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 Fen - Dustwalker

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Axe
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PostSubject: Fen - Dustwalker   Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:09 am


Fen is a band that has struggled to form it's own identity amidst legions of artists experimenting with the black metal/folk/post-rock fusion, at least from the perspective of many metalheads. From the earthy brand of black metal exhibited on "The Malediction Fields," to the ethereal soundscapes presented on "Epoch," Fen's sound has been one that is familiar yet distinctly theirs. Dustwalker is an album that ties the diverse sounds they've created over the years together into an all-encompassing package, with some added ferocity and grittiness.

In the first minute of "Consequence," the opening track on the album, one can already tell that things aren't the same this time around. There is an overwhelming sense of anger and raw emotion in the rasping shrieks and blast-beats, something that is relatively new to the Fen formula. This theme continues throughout the album, but interwoven with more calm and surreal sections offering the feelings of melancholy that Fen has been particularly fond of displaying. The result is a wonderful flow that has been lacking on albums past, with a diverse range of emotions and atmospheres.

Complexity is one of the key aspects to this album. It's an intricately woven masterpiece, full of texture, excitement and unparallelled atmosphere. And even though grittiness takes a violent hold, the album is not without it's moments of beauty. The beginning of "Spectre" starts listeners out with acoustic guitars and a beautiful melody, with some stunning vocal harmonies. The focus shifts over the course of the song, but never loses it's beauty or excitement. It's the embodiment of texture with it's subtle changes. It ranks up there as one of Fen's finest tracks to date.Asking for better production on an album like this would be like asking for extra bacon on your baconator: while it can always be done, is it really necessary? It's no marvel of production value, but it handles the stark contrasts of Fen's sound without sounding overproduced and without drowning out the melodies and atmosphere with unintelligible fuzz. Each riff is crisp and clear, and each orchestration meshes perfectly with whatever else is going on in the music. It's dirty without being muddled.

All in all, Dustwalker will be hard to beat. It pushes Fen to new heights, and establishes them as a band with it's own identity, it's own sound, and it's own mission statement. The emphasis on their particular brand of atmosphere is only stressed on this album, and made even more clear. I just hope the guys in Fen will be able to continuously expand on their sound, because at it stands Dustwalker is their magnum opus.

Standout tracks: Spectre, Consequence, Wolf Sun, Hands of Dust

Outstanding!
4.75/5

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Mon Apr 29, 2013 11:03 am

You got me into this band a year or two again and it’s one of the few metal bands I still re-visit. Will definitely give this album a listen and will give you some input

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Mon Apr 29, 2013 2:33 pm

excellent review. i didn't know they even released a new album haha. i really need to keep up on them. really need to check this out.

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Mon Apr 29, 2013 3:49 pm

A step up from 'The Malediction Fields' which was a bit lackluster, but it's not enough to get me back into post rock bm stuff again.

I've had the new Altar of Plagues album on my hard drive for about a week, but I just can't be arsed with it.

Good review though.
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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:02 pm

I still haven't gotten around to the new Altar of Plagues, sadly. This post black metal gobbletygook is one of the genres that excites me the most these days

It's their best to date, so I can definitely see them pushing the envelope on future albums.

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Tue Apr 30, 2013 7:53 am

didn't they lose a member and pick one up for this release? it makes sense to me that they went in a different direction, hopefully it was intentional from the beginning and not because of the change-up.

still, I appreciate the new things they're trying, definitely good to establish their own identity after a few years of being called Agalloch posers. the influence was very evident but why they kept getting pegged for imitation was beyond me, and this album makes that glaringly obvious.

Dustwalker's a must if you've ever written Fen off before, it's worth a shot

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Wed May 15, 2013 4:24 am

I just checked on the archives, and they did indeed get a new drummer for this release. I have to wonder how much that played a role in their sound change. The drums themselves do seem to have a bit more of a harsher tone to them, whereas in the past they seemed a bit more reserved. It does seem like a natural change on the album though. Epoch ventured to more post-rock inspired music, and Dustwalker seems to go for the more feral and aggressive nature that wasn't as pronounced on that record.

I'm glad you agree with the Agalloch comparison. It's definitely always been clear that Agalloch was a huge influence, but it definitely doesn't ever feel like rehashed ideas to me. And especially with this release, the atmosphere and purpose of the music is nothing like Agalloch.

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Wed May 15, 2013 2:38 pm

Fen is everything Agalloch cannot be again, if I may speak from raw emotion.

They started off the same and ended up at this fork in the road, and where Ashes Against the Grain took off into Marrow of the Spirit and Faustian Echoes, Fen taking off into their Epoch and Dustwalker shows a stylistic difference evident to any listener: Fen wanted to go further where Agalloch wanted to regress. I think Agalloch are steeped in the belief that their music must lead some charge towards obscurity for some unknown fear or motive, maybe to their dismay that since Ashes, they gained a notable surge in popularity and fans at their shows are becoming less and less involved with the minutiae of their albums more than the "feeling they get when going to a concert."

I believe this is where Fen excel currently. Despite the fact they haven't been doing this nearly as long as Agalloch, Fen have been able to tame the ferocity in their music with the same substance their predecessors did on their earliest works, live and studio. Their message isn't confused or hopelessly esoteric to the point of obfuscation. One only need to listen to Ghosts of the Floor or Consequence to know that.

Agalloch choose to go this high road of wordy prose and strange language where Fen opt for something a lot less pretentious. Both have likable traits, that's for damn sure, and it isn't a question of what egg popped out of what hen. The question is in stylistic divergence, and how it has earned each band their respective identities upon their development.

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Wed May 15, 2013 8:07 pm

I can see that. I do have to wonder how much John Haughm is attempting to be creatively poetic or if it's just him being pretentious. I think either way they've really struck a chord with me, especially since every album they do attempt a new flavor. There are new themes, and new sources of inspiration that come out pretty clearly in the music. Definitely as far as the Fen/Agalloch comparisons go, the Ancient Sorrow EP is to Of Stone, Wind and Pillor/Pale Folklore and Dustwalker is to Marrow of the Spirit. I definitely find a more esoteric and almost shamanistic feel to both of the later, which I didn't really get often on Agalloch's other works.

I do think it remains to be seen where Agalloch is going. I did enjoy Faustian Echoes, and I thought the concept of an epic work based on Faust was a cool idea, but to me it lacked the character to set it apart from other albums. I guess it seemed like more typical black metal type stuff, which is all well and good, but I don't foresee them doing a straight forward black metal full length.

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PostSubject: Re: Fen - Dustwalker   Sat May 18, 2013 10:34 am

I finally got around to listening to some of this last night. I listened to 3-4 songs which was like 20 minutes, and its still hard to describe because the amount of range of sounds that appear in all the songs. I do enjoy the changing tempo - I have to finish this album today

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