Personally, I’ve always been drawn to the music in which I can get lost. Eerie sounds, dreamscapes, and hallucinatory psychedelia are among the qualities shared by many of my favorite bands and albums over the years. In recent years, Black Metal has become a springboard from which many revolutionary acts begin their aural journey. When asked to describe Black Metal, I’ve always maintained that it is extremely heavy but with the spirit of rebellion that has run through the best moments in music history. The bottom line is that Black Metal is a genre that offers a wide palette for musicians seeking to indulge in free expression. Enter Fen. Forming in 2006, the band took their name from an area known as the Fens of East Anglia where they are from. It is indeed from this land that they draw inspiration for their music – hence the title of this EP, Stone & Sea.
While this mini-album is only three songs, a lot of ground is covered in near twenty minutes. It actually could be viewed as a concept album for the songs are invariably tied together. Some of the same musical ideas are repeated throughout though altered. Lacking the lyric sheet, I am unable to elaborate precisely upon the lyrical themes covered, though.
“Tides of Glass” kicks things off with a clean guitar dipped in a classic phaser effect. It isn’t long before layers of instrumentation are added including an eager drum part and distorted guitar with even more effects. The sounds of phaser and flange meld together to create a washy effect sounding like the aural representation of the continual swells and crashes of the Atlantic’s waves. Clean vocals that sound pensive and very British in a Pink Floyd sense intersect traditional Black Metal-styled unclean parts. As the vocals change, so does the music as it takes on a more rushed feel accented by diminished chords. Alternating between tremolo picking and palm-muted parts, a solid momentum is constructed. The tom fills performed by the drums resemble the sound of an avalanche, like giant boulders gaining more and more velocity. The song reaches its climax toward the end as all of the above elements seem to converge at once revealing the genius at work in the meticulous assembly of the track’s parts.
Without giving an exhaustive play by play of the EP’s entirety, suffice to say, over the course of the next two tracks, many more areas are explored. The band introduces acoustic elements reminding one of some of Opeth’s material. At other times, the folk-inspired Celtic Black Metal of the mighty Primordial is hinted at. In the way the band combines heavy Doom-type dissonant chords accented by palm-muting that ultimately resolve into an over-arching melodic idea, evokes the best points of Anathema’s career. Fen is not derivative, these are merely points of reference to illustrate what is happening musically. Ultimately, every listen yields new offerings of surprise and wonder. The use of effects such as the aforementioned modulations as well as delays highlighted by an amazing instance of ping-pong delay at the end keeps things interesting and heightens the mood. One is struck with awe becoming lost on an inner journey through thought and emotion. It is with great anticipation that I’ll be looking for their next full-length. With a greater amount of space, it is wondrous to pine at what the band might create.