Atmospheric black metal and natural surroundings are quite symbiotic, especially when band origins are considered. FEN, named after the areas which formulated the group’s upbringing in England, are an outfit who have developed their sound from these environments to encapsulate the mystery and adventure these landscapes offer. In 2016, FEN teamed up with Sleepwalker to create the Call of Ashes/Stone and Sea split, which saw a pairing of the highest proportion. Now, we see Eisenwald Records releasing FEN’s contribution to the split on a standalone vinyl format, graciously remastered for black metal aficionados and potential newcomers to the genre. Here, we take a look at FEN’s contribution to the split as it’s individually released.
FEN’s sound has evolved a lot over their 13-year long career thus far, but Stone and Sea immediately screams of FEN in the first track, “Tides of Glass”. An almost soothing arpeggio pattern kicks the song off before clean, almost emotionally flat vocals chime in. These follow up to FEN’s signature harsh vocals, and really highlight the dissonance in styles which FEN can easily fluctuate between. The track’s origins reside in post-black metal, however it quickly explodes into a black metal epic, even teasing along the borders of death metal with The Watcher’s growls and tremolo guitar work. Havenless’ distorted guitar patterns aid the mystery behind FEN’s music, and allow immersion into the immense journey offered by them.
The instrumental title track acts as an introductory piece to the final cut on Stone and Sea. Comprising of an acoustic passage which delves more into post-rock territory as another guitar is added and gentle cymbals build into a crescendo as waves do to rocks, it sets the end of Stone and Sea up well, if not a little filler-esque.
Pull out the shards and then get hit wit more “Tides of Glass”.
It may be a short EP, but it packs a hefty final punch with “The Last Gravestone” – a last hurrah which seems to bring a large chunk of FEN’s sounds together into one track. We have the epic, grandiose atmospheric black metal passages accompanied by harsh, raspy vocals one moment, and harmonising, melancholic cleans entwined with delicate post-rock guitar passages. It seems to remind of their earlier work, especially complex drumming patterns of “The Gibbet Elms” from their Epoch record. Stone and Sea demonstrates FEN’s ability to create an immersive soundscape and invoke feelings of adventure, self-exploration, fear, and many more emotions in smooth transition and accompaniment.
The remastering of Stone and Sea is excellent. It’s tricky to find the balance of production and intended sound, and this EP maintains the raw side of FEN’s music for which they are arguably best known, while boosting the overall quality. As such, being pressed onto vinyl will only improve the overall immersion of such a compelling EP, and give it the polish it deserves.
Stone and Sea is a fine addition to any black metal connoisseur’s collection, however it would be a strong introductory point to FEN. For a band who have carefully tweaked and refined their sound since their origins, without stepping too far from their initial influences, Stone and Sea sums up a lot of their mastery of the craft. The progression in their sound is abundantly clear, and with this EP they continue to make strong waves for themselves in the gushing, relentless sea of black metal today.
Check out the album’s title track “Stone and Sea”.
Stone and Sea Track Listing:
01. Tides of Glass
02. Stone and Sea
03. The Last Gravestone
Run Time: 19:40
Release Date: March 8th, 2019
Record Label: Eisenwald Records