By Lord Randall

These days the number of bands/artists for whom the release of an album could be called an “event” is few and ever-dwindling. Seemingly gone is the era when brick-and-mortar stores (remember them?) plaster their walls with billboard-sized ads for an upcoming record, when the name on the lips of all your friends is “that band”. It’s more personal now, and with the glut and instant availability of entire previous discographies, bands whose last release you adored when it first came out are even harder to keep tabs on. 

For me, FEN have been one of “those” bands. Since ‘07s "Ancient Sorrow", the Londoners have evoked both the bleakness of England in its post-Industrial Revolution and the meditative sense of disconnection from society found within moor and meadow to the point that, upon my initial exposure ("Epoch", of 2011), I felt it incumbent upon me to search out what had come before. 

"Winter", FEN’s fifth full-length carries on the journey from albums prior, but injects just enough nuance and notion of what wasn’t there before to remain intriguing in that way shared by fellow islanders WINTERFYLLETH and FALLOCH. ‘I (Pathway)’ begins with the moaned intonation/invocation of “All will fall/All will sink/All will drown/All will fade with time” before the sonic flood crashes in and overwhelms for the entire quarter-hour affair. That FEN feels not only confident that it can but comfortable enough in its own skin to have all but one tune over the 10-minute mark – and that one mere seconds shy – is a testament to both their passion for the material and faith in their listeners to walk along their chosen path. Fluid basswork in ‘III (Fear)’ blends seamlessly with angular, slashing guitars and rhythms seemingly born from thunder in torrential downpour to create a towering epic. As always, FEN is the sum of its parts, none overshadowing the other, each vital to the other’s existence. Lyrically, the subject matter is full of depth, yet thankfully bereft of denseness, dual vocals never becoming tiresome or “rote” in their delivery. 

In all, "Winter", like FEN, is an organism given its own life through song, and its beauty and brutality reveal a band at the height of its creative power…thus far, let’s hope.