Fen – Carrion Skies (2014)
Review by Jude Felton
Fen’s previous album, 2013’s Dustwalker, was quite an exceptional album. It was one of those albums that bore many a repeated play, and was just perfect for long autumnal drives in the Filthmobile. So, with that in mind I thought it would be a tough task for the UK band to top it, as is often the case when a band releases such a good album. I suspect though that Fen are not the sort of band that worry too much about these sort of things, yet with Carrion Skies they have delivered easily one of the best albums of the year.
With summer a distant memory, and the fall colors rich across the rolling hills of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Carrion Skies has come hot on the heels of two exceptional black metal albums. Both fellow Brits, Winterfylleth, and Panopticon, from the USA, have just released their latest albums, and both are absolutely superb. Both put their own spin on the BM genre and both delivered truly amazing albums. Now, Fen can sit alongside both with this sweeping and awe-inspiring musical journey.
Six songs, seventy-odd minutes and not a duff moment to be found; Carrion Skies is very much black metal. It is also, what folk like to call, progressive black metal, so I can tell you now that Fen does like to go off on a tangent. However, instead of horrific self-indulgence, it is just a gloriously picturesque voyage across the albums running time. When a band can deliver an album of this length, that flies by the way it does, you know you’re on to a good thing.
Not for one moment does Carrion Skies drag, if anything it is over way too soon and as such has been played to death, often at the exclusion of me listening to other new music. Sorry folks, this is just that bloody good.
I hate to repeat myself, yet I find a lot of what I felt whilst listening to the aforementioned Winterfylleth and Panopticon albums, coming to mind again. Musically they do fall into the same broad musical genre, and all like to take the listener on a journey, rather than just slap out a collection of tunes, and as such evoke that mystery and voyage to the listener.
With Carrion Skies the music does ebb and flow, as it shifts up and down the gears. Moments of utter beauty, transposed up against more traditionally harsh black metal moments, with everything fitting together perfectly. Out of the six tunes on the album, the stand-out of six excellent tunes is the fourth Sentinels. There’s such emotion contained in this 10 minutes that it’s hard to put into words. It is, quite simply put, a truly phenomenal song.
Singling out one song on, what you have probably already gathered is such a good album is probably slightly unfair, as the album as a whole is so damned good. It is an album and Fen themselves as a band that requires an open mind when you listen to them. This isn’t angry, corpse-paint wearing, church burning black metal, as good as that can be. The progressive elements are very much in the forefront of Fen’s music, and this is part of the reason I really don’t like using genres and categories, when it comes to writing reviews. Sure, I do it, but it’s for the ease of the reader; I can’t just write that it’s a good album, which it is. One needs to elaborate, and this is an album that pulls in many elements and styles, so what I take from the album might be something completely different to how another listener hears it.
In my humble opinion, Carrion Skies is outstanding from start to finish, and I cannot recommend it enough. Absolutely terrific from start to finish.
1. Our Names Written in Embers: Pt. 1
2. Our Names Written in Embers: Pt. 2
3. The Dying Stars
5. Menhir - Supplicant
6. Gathering the Stones
Carrion Skies is released by code666/Aural Music on November 24th.