Monuments To Absence by FenRelease date: July 7, 2023
Label: Prophecy Productions
More than most genres, black metal has a sense of place, a translation of its surroundings in such vivid aural detail. Fen have proven themselves to be masters of this over their storied career, the bleakness and desolation of their Anglian home infused irrevocably in the music. Album number seven, Monuments To Absence, is no different in that regard, the boggy expanse coalescing the moment play has been hit.
The immediately noticeable change though is the ferocity of the music, the rage driving it forward is a new twist from the band. After the relative serenity of its predecessor, Monuments To Absence reintroduces the rawness of Fen’s earlier work, with this new thread of anger becoming its uniting theme. This is evolution rather than reinvention, the sound of a band continually drawing in new influences, incorporating them seamlessly to offer us a fresh perspective.
Opening gambit ‘Scouring Ignorance’ wastes no time in setting the scene, the violent outburst eschewing the band’s usual pattern of building the atmosphere before tearing it all back down. The punk undertones the genre has always had come more to the fore here: that hatred, the urge to stand up and shout about all that is wrong with the world, feels more shocking in this context – yet somehow still makes absolute sense.
Monuments To Absence is not a complete pedal-to-the-metal blast for the entire duration. Fen still show off their skill at crafting vast, lush soundscapes that rise and fall from those moments of vicious bile into wind-swept stares across the flatlands at twilight. The ability to conjure this kind of magic is demonstrated most spectacularly in ‘Truth Is Futility’, the effortless shifts in pace and mood, all whilst being damn catchy, proving just how special this band and this album is.
Presented as a complete record to be consumed in one sitting, rather than a collection of disparate songs, Monuments To Absence is a testament to the harsh beauty Fen brings to the black metal scene. Their growth over the years, whilst still maintaining such a strong unique identity, is a blueprint many artists should take notes from no matter what shade they paint in.