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Forlesen – Black Terrain

Black Terrain
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 28 September 2022, 6:46 AM

From Bandcamp, “FORLESEN draw from Epic Doom, Black Metal, Slowcore, and Dark Ambient to subvert traditional songwriting with their new full-length, "Black Terrain," which weaves heartbreak and hypnosis to show FORLESEN at their most vulnerable and vicious. The band formed in San Francisco at the end of 2016 and released their debut, "Hierophant Violent," in 2020. Now based in Portland, OR, FORLESEN continue their compositional evolution, expanding into previously untapped musical realms. The album contains four songs.

“Strega” is the first. It’s a 19-minute beast of a song. There is a long and eerie build-up. The main riff drops, and it’s heavy and slow. Soft, clean vocals are up first, and the melodies are somber but emotive. As it moves forward, you feel like you are in the forest at night, while a gentle breeze flows through the trees, and you are alone. The trees begin to sway, and a cold wind picks up. The skies grow dark, and harsh vocals appear. They are horrid, and disturbing. But they leave as quickly as they came, and are replaced by clean female vocals, to completion.

The title track is about half the length of the previous song. It opens with some buzzing noise and ominous drum beats. The sound develops very slowly, with occasional hummed/whispered vocals. They are so delicate a passing wind carries them away. A riff strikes like lightning as the sound begins an ascent. The vocals turn to screams as waves of emotions crash over you. As it reaches a climax, it transitions to “Harrowed Earth” with a crash and a thick, Black Metal sound. It’s a strong combination of harrowing elements with despondent ones, and you really can’t tell who wins the battle. Approaching the half-way mark, the sound drops once again to harmonized female vocals. From there, a combination of the two vocals styles carries the song forward, with a dark and weighted riff. The intonation in the guitars at the end signals an increased desperation of the sound…a very nice effect.

“Saturnine” closes the album. Much of the opening sequence is quite and passes by without much sonority. Closing in on the half-way mark, a fuzzy and desolate riff enters and then exits, leaving behind soft drum beats, bass guitars, and some clean rhythms. The heavy riff returns, with sad clean vocals, and begins to build, as do your feelings. Rolling towards the end, a little light peeks through the canopy, offering just a ray of hope not heard to this point on the album. It wrestles with desperation however, in a clean fight that is near a draw, but hope prevails. Though only four songs in length, this was an excellent album. The combination of several styles done with character is what makes it as good as it is. It takes you on a journey through several emotions that are felt concentrated and in your gut. Try to walk away unscathed…it is impossible.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Strega
2. Black Terrain
3. Harrowed Earth
4. Saturnine
Ascalaphus – Vocals, Guitars, Synth, Harmonium, Bass
Bezaelith – Vocals, Bass, Guitars, Synth
Petit Albert – Guitars, Synth, Hammond B3 Organ, Backing Vocals
Maleus – Drums
Record Label: I,Voidhanger Records


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