, pos'd.

Might check this out.

Digging: Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt

tommygun
January 23rd 2013


24932 Comments


i don't know shit about black metal but still got a good idea of the record from your text

really enjoyed read as always, you're a machine dude

pos hard m/

Digging: Broods - Evergreen

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


8819 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

certainly better than the other two albums [:

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


3396 Comments


The music sounds good, but the harsh vocals aren't my thing. Still, it's a great review, pos.

Digging: Amplifier - Mystoria

Wizard
January 23rd 2013


19401 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Band is awesome and I'm probably the only one that thinks that.

Great review, sounds like they haven't strayed far from their last album.

Digging: Khonsu - Traveller

Wolfhorde
January 23rd 2013


13265 Comments


Wiz, your taste is a mystery.. or




































magic.

Wizard
January 23rd 2013


19401 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Could be that people completely miss the magic?

Keyblade
January 23rd 2013


14834 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

might have to bump my rating for the debut because it's better. one this one it's like every other track is an average one or a good one.

that said, Hands of Dust is one of their best tracks.

Digging: Strawberry Switchblade - Strawberry Switchblade

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


3449 Comments


WOO PAPERBACK TRYING METAL

have a pos

Tyrael
January 23rd 2013


20876 Comments


This is definitely their best

Digging: Darkspace - Dark Space III I

Keyblade
January 23rd 2013


14834 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

nah

InfamousGrouse
January 23rd 2013


3503 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

enjoyable stuff

Digging: Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


16389 Comments


I'll have to check this out. Epoch had some extremely promising moments but most of the time they were snuffed out by lots of stupid shit.

Digging: Spectral Lore - III

Keyblade
January 23rd 2013


14834 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

this is better than epoch crysis. some strong post-metal influences too surprisingly

CK
January 23rd 2013


4915 Comments


Solid work, Mr. Campbell. Do check out their album The Malediction Fields if you haven't already.

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
January 23rd 2013


18468 Comments


some strong post-metal influences too


ew

Digging: Recondite - Caldera/DRGN 2

demigod!
January 23rd 2013


44381 Comments


gross agreed

Digging: Portishead - Dummy

Keyblade
January 23rd 2013


14834 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

maybe strong was too strong a word heh. but the influence is definitely there. huge open ended riffs end a couple of the songs.

Calc
January 23rd 2013


12186 Comments


good to see you branching out of the psychedelia genre from time to time

pos.

Digging: Jizue - Shiori



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