01. Scouring Ignorance 02. Monuments to Absence 03. Thrall 04. To Silence and Abyss We Reach 05. Truth Is Futility 06. Eschaton's Gift 07. Wracked 08. All Is Lost
The steady evolution of black metal has produced plenty of fascinating music in recent times, much of it within the realms of so-called post-BM: an inventive but occasionally underpowered metallic extremity, dominated by atmospheric layering and melodic haziness. UK stalwarts FEN have consistently been one of the most engaging bands tarred with the post-everything brush. From debut album 2009's "The Malediction Fields" onwards, these waders through hissing English marshes have remained singular in their approach, and a strong advert for original thinking in an otherwise restrictive subgenre. By the time they reached 2019's splendid "The Dead Light", FEN were still identifiably metallic, but bound by a slow drift away from blackened first principles.
A partial return to the widescreen hostility that defines the UK black metal sound, via the revered likes of WINTERFYLLETH and WODENSTHRONE, "Monuments To Absence" aims to redress the textural balance. It succeeds, too, because this band have always retained the vitriolic undercurrents that have been so essential to black metal over the years. Their seventh and arguably most venomous full-length to date, "Monuments…"does feel like a restating of core values, but it's also a vastly more nuanced and carefully crafted work than anything FEN released in their first few years.
Largely bereft of the noirish detours that typified more recent works, these songs embrace hugeness and bombast, rather than the intimate shimmerings of the post-BM set. Rooted in scabrous riffing, brutish melancholy and insidious, frost-covered melodies, each of these eight tracks strikes a refined balance between old-school intensity and FEN's sophisticated songwriting. At times, it's beautiful. At others, it overwhelms with hostile momentum.
Songs like marauding opener "Scouring Ignorance" and the expansive blitz of the title track are studies in hypnotic repetition, as their creators' melodic urges are indulged, woven around a core of excoriating blasts and elegantly left to hang in the air, like the aftermath of a vicious storm. Elsewhere, "Wracked" takes an audacious but entirely fitting stride towards something more accessible, with frosty hooks bursting out from a pulsing core of crestfallen grandeur; while the closing "All Is Lost" employs delicate restraint and night-sky sparkle to lull listeners into a false state of calm, before seamlessly morphing into a slow-motion, windswept cry for help, on behalf of nature itself. Few bands evoke the monumental power of the elements with such skill, and while "Monuments To Absence" might occasionally sound like a traditional black metal record with grim, autumnal trimmings, the sheer force of FEN's musical personality elevates it all to a higher level of rain-drenched and emotionally bereft grandiloquence. The post-post-black metal movement starts here. Possibly.
BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).