Album Review: Fen/De Arma – Towards the Shores of the End

Fen [UK]/De Arma [Sweden]
Towards the Shore of the End
Nordvis Produktion
Atmospheric Black Metal

I first discovered Fen when I was looking for bands that sounded similar to those such as Amosoeurs and Alcest, bands that manage to fuse elements of black metal, atmospheric music and post rock together to form beautiful music. While I personally found bands like Alcest too “mellow”, Fen does it for me by not having the music too soft, incorporating black metal vocals on top of the atmospheric music.

They return this year 2 years after their debut full length album, The Malediction Fields, a split with De Arma, a relatively young Swedish band.

The album starts off with Fen‘s side and wasting no time, they present to the listener what they do best. The introduction riffs to the opening song, Soilbound, is nothing “br00tal” or “gr1m” as one would expect from the black metal connotation, they are a preview of what the band does best – their brand of a mixture of black metal and post-rock. The Watcher displays his versatility in both clean and rough vocals; his growls are deep and gruff, while his clean vocals are sufficiently dreamy to instantly transfer a listener from a headbanging madness into a floating state of mind.

The band also makes full use of various guitar effects (such as clean guitars with a heavy chorus effect), on top of the standard keyboard/synthesizers to further emphasise on the atmospheric aspect of the music. It’s nice to hear the impossibly large improvement over 2009’s The Malediction Fields. While that had certain awkward moments present at times, there isn’t even a slight tinge of that present on their contribution to this split, as all the notes of the music link seamlessly with each other. Fen ends their side with an acoustic (and instrumental) reprise of Bereft, off their previous full length, complete with beautiful melodies by acoustic guitars and a piano, a beautiful and fitting end. Fen‘s side is definitely a good companion for those who love taking long walks on a cold, quiet night, and is easily one of the albums that can put you to sleep on a sleepless night (in a good way, of course!).

With Fen having set such a high standard on their portion of the split, it is certainly interesting to see how De Arma would be able to match up.

De Arma picks up where Fen left off with their brand of atmospheric metal and does not disappoint. The first thing that one notices that distinguishes their music from Fen‘s is the vocal styling. Vocalist A‘s (of Armagedda fame) voice has a unique quality, dreamy, yet soulful and full of emotions. His growls, unlike The Watcher‘s and unsurprisingly, border more on black metal shrieks, reminiscent of bands such as Summoning instead of the growls presented on Fen. De Arma‘s closing track, From Horizon to Oblivion is closer to straightforward black metal fare, with the desolate riffs and the song structure.

While the music is similar to Fen‘s brand, it certainly stands apart mainly due to the vocalist’s approach. Overall, De Arma‘s music is also faster paced, giving much life to the music.

This split is a good starting point for someone who is new to Fen, and at the same time, a display of the potential of De Arma, and is recommended to fans of atmospheric black metal, or the newer fusion styles of black metal and post rock.

Fen on the internet:

De Arma on the internet:

©2011 Heavy Metal Tribune | Hong Rui

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