Review Summary: Carrion Skies in five words? Atmospheric black metal done right.
It is always good to see a band who improves upon every release, Fen being no exception. The UK, post-rock black metal troupe have a lot to put on the table, and quite literally too. This record is 1 hour and 41 minutes long, so make sure you have a spare second or two because there is a lot to take in.
The very opening riff of the first track sets the mood for the entire 2 hours to unfold. It is grim and moody, but what comes next might surprise the new listener. The musicianship in this album is, for lack of a better term, groovy. Never overplayed, always simple, and always bouncing. This bouncy style of rhythm actually plays in the album's favor by first enticing the listener's curiosity, and then repeating until a listener is fully invested in the music. It is a fresh change from blast-beats, which, while not being absent from this release, are a very common tactical resort. Overall, the simplicity, yet creativity of the drumming is quite fantastic.
Fen's atmospheric approach to guitar riffs is very much present. At times, Carrion Skies will sound downright depressing, just due to the fantastic guitar play. The first minute of track two shows this incredibly well; the guitars cry to listeners through sustained highs and bends. Which in turn, brings to another fantastic aspect to this album. The guitars are not drop-tuned to the point of no return. The bass work is brilliant. Much like the drumming, it is never overly complex, but shines in every song. The bass work is one of the, if not (arguably) the best aspect of Carrion Skies. The vocals, while not very varied in scope, never detract from the music at all. They mesh perfectly with the other instruments and are truly frightening. The emotional force of the vocals in this band should not be underestimated, they are a very commendable performance.
This album takes various aspects of lo-fi black metal that contribute to the wall-of-sound many of us have come to love, and then mixes in clean production aspects of more modern, progressive metal outfits. The end result is every instrument is clearly audible, packs a punch, and yet all sound meshes together. It is a brilliantly produced record, and will reward good headphones or studio speakers.
This album is not without fault. It is remarkably long which in turn, is a blessing and a curse. While not a single song is below the line of greatness, there is a lot to take in and it can become tedious. There is only one track that is shorter than 6 minutes on the deluxe edition of the album. The average track length is about 11 minutes, two tracks extending past 15. But this record is a vast improvement on the previous Fen releases and a fantastic album overall. If atmospheric black metal is what you are craving, look no further.