Rating:
9.5
Fen - The Malediction Fields
16 January 2009


01. Exile's Journey
02. A Witness To The Passing Of Aeons
03. Colossal Voids
04. As Buried Spirits Stir
05. The Warren
06. Lashed By Storm
07. Bereft


One can't help but recognise the waves caused by the then relatively unknown UK band Fen early last year when The Malediction Fields was first released. Building upon their debut EP's mixture of melodic black metal and post-rock they swiftly gained a respectable following. Whilst post-rock is somewhat of an uncomfortable term for many metallers, its ambiguity striking upon an irrational fear, it does play an integral part of Fen's music, not merely as a way of gaining a foothold into a rising sub-genre of music, but as a means to an end that is Fen's very own style.

The Malediction Fields' sound conjures up myriad influences, some of the most evident being the sickly sweet shoegazing dirges of Alcest, the acoustic melancholy of Opeth and Agalloch, even the floaty, dreamlike intonations of Mono and many more atmospherically bound, but Fen are never incumbent on their peers' styles to the point where they can be seen as copy-cats and most impressive of all is how they push so fervently against the black metal paradigm that any dictionary definition of it is rendered almost contradictory. Even the typically guttural and fierce vocalisations, which I can declare are some of the most potent I've heard, are so expertly mist-soaked in atmospherics and thoughtful production as to be rendered desperate and mournful, reminiscent of Jonas Renkse's heart-wrenching rendition during Dance of December Souls. Each song offers a slightly different approach to a specific ideal, "Colossal Voids" reverting to almost pure post-rock cathartics whilst "Lashed By The Storm" gallops off in hopeful abandon, a veritable horse-race of epic fretboard wizardry and frantic percussion. But with every composition it's the interplay between the omnipresent layering of ambient synths and piano, free flowing guitar and a rather exceptional supporting bass line which represents something that should be seen as more than the sum of its parts: an emotionally introspective piece of atmospheric music.

However, an almost universal point of contention is the clean vocals. Whilst for the most part they sit in perfect harmony, complementing the majority of the music, there are points in which they are strained beyond their natural ability and become recognisably out of tune. How detrimental this is tends to be another point of conflict with fans (and the crux of argument with non-fans), many find the rough execution befitting its harsher side whilst others hold it as a notable flaw.

Sometimes a methodical analysis of a collection of songs isn't the best way to review music, indeed thinking too much can reveal weaknesses and failings that otherwise wouldn't be felt naturally and as is most definitely the case with The Malediction Fields, it is an epitaph of heartfelt warmth that needs to be experienced from within: primal and unyielding. A shaking off of ego and pretence and allowing the encapsulation of the most sincerest of beauty is the true method from which Fen operate and is the reason why so very many were captivated by their creation.

Performance: 10
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Production: 10


Band profile: Fen
Album: The Malediction Fields


 


written by !J.O.O.E.! | 20.06.2010


Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.



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!J.O.O.E.! - 20.06.2010 at 23:38  
Whoops, I should really start reading the staff edits before accepting them: "pretence" should have actually stayed "pretense"
Merchant of Doom - 10.07.2010 at 11:28  
Good review of a very good album... BTW, "pretence" is the British English variant of "pretense"... You can relax, now...
!J.O.O.E.! - 10.07.2010 at 12:11  
Written by Merchant of Doom on 10.07.2010 at 11:28

Good review of a very good album... BTW, "pretence" is the British English variant of "pretense"... You can relax, now...

I did not know that Thanks!
Merchant of Doom - 10.07.2010 at 13:20  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 10.07.2010 at 12:11

Written by Merchant of Doom on 10.07.2010 at 11:28

Good review of a very good album... BTW, "pretence" is the British English variant of "pretense"... You can relax, now...

I did not know that Thanks!


pleasure!
BreadGod - 11.07.2010 at 02:10  
I downloaded their album recently, but I have yet to listen to it. Judging by the score, it should be great.
!J.O.O.E.! - 11.07.2010 at 02:14  
Written by BreadGod on 11.07.2010 at 02:10

I downloaded their album recently, but I have yet to listen to it. Judging by the score, it should be great.

Well I certainly hope you think so I know a lot of people literally creamed themselves over it (pretty much the reason this got a notch higher than 9) but a fair few didn't really like it, Lucas for one. It's holding an impressive 88% average from 9 reviews on MA (which oddly enough is echoed by the rating on MS) so I feel less trepidation about rating so high.
Merchant of Doom - 11.07.2010 at 10:58  
Some of the clean singing is a bit dodgy, though...
TheAmazingP - 26.08.2010 at 15:06  
Written by Merchant of Doom on 11.07.2010 at 10:58

Some of the clean singing is a bit dodgy, though...

