Encircling Sea
A Forgotten Land

Well it looks like America and Canada are finally having some profound influence on Black Metal around the world. Last year’s excruciatingly awesome demo by the Russian troupe Kalendae was “Cascadian,” “atmospheric,” Black Metal of the absolute highest caliber. The 20 minute, 2 track demo was absolutely the best slice of such a thing since the Ash Borer demo. A true masterpiece indeed.

We now have proof the hand of Weakling and WITTR has reached the shores of Australia. In 2013, Natural World Records has released A Forgotten Land by Encircling Sea. I’m going to go ahead and admit to enjoying both 2009’s I, and 2010’s Ecru right now. They were great, doomed out, ambient, post-whatever Black Metal. I seriously hate genre tags, but it helps grind out the sound here.

Now in 2013, Encircling Sea graces us with yet another stretched out slab of, nature exalting, fast-and-slow, reverb soaked metal. And it’s really not bad at all. “Yearn”, the album’s first track is everything I want from a band like this. Beginning with a shimmering drone, drums fade in and give way to a wonderfully hypnotic stretch of doomy Black Metal. Cavernous howls swell in and out to fill the void until 3:35 when the drums pick up and elevate the same riff into speedier territory. Octaves careen over the riff until the screams come forefront, lyrics expounding the need to return home to nature. A few minutes here until the doom kicks in again and stomps heavily, plodding patiently as reverb heavy octaves add atmosphere. Noisy feedback gives way to the first clean passage of the album, and we’re only 10 minutes in. At about 12:30 we see the first real change in riffing until the central riff of the past 15 minutes swarms back in, all culminating in the decrescendo of clean guitars and faint humming over slowly fading drums. All in all, this 18 minute piece is a beautiful piece of music.

Track 2, “Transcend”, begins with more clean guitars, drums awash with reverb, and distant howls. Element after element of distorted guitar and harmony is added until the beauty is ground out by tremolo picking and fierce growls. Cycling through a few more poignant riffs, the 10 minute mark approaches and brings with it more ambience before crashing into epic, doomed out black metal with some soaring female vocals atop the fervent screams. More black metal, more doom, more quiet, and then the song is over, and you’re only 40 minutes into a 75 minute album.

Honestly, were this record just these two songs, it might be in contender status for top 20 or so of the year, but it is just so long winded. The third track Become is just 11 minutes of unremarkable acoustic picking and strumming with various singers. The fourth is another 20 minute opus that follows the same formula as the first two. It’s a little slower to start, but all of the repeated hypnotic pieces are there.

This would have been a great album, but has been brought to the status of just okay, too long, and overthought. I love huge, swooping, transitional, hour plus opuses like Fauna’s absolutely brilliant Avifauna from last year (or really any of their material), but this suffers from over-repetition, over-reaching, and a narrative that begins as endearing, but becomes fluff by the end. I unfortunately won’t be returning to it very often as I hate only listening to half of an album. If I want Encircling Sea, I’m going back to the earlier stuff.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Nick E
June 28th, 2013

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