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Fen - The Dead Light

The Dead Light
by Martin Knap at 06 January 2020, 6:47 PM

Atmospheric Black Metal is a bit of a “hit or miss” for me. I listen to and love the classic records of the genre – albums by bands like AGALLOCH, PANOPTYCON, SAOR, DRUDKH, FALLS OF RAUROS etc. – but there is such a thing as Metal that’s too atmospheric. Some of the music that is produced in this style can be a bit too monochromatic, and lacking in terms of bite and good riffs. I was a bit on the fence about FEN before hearing this release, I thought they might be a little bit too soft and formulaic, but after hearing the emotional single “Nebula” I started being curious what this London-based trio is all about.

FEN are a quite prolific band, “The Dead Light” is the sixth full-length album that they’ve released since they were formed in 2009. The album is almost an hour long with eight tracks in total, only one of which is a shorter instrumental, the rest are medium-length or longer songs. To my I’m quite charmed by the fresh take on Atmo-Black that FEN offers on “The Dead Light”. The sound of the album and the songwriting approach fall within the scope of the genre: there is the expansive songwriting, the sharp contrasts between tranquil parts and harsher, Black Metal sounding parts, soothing, folky melodies and the occasional use of acoustic instruments, as well as thunderous, majestic climaxes and so on. But the band is quite inventive and able to write an album with dynamic songs that differ in structure and tone.

What I really dig are the Viking/Progressive, ENSLAVED-like riffs and vibes in some of the songs: you can her some nice staccato ENSLAVED riffs in the title song (which comes in two parts) or “Exsanguination”. And you can find the inspiration also in the intertwining clear vocals and chanting, and generally in the Progressive-ish song structures. The album opens with a mellow number “Witness”, which has an almost Post-Rock melancholy and tenderness to it. But this is just a calm moment before a storm, you don’t have to worry that “The Dead Light” is soft and slushy. “The Dead Light” is a dynamic, riffy song which develops in interesting ways. The above mentioned “Nebula” is a melancholic, introspective song, it’s both soothing and forceful. “Exsanguination” is one of the more subdued, introspective songs on the record, but it has explosive moments; “Breath of Void” is the most thunderous, Black Metal sounding song but there are tranquil, atmospheric sections here as well.

Although not all songs are as catchy as the single “Nebula”, “The Dead Light” definitely grew on me. The album is of a more introspective sort and I needed to spend some time with it to appreciate it, but repeated listens are rewarding. The music is imaginative, each song feels memorable, and the band’s musicianship top notch. I can recommend this wholeheartedly.

Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 8
Musicianship: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Witness
2. The Dead Light (Part 1)
3. The Dead Light (Part 2)
4. Nebula
5. Labyrinthine Echoes
6. Breath of Void
7. Exsanguination
8. Rendered in Onyx

Grungyn - Bass, Vocals
The Watcher - Guitars, Vocals
Havenless - Drums
Record Label: Prophecy Productions


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