Agreed...

But otherwise it's a freakin' masterpiece!
lord artan - 17.09.2010 at 13:48  
Very good black metal album
Bigpaul - 02.11.2010 at 19:26  
Good album apart from the clean vocals which as previously mentioned are pretty poor.
!J.O.O.E.! - 02.11.2010 at 19:37  
Written by Bigpaul on 02.11.2010 at 19:26

Good album apart from the clean vocals which as previously mentioned are pretty poor.

Fingers crossed they sort them out for the new one. Hopefully they'll be receptive to the criticism.
Daniell - 02.11.2010 at 22:27  
Did I say this is a fantastic album? Their new is one of those few that really can shake the ground for me this year.
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.11.2010 at 05:45  
Written by Daniell on 02.11.2010 at 22:27

Did I say this is a fantastic album? Their new is one of those few that really can shake the ground for me this year.

Well this year has turned out weird in the sense that it felt like a total waste of a year where black metal was concerned in the early months, maybe even 6 months into 2010, but after that it turned pretty good. The Malediction Fields was odd because I heard it within a few days of 2009 starting and it set the bar for the year, which may not have been bettered so was a bit of a surprise. The new album has a lot to live up to as it has to define the year despite being released at the end of it; basically the opposite of the debut in every sense; high expectations and perhaps bad timing for it i.e. a lot to live up to compared to Blut aus Nord, Meads of Asphodel and I suspect, Deathspell Omega, though if I'm honest I'm totally nowhere near the obsessive, near religious fanaticism of most DsO lovers these days.

Bit of a rant, but there we go.
DerRozzengarten - 03.11.2010 at 09:34  
Seems like something i should struggle my ears with, of course in a good way well-conductued review
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.11.2010 at 14:03  
Written by DerRozzengarten on 03.11.2010 at 09:34

Seems like something i should struggle my ears with, of course in a good way well-conductued review

Thank you Sir!
Mikyz - 03.11.2010 at 14:52  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 03.11.2010 at 05:45

Written by Daniell on 02.11.2010 at 22:27

Did I say this is a fantastic album? Their new is one of those few that really can shake the ground for me this year.

Well this year has turned out weird in the sense that it felt like a total waste of a year where black metal was concerned in the early months, maybe even 6 months into 2010, but after that it turned pretty good. The Malediction Fields was odd because I heard it within a few days of 2009 starting and it set the bar for the year, which may not have been bettered so was a bit of a surprise. The new album has a lot to live up to as it has to define the year despite being released at the end of it; basically the opposite of the debut in every sense; high expectations and perhaps bad timing for it i.e. a lot to live up to compared to Blut aus Nord, Meads of Asphodel and I suspect, Deathspell Omega, though if I'm honest I'm totally nowhere near the obsessive, near religious fanaticism of most DsO lovers these days.

Bit of a rant, but there we go.


Fen's style is nowhere near that of Deathspell Omega or even Blut Aus Nord, sure all of these have some sort of unique approach on Black Metal but nevertheless the state of mind for DsO and Fen are completely different one is an unrelentless assault on the sense whereas the latter has some soothing values. Hopefully, both releases will be great, but in my opinion they're not comparable.

Btw your reviews are pretty well detailed, so keep them coming. XD
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.11.2010 at 15:29  
Written by Mikyz on 03.11.2010 at 14:52

Fen's style is nowhere near that of Deathspell Omega or even Blut Aus Nord, sure all of these have some sort of unique approach on Black Metal but nevertheless the state of mind for DsO and Fen are completely different one is an unrelentless assault on the sense whereas the latter has some soothing values. Hopefully, both releases will be great, but in my opinion they're not comparable.

Btw your reviews are pretty well detailed, so keep them coming. XD

Haha thanks Regardless though I, and probably the majority, have a habit of lumping in black metal bands into one category and though they may be significantly different in style one can always compare the overall quality - the difference in style doesn't mean it can't be compared on a roughly equal ground of artistic value, or at least how much I enjoyed them on the whole. The Meads are just as different to BaN as Fen are, in fact in many ways all three occupy the fringe of what is considered black metal, whereas DsO are probably regarded as a template of what modern pure black metal should be like (probably why my interest in them as waned). If you go down that road you can more or less quantify each individual band into their own categories, which isn't very practical. When I make a finalised list of the top "black metal" bands it's sure to to contain a number of seemingly conflicting records but it wouldn't make sense to have a lists of "cathartic black metal bands", "relentless black metal bands", "Weird black metal bands" etc. as it could be a potentially unending list. There's enough black metal in Fen for me to be happy comparing them to other BM outfits, for the time being anyway.
Daniell - 03.11.2010 at 16:41  
A question from me - what is "enough black metal" in your book? I'm asking, because, for example, Cobalt is regarded as black, while I only hear black-ish vocals there. Guitar work and every other musical element (at least on "Gin", which is the only Cobalt release I know) are not black at all.
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.11.2010 at 16:51  
Written by Daniell on 03.11.2010 at 16:41

A question from me - what is "enough black metal" in your book? I'm asking, because, for example, Cobalt is regarded as black, while I only hear black-ish vocals there. Guitar work and every other musical element (at least on "Gin", which is the only Cobalt release I know) are not black at all.

