It would be too easy to characterize ENCIRCLING SEA as just another tree-hugging Black Metal outfit that plays somewhat atmospheric music with lyrics about the flora and fauna of the place where its members like to take walks through the forest. Too easy, because it wouldn’t do justice to A Forgotten Land, to its staggering intensity, its beautiful imagery and the perfect song-writing indwelling these four songs.
If ENCIRCLING SEA would be based in America’s North West they’d surely be labeled as “Cascadian Black Metal”. Music-wise and textual it would even make sense, assuming that “Cascadian Black Metal” describes certain attributes all Black Metal bands of this region share. If that makes sense is another matter altogether. But ENCIRCLING SEA aren’t from Cascadia anyway, but from Melbourne, Australia. And A Forgotten Land is one single, yearning declaration of love to the greatness and beauty of the natur to be found here.
The wind that sways through the Eucalypt
And the sound of spring that fills the air
Alive is the valley, with wondrous color and abundance
This timeless land stole my heart
The longing for oneness with nature is the record’s common theme. The word “home” can be found in every song at least once and it’s obvious that “home” does not describe something secular like a house but the spiritual home that nature embodies for the protagonist. The four songs on A Forgotten Land tell of the journey the protagonist undertakes to reach home at last.
The First song Yearn ends with the line “I am coming home to a new day”. Throughout the other three songs there’s a lot of talk about “coming home” and “calling me home” and the last line of the last song Return is “This place that is calling my name.. I am home”.
The language used on A Forgotten Land is very picturesque in delineating the present nature in all forms. Terms like “fallen leafs”, “a century of moss”, “the light of an autumn moon” or “the ancient creaking of the woods” are not only used to depict an actual surrounding but are also breathing life into it, humanizing it. Nature is not only a place of retreat, but a guarding spirit offering safety and shelter. In Transcend there are the lines “A spirit, older and wiser than our empty plains / A mother to the wind and to the rain / At her foot I sit, and in her arms, cradled, lies hope…”. Above all, A Forgotten Land is pure, honest nature worship.
Besides these metaphorical and describing elements, the diction is quite plain, almost ingenuous, but really in the best sense. ENCIRCLING SEA don’t even try to hide the story behind highbrow terms. Very much like a lot of Romantic writers of the 18th and 19th century they choose simple words to express their feelings and to attain the atmosphere they like to reveal. Of course love and admiration for nature is another component similar to the ideas of the Romantic, besides the emphasis of feelings, passion and soul. It’s not too far-fetched to say that the lyrical content of A Forgotten Land has a strong tendency towards the ideals of the Romatic epoch.
Through the music these ideas come to life. Even though ENCIRCLING SEA makes use of blast-beats, tremolo picking, distorted guitars and screamed vocals, the sound isn’t really aggressive. It’s rather emotional and intimate, using the mentioned elements to express a certain mood of yearning and despair. Moreover there are passages that feature acoustic guitars, clean vocals (male and female) or chants that have generally more in common with Folk music than Metal. As a matter of course the usage of (Neo-)Folk’ish elements isn’t something unfamiliar within the realm of (Black) Metal, one might think of bands like Ulver or Agalloch for example.
In its melodies, dynamics and layering ENCIRCLING SEA also often comes close to Post Rock outfits like Explosions In The Sky – while keeping the stylistic devices of Black Metal like the blast-beat of course. A Forgotten Land is a really intense, almost dreamlike record that has the ability to take the listener with the protagonist on the journey towards the spiritual home.
The album comes in an appropriate, amazing packaging. The double LPs are situated in a beautifully designed gatefold sleeve that pictures insights of the nature described in the songs. The artwork was done by Dase Beard, the layout and photography by Rob Allen, both are members of the band. The inner gatefold features a quote from the Norwegian eco-activist and philosopher Arne Næss that perfectly summarizes the vibe of the record: “The smaller we come to feel ourselves compared to the mountain, the nearer we come to participating in its greatness.” Næss coined the term Deep Ecology that constitutes the natural environment as a part of every human individual and not as its opponent – as one can see, A Forgotten Land is a truly holistic piece of art that subsists on its pure musical aspects as much as on its profundity.
A Forgotten Land was initially put out on limited CD by Natural World Records and recently saw its vinyl release by Sick Man Getting Sick Records and Replenish Records.