Fen – Carrion Skies (Code666)Thursday, 11th December 2014
Fen’s 2013 opus Dustwalker was (and still is) virtually unbeatable in the competitive field of atmospheric British black metal. The beauty of said album was its reach over and beyond the long-stated extreme metal norms, backing out on the relentless tempo scrawls their friends in Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth seemingly can’t away from. Inserted was absolutely gorgeous acoustic guitars, melodious clean vocals, and sweeping chord arrangements, all tempered with something of the “post” nature. A tough act to follow indeed, which is why it’s with little surprise Carrion Skies underwhelms.
Comprised of six songs stretching over an hour, the approach with Carrion Skies it seems, was to flesh out the concrete and well-worn ideas found on Dustwalker and pipe them up with beefier riffs. And the riffs are certainly there, clutching rather strongly across the opening two-part “Our Names Written in Embers,” two songs that almost instantly recall the band’s work on their striking The Malediction Fields debut. However, there’s no real engagement with this pair, or even the promising “Sentinels,” which provides an ample amount of clean vocals. Without any sort of between-song dynamics (a key facet of its predecessor), Carrion Skies sometimes staggers along by without much of a quiver, relegated to a mass of heaving riffs, but no delicate balance.
This is not to say the album is duds-ville; it’s not. The closing wrath of “Gathering the Stones” is thoroughly climatic, as the band wrestles with bountiful black metal and post-rock elements that become so indistinguishable, you’d think Fen started the whole sub-movement themselves. Alas, they really haven’t, and they should be the perfecters, but it doesn’t show on Carrion Skies. Consider the above rating quite generous, perhaps as a sign of gratitude for being so grand with Dustwalker. (Few songs are as good as “Spectre,” by the way.)