I wouldn't even know how to begin to describe how Cobalt are black metal to someone who thinks they aren't. The whole 'Gin' as some kind of post-metal album thing has been massively overstated, I suspect by people who've only listened to the first few tracks which exhibit a few post-esque moments and judged it from there. The larger quanitity of Gin is still very harsh, very relentless "war" black metal.

Actually I wouldn't need to describe it, I would just say go listen to Eater of Birds which is identical to Gin minus the post moments Eater of Birds is one of the most acerbic and vitriolic black metal albums I know. It's awesome.

But anway, something is black metal when I feel black metal makes up the larger part of it. I don't regard all black metal is being necessarily harsh which I think is where people's confusion stems from. If there's one thing modern black metal has established it's that black metal need not be harsh to be black. Also, I think you have to take into consideration the inherent dominance black metal would have over a relativley soft genre like post-rock. Even a little black metal injected into post-rock would have dramatic effects, eventually transforming it. Drop a little black paint into a vat of white and it'll change colour.
Mikyz - 03.11.2010 at 17:04  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 03.11.2010 at 15:29

Haha thanks Regardless though I, and probably the majority, have a habit of lumping in black metal bands into one category and though they may be significantly different in style one can always compare the overall quality - the difference in style doesn't mean it can't be compared on a roughly equal ground of artistic value, or at least how much I enjoyed them on the whole. The Meads are just as different to BaN as Fen are, in fact in many ways all three occupy the fringe of what is considered black metal, whereas DsO are probably regarded as a template of what modern pure black metal should be like (probably why my interest in them as waned). If you go down that road you can more or less quantify each individual band into their own categories, which isn't very practical. When I make a finalised list of the top "black metal" bands it's sure to to contain a number of seemingly conflicting records but it wouldn't make sense to have a lists of "cathartic black metal bands", "relentless black metal bands", "Weird black metal bands" etc. as it could be a potentially unending list. There's enough black metal in Fen for me to be happy comparing them to other BM outfits, for the time being anyway.


Yeah I agree. But when it comes to Fen, I'd rather compare them with Alcest or even Lantlos who have some Post-Rock/punk influence rather than a pure black metal outfit like DsO. I'm not disputing the fact that they are black metal but rather what their music portrays which has nothing to do with the satanic imagery of DsO. That's all there is to it
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.11.2010 at 17:07  
Written by Mikyz on 03.11.2010 at 17:04

Yeah I agree. But when it comes to Fen, I'd rather compare them with Alcest or even Lantlos who have some Post-Rock/punk influence rather than a pure black metal outfit like DsO. I'm not disputing the fact that they are black metal but rather what their music portrays which has nothing to do with the satanic imagery of DsO. That's all there is to it

Comparing lyrics and imagery is yet another kettle of fish really. Not one I personally distinguish between. If DsO started singing about cake and Alcest about Satan it would make no difference to me. But anyway, I guess this is why people so love adding prefixes to the black metal genre
Daniell - 03.11.2010 at 17:07  
Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 03.11.2010 at 16:51

But anway, something is black metal when I feel black metal makes up the larger part of it.


Shakespeare said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'd say that genre is in the ears of the auditor
Be that as it may, "Gin" is an awesome album!
!J.O.O.E.! - 03.11.2010 at 17:09  
Written by Daniell on 03.11.2010 at 17:07

Written by !J.O.O.E.! on 03.11.2010 at 16:51

But anway, something is black metal when I feel black metal makes up the larger part of it.


Shakespeare said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I'd say that genre is in the ears of the auditor
Be that as it may, "Gin" is an awesome album!

I agree, there's no law to music categorisation, thankfully, as I often disagree with tags people put on stuff but at the end of the day we're all bound by our personal experiences and perceptions and the like
Ag Fox - 17.12.2010 at 04:40  
Hey, thanks for helping me discover this with the review. I really like this album
Oaken - 27.05.2012 at 12:01  
This is slightly better than Epoch. The two albums slay though.

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