UK black metal powerhouse Fen continue injecting wintry winds into madness on ‘The Dead Light’

I often associate music with weather, and I’m not sure why that is. But that’s the way it is for me, and after I hear a record a few times and truly get a feel for it, I immediately begin to associate what I’m hearing with the temperature and conditions that would most fit what’s swirling in my brain. As fall reigns and winter approaches, that only gets stronger.

“The Dead Light,” the sixth record from incredible UK black metal band Fen, is one that feels most at home during a soaking rain and cold weather, which, funny enough, was the condition when I was doing my note-taking listen to this collection. This band has been a personal favorite for a long time, and I’ve always found them to be a superior group in the whole atmospheric black metal terrain, even being able to do battle with the rightly celebrated Agalloch any day of the week. This new effort continues to build Fen’s reputation as a thought-provoking, imaginative unit as the band—guitarist/vocalist The Watcher, bassist/backing vocalist Grungyn, drummer Havenless—delivers the goods on their Prophecy debut, one that hopefully continues to swell their mass of followers.

“Witness” unfurls quietly before it expands majestically in scope with clean group singing bustling and colors being mixed into the murk. Whispers snarl and threaten and the horizon darkens, leading into “The Dead Light Part 1” that delivers proggy punches out of the gate. Heavy shrieks explode from the Watcher as the pace begins to thump and the ground swells. That burns into an acoustic path that takes the journey for the next bit before the heaviness is born again. Melody infuses with thrashy intensity while group calls surge your blood, and punishment and growls drop the final hammer before leaning into instrumental “The Dead Light Part 2” that’s made from vibrating tones, crunchy guitars, and a spirited pace that delivers the proper exclamation point to the end of this pair of tracks. “Nebula” starts slowly, trickling inward before prog fires burn brightly, and then the Watcher’s growls leave bruising on your chest. The track gets gruff and tricky while the drums power, and melodic runs keep the song trucking until it hits an icy edge that brings a chill to your flesh. The bass then sparks and chews as the song re-opens, clean calls bellow, and everything rushes to an explosive finish.

“Labyrinthine Echoes” begins with clean guitars draining before the song bursts and growls hammer you. The playing takes a daring twist and heads toward progressive waters again as the music rains down and continues to get more aggressive. The song hits a stretch of calm before lighting up again, with the Watcher wailing, “We lie to ourselves,” as the track bleeds away. “Breath of Void” assaults from the start before the guitars go exploring, and strong shrieks combine with imaginative guitar parts that get your mind working overtime. Calm along with solemn whispers combine before the tempo kicks back up and delivers a thrashy dose of punishment. Sludgy hell then emerges, punching out before the song disappears into mist. “Exsanguination” has a tempered opening as singing spreads before things are whipped into higher order. The vocals inject dreamy thinking as soaring calls head over the mountain. The track chills and slithers, gradually slowing down before the track floats off. “Rendered in Onyx” ends the record with cold winds touching down before punches are landed, and fluid guitar work chews nerve endings. Growls then destroy as the song picks up a savage pace that sheds blood, raging and burning into an acoustic wash, adding calm, freezing layers that hint at the wintry onslaught ahead.

Fen continue to carve out their creative path into the upper echelon of atmospheric black metal on “The Dead Light.” It’s going to get cold any day now here on the East Coast, and it’ll soon be time to hibernate with music that exhales its gripping breath into the air. This is another stunning addition to a catalog that’s as strong as anyone else trying their hands at this style of music.

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