Review Summary: Chapter 4 - Ghosts Of The Flood
"I was born long ago
My form fashioned from the primordial rock
Storm-winds seared the umbra and my verdant spirit
The essence of an era forged by the elements"
After the (sadly overlooked) brilliance of Fen's "Towards The Shores Of The End", Britain's finest young atmospheric metal group (and my favourite active band in the World) released an ambitious, thematic undertaking, 2011's "Epoch". Given the clear title, and the tone conveyed in the wonderful, surreal album art (produced by the band's own bassist, Grungyn), Epoch is a thematically consistent, holistic experience (intended for broader context, full playthrough listens), principally focusing upon the theme of time (in broad implication), with an overarching pelagial atmosphere. The tense, moody atmosphere, and the aesthetic of the element of water proves a constant throughout the experience, and has made this album at once entirely cohesive, as well as accused of long-winded unvaried flavour. For my part, I find the distinct, fully immersive character and tone of this record remarkably impressive, considering it's over an hour in length and engages me throughout, but I acknowledge that this album appears to have had a polarizing effect on some.
"For what long ago was held to is no more
A hollow shell, a shattered conceit
Condemning the memories of a thousand generations
To the abyss of the forgotten"
The experience begins with the tone setting gloom of the title track, which serves largely as an instrumental introduction, building into the fuller album, and establishes the context and mood of the journey. Case in point, many accuse this track of overstaying its welcome, but from my perception, I infer that this track intentionally takes its time in establishing the tempo and tone of the record, effectively encouraging the listener to ease into and accept the authors design, informing you of the nature of this story. Fen have made clear in several interviews that they don't craft albums as collections of songs, but rather as holistic, immersive soundscapes; Fen is not trying to sell you a typical product, they are a theater of the mind, and the extent to which you struggle against this, and crave immediacy, is the extent to which you allow yourself to enjoy their art. The pacing and build of the intro track only heightens the impact of the album highlight (and one of the group's finest songs to date), as "Ghosts Of The Flood" explodes in a torrential charge, lashing across its stormy skies with thundering, percussion-driven surges, deftly weaving between the immediacy of its violent outpourings, and its delicately crafted, vulnerable passages. In merely two records, Fen have achieved a remarkable balance of heavy-meets-soft dynamics, accomplishing an emotionally satisfying use of swelling, breathing, building, and crescendo, providing compositional integrity to their songs, while ensuring the listener is not smothered in the midst of the experience (which is essential in an hour-length immersion).
"Around and around the centuries thunder
Revolutions of earth and stone, oceans rise and fall
The waves of life flow high tide and beyond
This crystalline second still warm on the retina of remembrance"
Without descending into blatant track-by-track review territory, Epoch's windswept shores bring forth a wide range of tones, captured thematically within its water-element aesthetics. Despondence, wistfulness, gloom, stormy violence, pensive tension, intuitive reflection, melancholic jaunts, tentative respite, and a remarkable juxtaposition of the fragile peace of its moody, somber themes and textures, with its perseverent resolute force, triumphant tempos, and carefully constructed climaxes. What Epoch de-emphasizes in the way of instrumental variety (in accordance with the consistent, holistic theme and atmosphere of the overall experience), it more than makes up for with an incredible emotional range, and its layered compositions reward those patient enough with each subsequent listen. Avid supporter of this band that I am, regardless, I could never have given this record a considerate and contextually respective review with only a couple listens, and it is with hindsight and deep familiarity to this album that I write this. Simply put, you have to get to know Epoch, you have to give it your time, and truly sink into it. I understand this theater of the mind experience is not how music is conventionally consumed, and many may not have the time or patience for this format, but I sincerely encourage those curious enough to give this wonderful group a chance. This edition of Epoch came in the form of a jaw-dropping artbook, which I wholeheartedly personally recommend; the aesthetics of the art will provide even deeper context to the tone, theme, and mindset that went into the crafting of this album, and the exclusive bonus tracks are simply majestic.
Ghosts Of The Flood
A Waning Solace
The Winds Whisper Of Loss