UK black metal force Fen revisit ‘Stone and Sea’ recharge EP that receives deserved vinyl reissue

Many of us have lives that fall into the constant eat-sleep-work-repeat mode. That’s just how it is, and unless you want to blow up your own grid, it’s an existence that sometimes feels utterly monotonous as you relive it over and over again. Same thing can affect someone when creating music, as bands fall into the write-record-tour process for years and years, if they’re lucky.

Acknowledging that their creative cycle had hit a sort of expected pattern, UK black metal power Fen sought to throw a wrench into their own plan and get back to making music for themselves, the way they started creating in the first place. This was back in 2015, and we’ve had their 2017 full-length “Winter” since then, but at the time, they sought to break from their cycle and record a quick three-track EP that gets back to their roots called “Stone and Sea.” The music originally saw the light of day on a 2016 split with Sleepwalker, but that trio is now being released on its own by Eisenwald on 180-gram limited edition vinyl with new artwork. The collection does restoke their earlier fires when they were more feral, though it lives nicely alongside their more recent work where they’ve grown more atmospheric. The band at the time—vocalist/guitarist The Watcher, bassist/bodhran player/vocalist
Grungyn, and drummer/percussionist Derwydd (he’s since been succeeded by Havenless)—captured their true spirit and ripped out these three cuts that feel like a storm blazing through a forest.

“Tides of Glass” gets things started with a wash of clean guitars before the track delivers some gut punches, and clean singing floats over until growls arrive to deliver the bloody edge. The chorus allows for some dreamy singing to immerse itself, adding a surreal feel, before we’re back to animalistic drive and bruising, with the guitars ramping up the drama. After that push, we’re back to calming winds, as a folkish feel slides in, with group “ah-ah” singing before vicious howls spew and push into the title cut that has a breezy introduction and calming atmospherics. Shakers numb the mind, with guitars strummed and things feeling like a mid-afternoon storm hanging overhead, with an intensity building to closer “The Last Gravestone” that starts with clean calls before guitars send jolts. The song catches fire , with wild howls mowing down what lies in front of it and the pace starting to bludgeon. Emotional growls and forceful singing align (one voice sitting higher while the other delivers huskier notes), while the guitars kick up the power, the cries scorch, and a disarming wash of sounds switch from ear to ear (listen on headphones for the near-seizure-inducing effect as the track ends in spiritual confusion.

Fen’s listeners probably didn’t think the band needed a re-charge four years ago, but its members did, and that’s how we ended up with this really strong EP “Stone and Sea.” Granted, the music has been out there a while, but this vinyl version of these tracks is a must-have for the band’s fans and also could work as a nice introduction to Fen for anyone late to their journey. This is primal, yet spacious black metal that delivers chaos and magic with each listen.

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