Only days after releasing their amazing full-length Epoch, Fen have given us this split album with little-known De Arma. The pairing of the two bands couldn’t have been better, as De Arma’s sound is actually quite close to Fen’s and the transition between the two bands is almost seamless. As far as atmospheric black metal goes this split is definitely a pleasant surprise.
Fen’s half is decent enough but with Epoch being what it is I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed; nevertheless the four songs are at least on par with the material on their debut album. The three main tracks are all typical Fen - bleak, sorrowful atmospheric metal with the sleepy, ethereal keyboards thrown in to give it that unique feel the band has become known for. While none of the tracks really stood out as anything amazing, they’re still enjoyable to listen to and make a nice addition to the band’s catalogue. The final track is an acoustic reprise of ‘Bereft’ from the debut album, and while I normally hate acoustic recordings this one was actually pretty good.
The real surprise of this split for me was De Arma, which is the solo project of A. Petterson of Armagedda, Whirling and several other projects. ‘Crimson Waters Ebbing the Shore’ starts off with a nice atmospheric riff and only gets better from there. Their sound is extremely similar to Fen’s, with perhaps less emphasis on keyboards and slightly different guitar tone being the main differentiators. The onle drawback to De Arma is that Petterson sometimes slips in the weird clean vocal style that’s used in Whirling and LIK, which I didn’t think worked as well within the context of this band. It’s a minor complaint though; overall De Arma’s material was very impressive and has me looking forward to a full-length.
Splits like this can be a great way to discover new bands, and that’s certainly true with Towards The Shores Of The End. Fen is a known commodity at this point, but De Arma should hopefully be getting a lot more attention after this release. Pick this one up if you get a chance.