England’s Fen have spent many a year on the outskirts of the black metal realm, their music constantly taking new paths and straying ever further from the blueprint laid down so many, many years ago. It’s with Fen that black metal takes on new forms – indeed the atmospheric, post-metal soundscapes have been done oh so many times before, yet Fen breathe new life into a genre that seems to have steadily risen, particularly in the last year or so, and grown into almost the standard. Of course there are bands out there shouting and screaming for Satan’s glory, but Fen are so beautifully English in their approach and quite marvellous in their quest for that something different and “Dustwalker” is a lovely and often harsh step into the human condition.
Beginning with ‘Consequence,’ Fen immediately swirl with all the recognisable moments expected. Softly spoken passages jar with incredibly quick drum beats, there are screams over stark and gorgeous, stuttering lines of guitar and “Dustwalker” feels so overwhelmingly honest within even the first few minutes. ‘Hands of Dust’ echoes with doomed landscapes of gentle sound, shimmering guitars and deeply spoken words of loss and unbearable sadness. Layering cutting cries over such sublimely sweet instrumentation evokes the most hidden of human emotions, that no matter how serene things may seem, there will always be pain and indeed heartache and with ‘Hands of Dust’ there is much in the way of the wrenching of the heart.
At times, the music steps back so completely into the minimal that it’s difficult to see a way out. It’s claustrophobic in its quietude, and ‘Spectre’ feels so utterly hopeless in tone before we even see the cracks of daylight and the end. Fen have here something quite special in “Dustwalker” and it’s the rough clashes of complete sound with these serene movements of time that create an all-encompassing feeling of desolate solitude which continues through to the painful truth of ‘Wolf Sun’ and the closing strains of final track ‘Walking the Crowpath.’
This stately ending to “Dustwalker” travels through the true torment that is inherent in all life and Fen fall through the deep trenches of emotion with bold sweeps of acceptance and melancholic compliance with the darkness of the journey. Only then can a way through hardship been seen, and the choice of which path to follow becomes clear.