Fen – Carrion Skies – 8.75/10
– I can summarize this album by saying one simple phrase: “The album that I wanted Agalloch to release this year”. It’s hard for me not to compare Fen to Agalloch, because they were one of the many bands (along with Falloch) that I found when I became obsessed with Agalloch and wanted to find more bands like them. Out of all the bands that play this style of music, Fen have been on a roll. They released their first album in 2009, and since then have released albums in 2011, 2013, and now 2014. It seems like a lot of people think that either their debut album or their second album Epoch are the best albums by Fen, but I have been enjoying them more and more with each release. I thought Dustwalker from last year was an amazing album, and couldn’t believe that we were going to get another one by them this year. I highly anticipated it because it was the last release of 2014 that I was looking forward to (released on November 22nd), and I was hooked upon first listen. The feeling hasn’t left since then. It is a monster of an album (6 tracks that combined clock in at just over an hour). The album starts with “Our Names Written in Embers Part 1 and 2”, which combined are over 17 minutes long. Instantly you are met with great melodies, riffs, ambience, and vocals. Like Agalloch, the shrieks have a lot of rasp to them, which are easier for me to handle in massive quantities than your average black metal vocals. All of these things combined take you on a journey that fluctuates from heavy to soft and fast to slow, and doing it so effortlessly that it is impossible to not get lost in music like this. It is perfect music to have as background music, or to have at the forefront of your focus and use it to become retrospective and nostalgic. “Sentinels” has some very memorable clean vocals that add some diversity, almost to the point where the shrieks catch you off guard when they return. The clean vocals return with the album’s closer, “Gathering the Stones”, which is just under 13 minutes long. I was very impressed that Fen was able to return a year after Dustwalker with an album of this caliber, but it seems that their previous three albums have taught the band a lot in their short existence. They know how to write songs that stay exciting for long durations, they know how record the albums so that all the instruments are clear and balanced (which can be hard when genres like this call for lots of fuzz from the distortion to create an atmosphere), and they know how to arrange the songs in a way that create a flow, which is crucial to making a great/memorable album.