Metal Review: Fen – Dustwalker (2013)

Fen - Dustwalker (2013)Atmospheric/post black metal band Fen is back with the follow up to 2011’s “Epoch” entitled “Dustwalker.” Fen takes their name from a mysterious part of the English countryside named The Fens, famous for it’s aura. For most metal fans, the term “post” throws a warning flag up and they are immediately terrified of what is to come. With fans of Fen, we are never sure exactly what we are getting, but we know that it always has the potential to blow our minds. While they may employ post black metal tactics, the blastbeats and harsh screams will always accompany them. Fen has been an extremely dynamic band since day one and they are showing no signs of changing that.

Old school black metal fans still get their fuzzy tones and lo-fi production standards that they crave, but the post black metal fans also get various degrees of heaviness and atmospheric elements that few bands can conjure up. The songs vary in length, but tend to stick on the longer end of the spectrum. The long songs are much more than repeated verses and riffs though.

The album in total is intense, so it is very hard to pick standouts from it, but “Spectre” and “Wolf Sun” have the most memorable ambient elements to them. The clean sounds rival heavyweight bands like Agalloch in their atmosphere. Of course, the distorted elements are very atmospheric as well. By the time that you get to the closing track (on the regular edition of the album), “Walking the Crowpath“, you have experienced so many emotions throughout the album that you feel spent already, but then “Walking the Crowpath” comes in and completely floors you with its raw intensity.

The Black Sound” is another track that relies on its intensity. These two closing tracks make up one of the best one-two punches that I have heard on any album in recent years. The finalize an album that has already made it mark on you and leave you wanting to start the album all over again to take another journey with the band. The best part about this next journey is that “Dustwalker” is so deep that you will always hear another element to the music that you did not hear on the previous listen.

“Dustwalker” embodies a spectrum of moods and sounds that convey a compelling musical performance that we desperately need in metal today. Very few bands touch all of our senses like Fen does, and we appreciate these bands even more. “Dustwalker” is loaded with potential to be one of the top albums of the year, and I know that it will make my list.

To get back to the opening part of this review though, I feel like the elements that I like most about Fen are the elements that will ultimately divide a lot of the metal community. A lot of black metal fans do not want what Fen is offering and a lot of bands that appreciate what Fen is doing will ultimately reject them for their black metal ways. It feels like a catch 22 for the band, but I am very happy that they have the courage to do what they do.

Dustwalker Track Listing:
1. Consequence
2. Hands of Dust
3. Spectre
4. Reflections
5. Wolf Sun
6. The Black Sound
7. Walking the Crowpath
8. Epilogue (special edition bonus track)

Fen Line-up:
Grungyn – bass, vocals
Derwydd – drums
The Watcher – vocals, guitars