Sunday, April 20, 2014

Encircling sea - A forgotten land

Genre : Folk black metal / Sludge
Release : December 21th 2012 on Natural World Records.

Although not a new record, A forgotten land didn't get the recognition it deserves, neither did it express all its musicality and melancholy to enough ears. As such, it appears like I need to make a quick turn back in late December 2012 to speak about this phenomenal record. But first, let's drop a quick word about the whole band : this time it's not a one-man project but a four-piece one, often playing live around their hometown, Melbourne (Australia). Australian's black metal has been quickly growing with impressive acts lately, be it Austere, Woods of desolation, Germ, Midnight odyssey... and Encircling sea definitely belongs to that list. A forgotten land is the last release from the band, who started with sludgier sounds, slowly moving towards black metal with every release.

Being the third on the list, A forgotten land equally mixes black metal and sludge but doesn't stick to those two genres only. Roughly said, it would be better described as sludge's loudness and power added to black metal's intensity with some neofolk melancholy. Wait, loudness, power, intensity, melancholy? Those are the keys of one hell of a record if you ask me. And this one definitely is. Yet there's one big word to add to that already impressive list : maturity. Moving with rage, sincere pain and a huge lot of melancholy, A forgotten land appears like a very cohesive concept album, dealing with the meaning of home all over its four tracks, and how it feels to be taken apart from where you belong. Lyrics make a lot of sense, but wouldn't be enough if the rest didn't. Yet it definitely does. Vocals are powerful and emotional enough to blast any dedicated listener away for a full hour, rhythm elements (be it bass, guitars or drums) contribute together and are better heard as a whole, huge wall of sound. Last but not least, acoustic parts are solid and catchy while sticking to the basics (clean guitars, a couple violin lines), and incredibly well integrated. On the four tracks, the shorter one, 'Become' (still clocking more than 10 minutes) is almost straight neofolk, with only a couple plugged-in guitars kicking in around the end of the song. Also, this most welcomed break is a very nice duet of male and female clean vocals cleverly speaking with each other, giving even more sense to lyrics. Yes, there are clean vocals, and so it is on the three more aggressive tracks. But they're definitely well-integrated as they add to the overall melancholy, being ethereal and deep all the time. Female cleans on the second half of 'Transcend' really illustrate that success, so does male cleans in the middle of 'Return' : they constructively build something deeper and more intense. Be sure to use the player above to check the awesomeness out.

Nearing 70 minutes of playing time, A forgotten land was often seen a long and repetitive record. Probably it is, but what would be melancholy if not long and repetitive? Drawing its songwriting from its very essence, this record is definitely among the ones which make most sense to my ears, and has a special places in my all-time favorites. Even it's repetitive side has to be well-considered, as it's cleverly crafted : I can't help but thinking that every part, even if more than a couple minutes long, is strong enough to be listened to with pleasure. In the end, there's no album that could replace this one in my heart, and that's probably why I keep going back to it, loving it more and more with every listen. Of course, its theme may or may not speak to you, but musically speaking, it will still be a gem.

Personal highlights : Transcend, Return.
Links : Facebook, BandcampBigcartel.

Other reviews from Encircling sea:
   - Écru

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