Fen – Winter (Code666)Thursday, 2nd March 2017
Fen are never at a loss for ideas. The band’s simply brilliant 2013 Dustwalker as a starting point, the Brits have emerged as the most daunting and dare we say, “progressive,” of the front of black metal bands to emerge from the U.K. Capable of going from spiraling guitar motifs to delicate acoustic guitar interludes in one fell swoop, Fen represent the risky side of black metal that can be feast or famine. As it stands, the band’s 2014 Carrion Skies didn’t match up to Dustwalker; the same applies for Winter, an album that may be too elaborate for its own good.
At a whopping 75 minutes, Winter finds Fen at their most over-the-top, if you will. Guitarist The Watcher (real name: Frank Allain) has pulled together arguably his most convincing batch of riffs to date. His chord peddling, harmonic flair, and melodic depth are continually top-notch, but he, like the rest of the band are done in by the inability to put together a cogent, cohesive song. All six of the jams on Winter are flooded with a multitude of colliding ideas, some of which have all the lushness one could ask for (“Pathway”), while others are constant, never-ending streams of guitar batch changes (“Fear” and “Internment”).
Winter ends somewhat un-fittingly on a somber, atmospheric note with “Sight.” The song is virtually the antithesis to everything else the album contains, save for a few short soft segments and melodic bursts. If Fen’s goal was to push the elements of U.K. black metal to its grandiose brink, then they have succeeded with Winter. Don’t feel bad if this overwhelms you, too.