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Fen - "Dustwalker" (CD)

Fen - "Dustwalker" CD cover image

"Dustwalker" track listing:

1. Consequence
2. Hands of Dust
3. Spectre
4. Reflections
5. Wolf Sun
6. The Black Sound
7. Walking the Crowpath
8. Epilogue (special edition bonus track)

Reviewed by on January 23, 2013

"Counterbalancing [the black metal] influences are a host of melodic elements and a sprinkling of clean singing. Loads of ambience and a fair share of gentle, laid-back material are present on the album, weaving in and out of the harsher black metal."

The phenomena of “black metal” has exploded over the past 20+ years, segregating out into different styles based on geography (European vs. USBM) and just about any grouping of genre tags imaginable. There’s black ‘n' roll, symphonic black metal, kvlt black metal, avant-garde, and more are likely to be invented as time goes by. Working on another distinguishing sub-grouping within the overall style is Fen, which includes loads of atmosphere and what is probably best described as “post-rock” in latest album “Dustwalker.”

Some metal fans see that word “post-“ and run for the hills, but let’s clarify something here – this album has its fair share of blast beats and shrieked vocals. It’s also black metal in the traditional, old-school sense of the phrase, complete with a fuzzy and lo-fi production that would make certain arsonist Norwegians proud. The murky production actually becomes part of the overall sound and seems to be a purposeful aesthetic move, as there are segments with clear acoustic guitars and the bass tellingly becomes fully audible on “Wolf Sun.”

The album starts immediately with misanthropic, European-style black metal, but this is just one facet of the disc. Counterbalancing those influences are a host of melodic elements and a sprinkling of clean singing. Loads of ambience and a fair share of gentle, laid-back material are present on the album, weaving in and out of the harsher black metal. Sometimes they work together in tandem (the oddly melodic, but still creepy “Walking the Crowpath”), and sometimes they stay apart as distinct and separate entities (the fully ethereal and rock-based “Hands of Dust”). The third track “Spectre” even has a bit of a psychedelic ‘70s feel that bring to mind Ulver’s recent foray into rock cover material.

It’s entirely possible “Dustwalker” will turn off both crowds, scaring off the post-rock fans with the black metal and boring the metal heads with the ambient and soft material, but if you listen through a few times, this material really grows on you. The weird rock and roll vibe somehow works with the metal aspects, creating an end product that will likely appeal to avant-garde lovers or headbangers who can appreciate softer stuff like Anathema. As long as the murkiness of the sound quality isn’t a deterrent, this is easily recommended listening.

Highs: Misanthropic black metal weaves into post-rock and heavily atmospheric material.

Lows: Oddly, the lows are essentially the same as the highs, plus the sound quality is pretty fuzzy.

Bottom line: Fuzzy old-school black metal merges with post-rock and flowing ambient sections.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)