Fen – Trails Out Of Gloom   Leave a comment

My interest in the band known as Fen came out of an argument over what is doom, heavy riffs or heavy dark atmospheric moods. The truth is it is a bit of both but darkness alone isn’t doom-metal. King Crimson were a prog-rock that made some truly dark music but you could never call them doom and Fen fall into that same category but it is dark musically, even darker lyrically and a touch psychedelic which is why is deserves a place on Doommantia.Com. The Vancouver band has produced a brooding, sometimes menacing record here with “Trails Out Of Gloom” but it is an acquired taste and certainly not an album that immediately grabs you by the throat. It takes time to appreciate but take the time and listen to it late at night by candlelight and it is a entrancing recording. Musically Fen is closer to Porcupine Tree and Opeth than King Crimson but they are still very much in the prog-rock vein and even though they get lumped in with other prog-metal bands, there is very little metal to be heard although there is many times when the music threatens to explode into something crushing but sadly for me, it never happens.

This was released though Ripple music in July of last year and it has taken most of that time for me to fully become aware of how good this band can be. Although I find this is to be a patchy album at best, there is some majestic, incredible moments worth talking about. One of the more interesting songs is “The World is Young” which has a bizarre vibe with vocals sounding like they were recorded during a phone conversation. This makes the voice sound incredibly distant and almost cut off from the music itself. The end effect is haunting and along with that is the blend of lumbering slow tempos that shift into mid-tempos on a dime allowing the drummer to showcase his skills via some very intricate drumming. Another great track is “End of the Dream” which is the longest track on the album. This tune works for me by being the most traditional rock tune on the album and therefore, one of the most memorable. The guitar work strikes a fine balance between minimalism and jaw-dropping musicality in the way the guitarist makes very single note count, no matter how simple or mundane it might be and if you dig atmospheric music, this tune has all that to spare. “Miracle” is another major highlight with mesmerizing and chilling melody lines, the vocals of Doug Harrison is unique within the musical structure. You don’t hear these type of vocal dynamics in this kind of music that often as it ranges from deep and plaintive to other times where he hits a high falsetto. It wont be to everyone’s tastes but I find his voice to be very chilling at times.

“Queen of the Mountain” is a song that seems kind of generic at first but you will soon find yourself replaying the song over and over in your head anyway. Like I already have pointed out, there is no real metal here but it has its heavy moments but it is a sterilized kind of heavy in a way like a band like Tool might do it. Also the band likes to take you on a journey in each track, songs bring in acoustic passages that interweave throughout the entire album and each song follows a natural progression that never sounds forced. The downside for me is there is just not enough to keep me focused for the entire album and the guitars lack a bit of dirt to their sound and I know this kind of music isn’t about crushing guitar sounds but it still lacking in my opinion. While I can’t say I love this album, I find it hard to say anything too negative about it either as when you have a band of this skill level with songs that have this level of melancholic atmosphere, it is near impossible not to be hypnotized by most of it. When I analyze up this album as a whole, it has only two tunes I would put into the throwaway category and one of those is just a very short acoustic instrumental so can’t complain too much. If you like proggy, folkie music that is dark and brooding then this is an album that should appeal to you…….6/10
Fen @ Myspace

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Posted January 18, 2011 by doommantia in Fen

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