Release DetailsLABEL Season of Mist
RELEASED ON 9/25/2007
The Old Dead Tree
The Water Fields
posted on 12/2007 By:
Like faux-metallers Spinal Tap, France’s The Old Dead Tree sure have trouble keeping a drummer. In fact, if the inexperienced know anything about these Frenchmen, it’s that their debut full-length The Nameless Disease addressed the suicide of Frédéric Guillemot, who contributed to the band’s 1999 demo The Blossom shortly before taking his own life. From there, Franck Métayer stepped in, but he too eventually parted ways with the band, and that’s when Foued Moukid assumed the drum throne for the recording of sophomore effort The Perpetual Motion, which I’ve yet to hear, and third installment The Water Fields. Ironically, Moukid recently announced his departure after a three-year stint, but The Old Dead Tree remain steadfast, and judging by the quality of their latest album, that’s a good thing.
As stated in my review of Novembre’s The Blue, The Old Dead Tree share traits with regional counterparts such as Katatonia, Novembre, and Opeth because they’re all European, each vocalist vacillates between clean and growled approaches (or did previously), and their respective output is invested heavily in emotive passages that are intended to evoke a response from even the most calloused of listeners. With that being said, the 47-minute opus The Water Fields is a solid display of confidence and finesse in poised, growl-laden opener “Start the Fire” (Where’s Billy Joel when you actually need him? Drunk driving, probably.), which segues into clean vocal-laced “Don’t Wake Me Up,” and the quirky “Hey.” While TODT don’t ooze aggression exactly, the death metal bits offer enough mild panache to work in the group’s favor rather than against it, especially those of “Dive,” “What’s Done Is Done,” “Regarding Kate,” etc. Nonetheless, TWF isn’t for the listener who prefers a relentless assault because within this album there are tempo shifts that often slow the pace, and instruments (keyboard/piano, clean guitars, comb) that are more commonplace in Gothic metal than death. Speaking of Katatonia again, “Is Your Soul for Sale?” has passages that drip with similar-sounding melancholy, while closer “This Is Now Farewell” has a few moments that remind me of another influential Swedish group.
However, comparisons to other outfits render a disservice to The Old Dead Tree, because, in a sense, they’re playing their own recognizable, laudable shtick. Even if The Nameless Disease has catchier, more striking songs, which is partially due to lyrical content, The Water Fields is a sturdy entry, and deserves more attention than it will likely receive. Perhaps this foursome-turned-threesome aren’t yet in the position to top annual, best-of lists, but hopefully they will be someday. For now, the production could still use tweaking, the songs several more hooks to latch onto, and the length a slight reduction. The 20-page, full-color digibook is a keeper, though.
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