Fellwarden is the solo project of The Watcher from Fen (ably supported by Fen drummer Havenless) and whilst you should not necessarily think too long on the relationship between solo projects and a musician’s main band I think here a little connectivity is in order. I loved early Fen; their bleak windswept sounds and introspective atmosphere resonated strongly with me but, as is often the natural order of things, our paths diverged as Fen followed their muse and explored deeper into post-rock sounds. I was however intrigued by Fellwarden, inspired as it is by the landscape of the moorlands of Northern England and their history and people.
I’m tempted to say that if you want to understand something of the people of North Yorkshire, for example, even in this modern age, the roots of many of their characteristics can be found in the wind, cloud and drizzle of a September day on the moors. At first sight grey and raw, but open yourself to it and the flow, the wind, the beautiful if bleak and hardy landscape and the surprising depth of colour and shade within can be found. As an album Oathbearer has that same complexity.
Sound-wise I guess you could say that this does have a fair reminder of early Fen within. The soaring black metal riffs full of melody on one hand in opened ‘Guardian Unbound’ and the gentle flow of acoustic moments of beauty such as ‘A Cairn-Keeper’s Lament’. The vocals are excellent as you’d expect; harsh but expressive. The drums are fluid and responsive, as much part of the current as the meticulously constructed riffs and keyboard swirls and gales that call throughout this album.
There might be hints of Drudkh, Winterfylleth, early Ulver too. Even, strangely, some curious echo of Rush ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ on closing magnificence ‘Sorrowborn’ (probably just me, that.) But this is also a very, very English sound, not surprisingly. It does summon the spirit of the land it is about quite beautifully.
All in all this album stands proud alongside the ranks of landscape inspired English black metal, alongside Fen themselves, Winterfylleth, Fyrdsman and others. It conjures and evokes and offers an emotional journey that got to me simply and naturally. Sometimes you wonder why people do solo albums, but not with Fellwarden. This is plainly something that had to be spoken and I for one am very glad of that.
Two years in the making and for me all the wild landscape, the raw skin cold and damp, the mist and the sunlight and the footsteps of those who have gone before are here. Magnificent.
I’m just going for a walk…