I feel like I’ll start slobbering at the mere mention of anything black metal these days. It’s only when I actually listen to what’s on offer that I find the blackened bits too charred — or worse, not blackened enough. For me, a lot of atmospheric black metal tends to underwhelm by falling into the former (although there are recent exceptions), where I feel like there’s simply too much ground being retread. It’s enough to make me dizzy from seeing all the same footsteps.
And that’s when I found myself up to the knees in Fen.
I’ll admit I felt apprehensive about the 17-minute duration of “I (Pathway),” the premiere song; if it were a mucky, grimy mire of a track, I knew I’d be stuck. But from its first opening notes, I felt heartened that this wasn’t going to be a weary, colossal blast-fest like I was expecting.
For one, Fen’s familiar territory seems to lie in other genres, with phlegmy, swamp witch vocals stewing together with bright prog-rock riffs. For a whopper of a song, there’s very little in it that’s traditionally black metal (which, if you’ll recall from my intro, is something I should be worried about), but the standout parts that are there work together and sound so fresh to me that I’m willing to allow myself to be entranced. Now I’m just following will-o-wisps deeper and deeper into the muck.
I’ll admit I’m still a little doubtful. I don’t know how long the other tracks are on Winter, but if “I (Pathway)” is any indication, I can expect to ensure my stay with Fen to be a lengthy one. Long songs are a hard sell for me, even for bands I know I can count on, so I’m taking a leap of faith here. But then again, I’ve been wrong there too. But believe me — I predict Winter will be a swamp I’m going to dip my toes into, get settled, and then become completely submerged.