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Forlesen > Black Terrain > Reviews > we hope you die
Forlesen - Black Terrain

Patient incrementalism - 80%

we hope you die, November 17th, 2022

Somewhere between the grim defeatism of funeral doom, the rich melodic tangents of epic doom, and the emotional release of post metal, sits the latest album from California’s Forlesen. Quality doom is about so much more than depreciated tempos. Aside from simply being “metal, but slower”, the chord sequences – especially for the depressive iterations of the style – often circle round a sense of inevitability. This could be achieved by a slow and inevitable climb down to a cadence, as descending chords gradually march to their conclusion, or it could be through achieving tension by gradual repetitions that build and compound into a frustrated rumination on being.

Forlesen deploy these techniques certainly, but doom metal is simply the canvas onto which a form of soundscape metal is gradually and achingly rendered over the course of ‘Black Terrain’. Reverb driven clean guitars echo above the mix, bringing a sheen of Americana reminiscent of latter day Earth. A mixture of ethereal vocalisations echoes across these lengthy tracks as ghostly visages haunting our passage through the album. Slow, rolling drums compound on each other, bringing these pieces to patient yet inevitable climaxes, utilising the virtues of volume manipulation as much as exponentially developing segments of information.

‘Black Terrain’ is spliced into four lengthy tracks. The spaces between the traditional rockist setup of guitars, drums, and vocals are so great, and so sparse, pivoting on droning guitar noise, distant vocalisations, and minimal, pulsing drum work, that the music falls entirely out of the “post” metal milieu and into ambient. The atmospheric virtues of blackened doom metal are deployed to heighten the dramatic stakes of the music, as with the midpoint Ruins of Beverastian intro to ‘Harrowed Earth’. This aesthetic choice works well alongside the gentler soundscaping, serving to contrast and elevate the artistic and emotional stakes of the album when totalitarian stasis becomes a real threat.

But for the most part, so imperceptibly slow and at times simple are the melodic narratives of these pieces that it helps to perceive them as soundscapes bleeding into one another rather than solidified “pieces”. Even when engaging in blast-beats, the melodic development of the music is still tectonically slow, but driven by a galloping momentum that pulls the listener along in a manner reminiscent of Sorta Magora.

And soundscape metal is really where Forlesen have ended up with this release. Some of the textural scenery may be recognisably metallic. Occasionally the music coalesces into homogenous passages of doom metal, but for the most part this is crafted around sound manipulation, contrasting tones, tension via repetition, and sequences building information as an exercise in gradualism. And as far as manipulators of sound are concerned, Forlesen are adept at their craft. ‘Black Terrain’ pulls the best elements from metal and adjacent subgenres renowned for their superficially pleasing textures and resituates them as structural and theatrical signifiers that truly elevates their artistic potential. A masterstroke of patient incrementalism.

Originally published at Hate Meditations