A Forgotten Land makes me glad I've since grown up. The third chapter of Enclircling Sea's discography is a continuation of the sound they had presented on 2010's Ecru - an eclectic mix of post-rock, sludge, black metal, and folk, based largely in vast, atmospheric expanse, though A Forgotten Land pushes the majestic black metal influence further into the foreground. A collection of four lengthy tracks, totaling almost seventy minutes in length, A Forgotten Land opens with the ethereal, trudging doom of "Yearn," which flows seamlessly into a flowing stream of low-end black metal and beautiful ambiance within its eighteen minutes of existence. Front man Robert Allen's gruff singing voice makes a fitting entrance in a particularly powerful buildup, leading into a mid-paced, almost post-punk-inspired dual guitar harmony. "Transcend" follows a similar progression, constantly building ontop of itself, much like climbing a seemingly never ending mountain; the length seems daunting, but the culmination makes the journey worth it.
At ten and a half minutes in length, "Become" is the shortest offering on this album, but it is by far the most memorable. With "Become," Encircling Sea more than effectively morphs into a neofolk band, melding their tasteful post-rock mentality with delicately strummed acoustic guitars, bowed string instruments, and a beautiful vocal duet between Robert Allen and his wife Ramanee. I first listened to this album on a long bike ride, and it was with this track that A Forgotten Land and I really clicked, fitting perfectly with my snow-flecked rural surroundings. I might have disliked the whole "nature metal" thing before, but when you listen to it in the right setting...things begin to make sense.
The perfect foil to its neofolk predecessor, A Forgotten Land closes with the mighty "Return," a twenty-minute adventure through some of Encircling Sea's most aggressive material to date. While still based in the band's trademark majestic scope, the pummeling nature of its bottom-heavy doom and break-neck black metal highlights this four-piece's ability to match their soaring heights with grimy, harsh depth. Keeping their harshness in check with acoustic interludes and layered clean voices, "Return" is the culminating point of A Forgotten Land, merging each point of influence into its densest form, presenting Encircling Sea's aim at its clearest.
Encircling Sea's massive return is as welcome as it is enjoyable. A beautiful demonstration of nature's might, A Forgotten Land's pastoral mix of dreamy sludge and atmospheric black metal is one of the most impressive offerings in its musical "scene." Replenish Records has graciously made A Forgotten Land available for a "pay as you want" download, with any digital proceeds going directly to the Still Wild Still Threatened charity. Of course, if digital isn't for you, it is also available as a double LP and CD, both limited and definitely worth the dough. It's albums like this which make me wonder why the hell I even bothered getting so worked up before, but this refreshing return makes it all the more worth it.