Friday, August 6, 2010

Fen - Trails Out Of Gloom

WOW!! Every now and then you roll across a CD that just affects your soul in a way that is both disturbing and pleasing. You find yourself listening to it over and over and with every repeat listening, a deep trance like feeling washes over you. Songs seem to flow, as you find yourself adrift in a collection of Progressive Rock filled aggressively dark, brooding and hauntingly majestic material that you will find difficult to put down. This is what Vancouver, B.C. band, Fen will do to you. The brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Doug Harrison and guitarist Sam Levin, Fen, have released their 4th album, Trails Out of Gloom (Ripple Music), a scrapbook of 9 eerily memorable lullabies, sagas and stirring ballads, which engages the audience onto a trip of almost mythical proportions. Filled with dark lyrics and delivered by painstaking personal vocals, Fen offers a CD that feels like a beautifully, anguish filled dream, with songs that stories with both voice and instrument. Haunting, deliberate and chilling.

Blending elements of Progressive Rock with the aggressiveness of Metal and the melodic sensibilities of modern Alternative Rock, Fen have created a complex artistic expression that from the first acoustic, lamenting notes of CD opener, "Trails Out of Gloom", simply captivates the imagination. With the ability of being able to grasp the listener and dive in and out of various musical forms, fans of Porcupine Tree, Tool, and the elegant side of Opeth, will easily call Fen their own. Doug Harrison delivers vocal performances that are stellar and soothing with beautiful and soaring melodies, all the while being quite quirky. Imagine if you can, a blend of the passionate vocals of a Brent Smith of Shinedown and the obscure, often falsetto'ed, idiosyncratic styling's of The Mars Volta's, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, and you are on the right path. Harrison somehow makes this delicate combination work and leaves you wanting more.

Gloomy dynamics of early '90's Seattle-themed Hard Rock, filters through the excellent production on this opus and hi-jacks you through a myriad of moods of almost psychedelic proportions that showcase the overflowing talent of both Harrison and Levin. Heavier moments on Trails Out of Gloom are counterbalanced with acoustic guitar passages that just co-habitat so perfectly in a grandiose fashion, much in that brilliant Opeth/Porcupine Tree way. Enormous and intense are just two of the magnificent words that come to mind to describe the utter brilliance contained within. Standout track, "The World is Young", while heavy and herculean, this song intersects with a delicate cascading beauty with glorious vocals.

 Fen delivers a different type of "heavy" with Trails Out of Gloom, one that is dank and opaque, with plenty of texture and substance that requires complete digestion for your optimum pleasure. This is very much like a classic '70's Prog Rock record that contains immensely crafted songs with excellently well written lyrics that also allows for the musical interludes to not be self indulgent, but rather an integral piece of the pie. There are no 12 minute overkill pieces here, but rather 6 minute voyages into remarkableness. And remarkable this CD is. This CD will impact you immediately, but the true brilliance of Trails Out of Gloom comes from further absorption. This is a stellar release.

--Butch Jones via Sea of Tranquility

Buy here: Trails out of Gloom

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