The Old Dead Tree
The Perpetual Motion
posted on 11/2005 By:
It’s never really seemed to me that Seasons of Mist garners the respect it deserves. I mean, sure, people tend to accredit it as a solid label, but it’s are rarely awarded the kind of recognition that a Willowtip or even The End Records gets. It’s a shame; Season of Mist has produced a remarkably solid and diverse catalogue of albums over the past several years. From black metal like Anaal Nathrakh, Solefald, and Carpathian Forest to Esoteric’s oozing doom to the wacky death metal of Gorguts and Anata, these guys seem to have a foot in every camp, and The Old Dead Tree is no exception, lending their highly competent gothic death/doom to the already eclectic Seasons roster.
Let me preface the remainder of this review by admitting that I have virtually no use for any sort of metal that edges too far into the gothic rock subgenre. It’s always seemed to me that metal is, and always has been, testosterone-driven music, and while there is certainly a large place for sensitivity and melancholia in rock music, extreme metal ain’t it. That said, I found myself genuinely enjoying The Perpetual Motion without feeling the least bit emasculated. The Old Dead Tree have completed the rare feat of creating gloomy atmosphere without coming off especially po-faced or toothless. Their success can, in large part be attributed to their instrumental restraint; instead of flooding their arrangements with keyboards, strings, choirs, and the dreaded operatic female vocals, The Old Dead Tree stick to the traditional guitar/bass/drums/vox metal dynamic. It’s not exactly an even distribution of importance, though. While every musician is competent, vocalist and guitarist Manuel Munoz is clearly the band’s Mikael Akerfeldt figure, and his versatile voice is the focal point of almost the entire album. Munoz’s vox actually bear a marked resemblance to the Swanö/Akerfeldt school, albeit with some measure of Anathema/Katatonia influence. The man puts his pipes through an impressive workout here. Though his bread and butter delivery is a mellifluous baritone, he also probes strident hard rock territory, non-piercing falsetto (sorry, power metal fans), and the occasional mid-ranged death rasp, which never really approaches Stockholm gutturalness but also doesn’t sound out of place when matched with the not-too-heavy riffing.
The Perpetual Motion contains twelve individual cuts, but the majority of the album is broken up into three conceptual chunks; “The Lost Boy” and “Down” contain four and five songs respectively, while “The Sad Fairytale” is comprised of the last two tracks and opener “Out of Breath” stands alone. The Old Dead Tree are one of those bands who almost always write good songs but don’t often really blow minds. The Perpetual Motion doesn’t contain a single poor song and many of them are quite good, but it’s noticeably lacking in standouts. “The Lost Boy: What Else Could We’ve Said?” comes closest as Munoz belts out some of the album’s catchiest melodies and the whole band orchestrates a moving double-bass-driven climax, but otherwise the tracks seem a little interchangeable. The problem is essentially homogeny-driven; while there’s nothing especially wrong with anything going on, virtually every song on the album plods along at the same 4/4 middling pace, with the guitars teaming up consistently for crunchy-but-melodic rhythms and short clean interludes, aside from the occasional ballad (“Everyday Life”). The structures certainly aren’t boring, but they’re rarely adventurous and at times it feels like the whole album is one big Munoz vehicle, and that becomes a problem towards the closing tracks.
The Old Dead Tree are sort of a quintessential Seasons of Mist band in that they initially seem to clearly fit into some particular style, but become very difficult to pigeonhole upon closer examination. This is a minor irritation for slothful reviewers such as I, who can’t just crank out a quick comparison-laden review, but the album simultaneously picks up the gift of crossover appeal. The Perpetual Motion is a very solid, very engaging album. This one’s a solid purchase no matter who you are, so long as you have at least some appreciation for melodic metal.
Register to post comments.