Dreams of the Carrion Kind (Part I) – The Watcher from FEN

To celebrate the release of their stunning 9/10 album Carrion Skies (Code666 – review here) The Watcher, guitarist and vocalist of England’s atmospheric post-Black Metal band Fen spoke to Ghost Cult on a range of subjects. In the first of four parts, with a further feature to follow in the next Ghost Cult digimag, he enthuses on the conscious injection of metal back into their sound that facilitated the statement album that should propel them to the head table…


“You look at a band like Paradise Lost. When they started out, they couldn’t be more Heavy Metal. Then they get to 24, 25 years old and then it’s ‘Heavy Metal is for losers. I’ve been listening to this for 10 years, it’s old hat. I’ve heard all there is to hear of this, it’s for bozos. I like Depeche Mode, let’s do that and let’s be all grown up’. But then it goes full circle, and when they hit their late 30’s they’re ‘God, I think I was a pretentious little twat back then! I actually do like Heavy Metal and I wasn’t anywhere near as clever as I thought I was when I went all experimental’.

“You see it a bit with the Norwegian scene, too, that all went ludicrously avant-garde in the late 90’s. It’s like they all went to university and thought ‘Ooh, I want to be clever now. What’s clever? Well, heavy metal definitely isn’t, so…’

“The thing is, I like Heavy Metal. I want to play Heavy Metal. It sounds a bit Bad News, but I love Heavy Metal. I listen to Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal.”

Once people stray away from the metal part of their sound they’re moving into a shallower pool of influences, and have a shortfall in their depth of knowledge. The problem is, bands not understanding these additional elements of their sound as much as they do the metal… I’m not saying don’t utilise these additional, non-metal influences, but make sure you understand what you’re doing…

“Exactly. It is dabbling. It’s going ‘I’ve been listening to a load of synthy 80s new wave bands recently, we can do something with that’. And there’s a danger for bands to get really carried away, and I think this is what was happening with us.


“At the start of last year, the end of the year before, we’d done Dustwalker (the band’s third album, also on Code666) and me and our drummer, Derwydd, had been listening to loads of Sad Lovers and Giants, The Chameleons and Snake Corps, all these guitarwave bands. Then, in rehearsal I thought I’d turn the distortion off, put a bit chorus and delay on it and, oh, we can sound like that… and it’s easy to carried away with it when you’re playing one style so much. But to your ears it’s a really fresh sound, and you’re like ‘Yes! We can do this!’ At points we were even talking about doing a whole album like that, a whole album with clean guitars.

“It was only when we got back from touring with Agalloch that we realised that we’d got completely over-excited about the fact that we do listen to some non-metal stuff and we can do a passable version of it. But it’s not really enough, and we did have to put the brakes on and take a look at it, and say ‘Are we just playing a slightly rubbish version of The Chameleons with some guy shouting over it?’ And in all honesty, we were.

“We took a really objective step back and looked at it, and a lot of the stuff that was originally pencilled in to be on the album was binned off. We had gotten carried away and were disappearing up our own arses.”

An integral part of the Fen sound has always been that it comes from black metal and the inherent extremity of black metal first, despite the fact that you are often compared with bands like Agalloch and Alcest, who are much lighter, much “nicer”…

“I like Agalloch and I like some of the early Alcest, but it’s a bit of a lazy comparison I think. Particularly with this new album, we’ve set ourselves apart from that. I mean, touring with Agalloch for a month… they do that stuff really well, but we don’t want to sound like that. They’ve got that sound nailed. We sat down and said we needed to define ourselves, we needed to really underline what we’re about.


“Unfortunately there are bands out there who don’t take that step back until it’s too late, until it’s ‘Oh shit, we’re not as clever as we think we are’, but I can see it from the other side of the fence, that it’s easy to get swept up in it. Everyone gets whipped up into a fervour, and gets all ‘We can do it! This is so different! Look at how versatile we are!’ , but any competent musician can turn their hand to doing a vague version of another style, but doing it well is a different thing.”

Dustwalker is a metal album, but we did go down a certain route. There’s a lot of atmospheric stuff on there, there’s a whole song on there that’s got no distorted guitars whatsoever. With this one, we thought ‘We’re in the mood for metal, we want to do some metal!’ We’re an extreme metal band and it’s almost become a cliché for bands that are in the post-black metal scene to shed the trappings of black metal, and that’s not a game I’m interested in playing.

“I want to reassert our credentials as a metal band.”

Fen on Facebook

Carrion Skies can be purchased here


Myrkur – Myrkur

myrkur album art

Many times the the world of underground music is portrayed by those that cover it just as they would a team sport. It is very much a tribal and gang mentality of sub-genre police between music scribes and it seeps down to the tastes of fans. No place does this division exist than in the varied, and varicose world of Black Metal. The many factions alternately give it life, while others are trying to raze it to a stump. Still, it is great music that is the elixir for this illness, and great music is what the debut full-length, self-titled recording from Myrkur brings us.

Scandinavian in origin, Myrkur’s singular name and haunting sound conjure a myriad of mental images with a cross between brutal passages couched between somber motifs, and the cold claustrophobic feeling of an inescapable ice floe. From sorrowful vocals to crushing dynamic swells, this album has all the best touches of the genre. Raw, but not too raw, but very well done overall.

The songs are really the thing here, not just the atmospherics. From the Opera and chamber quality canticles, to bleak harshness, every nerve is uncovered. The gentle hush of the opening of ‘Ravnens Banner’ gives way to apocalyptic barrages of blastbeats and killer riffs. Tracks such as ‘Frosne Vind’ and ‘Må Du Brænde i Helvede’, lull you into a soft chill out moment, before roaring to life with anguish. The entire album is a gem, but my favorite track is ‘Nattens Barn’. Not only is it crushing and deep, it has a proggy part to it that almost sounds like ‘Bolero’ by Ravel, but that may be my inner classical nerd trying read too much into a good jam.

Unlike most black metal that comes across my headphones, the production on this album is pretty impressive, well thought out and not lacking by accident or on purpose in a hipster way. It’s possible that some readers may be wondering why I waited until this point in the review mention that Myrkur happens to be a solo woman act rather than a band. That fact that she is a women, or a lone artists making great black metal is immaterial for review purposes here. Women fronting killer black metal bands is not a novelty, but the opportunity to have such a high profile release on a label like Relapse for one, well I hope that doesn’t go unnoticed by anyone.

Emotionally gripping from first note to last, this is a powerhouse release that has already clawed it’s way into my year end top albums list.

myrkur promo shot



Myrkur on Facebook