Fen
The Dead Light


3.5
great

Review

by Robert Garland CONTRIBUTOR (314 Reviews)
December 9th, 2019 | 72 replies


Release Date: 12/06/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Follow the perennial light…

It almost goes without saying that black metal has had quite the run circa 2019. While bands like Falls Of Rauros, Saor and Can Bardd may have dominated the year’s earlier hype, there’s been no shortage in acts producing more quality material (in varying degree) as 2019 continued and now that we’re in the year’s closing month there’s still a few acts popping out of the woodwork. Fen’s The Dead Light helps close the current decade on a high, but unfortunately fails to achieve the same status of the acts mentioned above. For whatever reason, Fen has always maintained a second tier relevance in today’s music. Chances are it’s due to the band’s soundscape that comes straight from the Agalloch handbook, inserting a few pages of Alcest-ian nuance and the a-typical stereotype of highly atmospheric black metal itself. With that said; The Dead Light is a more than traversal slab of forward moving black metal that suffers from the occasional light hiccup released too late in the year for most die-hard fans to care about as they draft their end of year lists.

At first listen, The Dead Light is a simplified version of the band’s previous music, keeping true to the roots that defines the foundations of black metal’s “prettier” hybridization of post, black and doom that occasionally teeters on the edge of shoegaze (without falling into the trappings of combining the two). Compared to the band’s previous records, The Dead Light has a more airy, spaced out fluidity than that of Winter or Carrion Skies and brings back the natural feel found in the debut and Epoch. The record’s opening track, for example (“Witness”) offers a steady climb, nodding to pointed clean vocal passages and cascadian riffing. There’s a progressive styling to the instrumental effort, but everything stays where it should… preventing a misstep in rushed climes. The two-part title track is especially impressive as far as second wave black metal goes. By leaning heavily on the guitar melodies and driving, bleaker rhythms the band combines the more Alcest-y (loosely) shoegaze harmonies to take a centre stage while acknowledging the music that came before it (particularly in the album’s opener).

At times the music tries to meld some of its initial lofty jaunt into driving grooves that disparagingly displace the feel of the crescendo the band often creates, but these are little gripes to be easily looked over as the lush post-progressive sounds that joyously throw themselves through the speakers. The hard-working style of Fen often come to the surface. The juxtaposition of the two-part titular to the spacey “ Breath Of Void, and again to the grace of the album’s closing piece, “Rendered In Onyx” which offers positive, refreshing atmosphere as it lunges through emotion, melody over simplicity.

Wholly, there’s a lot a listener can take away from Fen’s 2019 piece, but compared to the rest of the year’s offerings within the genre it falls short. Don’t get me wrong; Fen have shown themselves to be one of the hardest working black metal groups in modern times - they’re just outgunned by some truly impressive acts.



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user ratings (89)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
December 9th 2019


11501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Couldn't end the year with an odd number of reviews this year could I?



Listen at the link below:



https://fenuk.bandcamp.com/

Demon of the Fall
December 9th 2019


14956 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice review, however...



'Don’t get me wrong; Fen have shown themselves to be one of the hardest working black metal groups in modern times - they’re just outgunned by some truly impressive acts.'



In relation to this record I'm in complete agreement, but Carrion Skies and especially Winter are worthy of competing against anything the wider genre has to offer, the latter being one of my favourite releases this decade. I feel as though they have simplified, or 'dialled back' their approach here and honestly, it is to their detriment. There is nothing separating this release from numerous other black metal acts, the ambition is gone, or at least it isn't anywhere near as apparent.

Digging: Kvelertak - Kvelertak

Thalassic
December 9th 2019


3946 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm really digging this



but I'm fairly easy to please





Anyway, good review as per usual

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
December 9th 2019


11501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

but Carrion Skies and especially Winter are worthy of competing against anything the wider genre has to offer, the latter being one of my favourite releases this decade. I feel as though they have simplified, or 'dialled back' their approach here and honestly, it is to their detriment.




I might be in the minority here (and I think I've had a similar discussion with Pika) but I disagree with your point *insert shrug here*. But I agree with the sentiment that the band has become similar, but the 'scaling back' as you put it has allowed these ideas to come out quite naturally.

butt.
December 9th 2019


6548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn over 300 reviews? insane bro

Scheumke
December 9th 2019


1524 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I enjoyed the record but nothing really stood out to me. Album could've used a clear highlight I think.

Digging: Envy - The Fallen Crimson

NOTINTHEFACE
December 9th 2019


2012 Comments


I've yet to listen, but I would have liked to hear more about the record's sound apart from its context in 2019 black metal, which is not something I particularly care about, especially since I didn't really enjoy the albums you list as contenders especially much. I do love these guys' debut so if it sounds more like that then I'm sure I'll find something to love.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 9th 2019


25422 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

meh. this is going in one ear and out the other

Digging: Latterman - No Matter Where We Go...!

Essence
December 9th 2019


6346 Comments


I am a big Fen proponent and this one did not suck me in like Winter or Carrion skies did. I think that this one is a bit too safe for them

Keyblade
December 9th 2019


28541 Comments


can't believe their debut is 10 years old now, jeez. i love that record, but i have to say they hit their creative peak at Winter and Carrion Skies. disappointing to hear this doesn't live up to those

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
December 9th 2019


11501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

"but I would have liked to hear more about the record's sound"



Did you just read the first paragraph? I know I didn't fire into a track by track detailed breakdown of every note but I did cover the music here.

butt.
December 9th 2019


6548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

can't believe people find this boring, yet eat up every identical blackgaze album that comes out. this would probably have a higher avg if it was just fast strummed mid-range guitars and blast beats for 50 straight minutes like every other bm album in the top 200 chart this year

zaruyache
December 9th 2019


21940 Comments


*crashes through ceiling*

did somebody say fast-strummed guitars and blast beats for 50 minutes?

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
December 9th 2019


11501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Perfectly opportune Zaruyache big text moment.

zaruyache
December 9th 2019


21940 Comments


Waiter! I'm ready to order!

ChoccyPhilly
December 9th 2019


12000 Comments


Man the album art looks insane

Digging: Boris Brejcha - Feuerfalter Part 2

butt.
December 9th 2019


6548 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i'd be lying if I said the album art + title didn't help elevate this when I listen to it.

I was primed to enjoy it before I even hit play

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
December 9th 2019


11501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I think I was really looking forward to this around June-ish. Art isn't that great but the title screams "love me pretty black metal"

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
December 10th 2019


18000 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Band rips, album rips (some minor qualms regarding production but the riffage makes up for it). I am ready to wrap the year with this one.

Digging: Agnes Obel - Myopia

Nocte
Contributing Reviewer
December 10th 2019


11501 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

There's a couple of nicey's on I, Voidhanger with a couple on the 13th I think.



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