“Cockroach Eyelids” and “Hermit Hole” launch Congenital Fixation from plastic disc to aural fascination in the span of .05 seconds. The crisp and punchy bass production stands out, delivering elbow shivers to the sternum, sucking the breath from the lungs as the groove pounds along. The guitars have a nice crunch to them, never too distorted to muddy up the sound, but not overly produced to sound poseur-ish. The song breaks around the 2:00 mark, the drums have that beautiful sound, almost from the perspective like you’re the engineer adjusting the mic positions while the drummer is cracking away at the skins. And, the vocals are all over the fucking place! Gritty and sinister through the first line, vibrant and full of wild inflection for the second, and soaring like he was sucking on a tank of helium at the chorus. I love this dude’s range! Keep in mind, “Cockroach Eyelids” is only about three and a half minutes long and these guys neatly tuck more time and mood swings into it than one might see in a Mozart concerto.
The moment I heard “Hermit Hole” I knew that this album was a keeper. With that polyrhythmic intro, whacked out vocal embellishments, the muted guitars . . . how could this song fail? But the moment that the tune permanently stuck was when the band drops from the groove and we’re left hearing this clean toned, palm muted guitar riff filled with more style and class than could ever be expected. So unique in its deliverance, that one guitar riff was the moment that I knew that Fen weren’t content with playing music by anybody’s rules. Psychotic and oddly evil, the vocals do a stellar job of creeping out the listener, but it comes back to the guitars on this track. At one point, the six string shenanigans make you feel like you’re walking through a darkened corridor, cob webs fluttering in a draft, tickling the back of your neck, sending shivers up and down your spine. Bad ass techniques! Though, the guitars are the highlight of the track, without the solid rhythm section moving the song down that darkened corridor, the guitars would be meaningless . . . just so much stretched out cotton clinging to the rafters. Fen work together as a symbiotic being, breathing life into the dead husks of songs and giving life to their art.
Congenital Fixation requires multiple listens. That’s not because it needs to grow on the listener, huh . . . far from it! It’s just that there is so much going on in the way of textures and subtle instrumental flourishes that to really hear the splendor of this recording, you need to listen to it over and over again. Hell . . . you don’t need to, you’ll simply want to! It’s addicting because of these nuances, but also because there’s simplicity to it as well. For the most part, every track is a keeper, not one song sounding like the one before it. Fen wear their influences on their sleeves, but at no time do they sound like they’re openly aping the works of those before them. The album is a unique voice applied to a musical style that is in sore need of a unique voice. Again, it’s weird, but nor so weird that it loses the listener. What’s weird about it is that it’s so damn good and no one is talking about it. - Pope JTE