Four years have passed since the last album and another line-up change that leaves Doug Harrison (vocals, guitars) the only member that is on each other the albums. He also decided to take up the guitar rather than find a replacement for Sam Levin. Mike Young (bass) is the only band member from the last line-up. Joining them are Mike Southworth (drums, percussion, piano on “Trails Out Of Gloom” & “The World Is Young”) and Jim Kwan (piano on “Miracle“).
With this new line-up they released a new album entitled Trails Out Of Gloom in 2010. This also marks a new beginning of sorts in their career. The music has evolved over the years to something more organized on this album. Doug’s vocals are at his best at this point. I feel his vocals have more command over the songs than the previous albums. They’re powerful yet passionate. He tends to sing in a low register with on occasions goes to a higher one when needed.
The album starts out with the title track, “Trails Out Of Gloom” (4:46) which for shows Doug’s passionate vocals over an acoustic guitar track. The song slowly builds over the course of it’s duration then around the 4 minute mark Doug’s vocals goes into a higher register and the music gets heavier sounding. In my opinion, this is a perfect way to open an album.
“Through The Night” (4:34) has a doom like quality to it. Think Opeth (Damnation comes to mind) mixed in with some bits of Nirvana. This is one of the band’s more progressive rock sounding song on this album.
“The World Is Young” (7:02) is the second longest track on the album and of the band’s entire catalog. Doug’s vocals here remind that of Gavin Rossdale (Bush) and slowly has it’s own identity. The instrumentation shows the band in an expanded form while never going off on endless soloing. This is one of my favorites off the album and could be considered the band’s “signature sound”.
“Miracle” (4:06) is such a beautiful acoustic/electric piece where Doug bares his soul with his vocals and guitar playing. I feel in a perfect world, this song can easily be a top 10 hit single. This is another favorite of nine off the album.
“Find That One” (4:54) has a more upbeat vibe than the previous tracks while not becoming a ‘happy’ song. There’s some optimism in it’s subject matter about choices a person can have in his/her life. It’s another of my favorites off the album.
“A Clearing” (1:38) is a nice short acoustic guitar based track that serves as an intermission piece until the next track, “Queen Of The Mountain” (4:30) which is a rocker that has an almost classic rock vibe in the chorus section.
“End Of The Dream” (8:15) is the ‘epic’ of the album and the longest track of the album and of the band’s entire catalog. It has some of the heavier riffs and continues with the rocking vibe of the previous track. I can picture this song as the album’s anthem and how it could energize both the band and audience in a live format.
The final track on the album is “In Your Arms” (6:33) and one of the songs that I gravitate towards each time. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect album. It has a heavy beginning the morphs into a dreamy acoustic mode. This is probably the band’s first ballad while not in the conventional sense. There’s also moments where it touches upon grunge-like feel but on such an epic scale that that genre has never reached (in my opinion).
As stated in my reviews of the other Fen albums, I have an extreme privilege of getting to hear all of their albums at about the same time as opposed to each of the separate release dates. The band has evolved so much since the first album, almost to a point of becoming something more than they probably expected. I have to thank Doug for this honor and I hope my words on each review, this one especially does his music the fans proud.
Trails Out Of Gloom has a quality about it that resonates in my head long after it’s all done. I tend to want to hear the whole album again and again and again. It never gets old, always new sounds present themselves and I get a better understanding of the music each time. It’s one of the better if not best of what has been released in 2010 and deserves to be spoken about among the more well known acts of the progressive rock genre. So without any doubt on my mind, this gets a very high recommendation!
Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on December 17th, 2010