The Man-Eating Tree // Harvest
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —The tree doesn’t fall far from the leafe
Label:Â Century Media
Websites: themaneatingtree.com/ | myspace.com/officialthemaneatingtree
Release Dates: Out now!
I’m part of a small minority of metal fans that heard of Finland’s Fall of the Leafe and loved what they did. Although they began life as a black metal band, they eventually morphed into a unique type of progressive gothic metal and their 2005 Vantage album is one of my all time favorites. It had a special, moody atmosphere that I return to often (largely due to the strange but brilliant vocal work of Toumas Tuominen). Sadly, the Leafe called it a day in 2007 and their compelling style was silenced. However, from the acorn of the great Leafe arose The Man-Eating Tree, another interesting forest-themed entity with Tuominen on vocals and many of the same winning characteristics and flavor. Their 2010 album Vine was a pleasantly moody, typically Finnish exercise in melancholy gothic rock/metal and their sophomore followup Harvest is more of the same but even better. The songwriting is tighter, more focused and immediate, the moods are more pronounced and honest and the whole album clicks in a way that recalls the finer moments of Fall of the Leafe without plagiarizing their sound completely. Although most similar to Fall of the Leafe, there are also flashes of Sentenced (same drummer), lighter Opeth and late-period Katatonia. This is not a very heavy album and at times, the material barely has anything to do with metal. Even the most aggressive material here won’t rattle teeth or inspire a raised fist. The sound is more about darkened, somber moods, not exactly doom but clearly not happy either. Regardless, this is a great album and deserves to be heard by anyone who likes dark rock overflowing with mood and emotion.
The slow, somber strains of intro “Harvest Bell” sets the tableau of things to come and reveals the palette the Tree will be painting with. It’s a great lead in to “At the Green Country Chapel,” which is an instantly likeable, gloomy rocker with a simple, honest chorus that worms into the grey matter. Tuominen’s vocals are as mournful and mysterious as ever. If you’ve never heard him, he has a rich, soulful style, restrained but exuding emotion (mostly sadness) and he makes any material better for his contributions. The guitars shift from edgy and semi-crunchy to softer and peaceful and everything is steeped in morose vibes. Harvest is loaded with songs of similar quality and the one-two punch of “Code of Surrender” (extra emotive vocals with thick riffing) and “Armed” (outstanding vocals hooks and best song overall IMHO) is sure to convince listeners what these chaps have to offer. Elsewhere, the doomy plod of “Exhaled” is complimented by emotionally raw, anguished vocals which can’t help but touch a nerve. The cover of Type O Negative‘s “Everything Dies” is another standout and maintains the original’s tragically brilliant gallows charm and even surpasses it in some ways.
This is one of those albums that works best as a whole but one can take away “singles” as well. Of the eleven songs, all work well and there’s a nice flow throughout. One song melts into the next and there’s always that overhanging sense of loss and sadness. While there isn’t an enormous variety in tempo or dynamic, the nuances from track to track keep things from getting too samey or boring and the writing is very solid.
As one might guess from the above, Tuominen is the driving force and the secret weapon to the Tree‘s sound. His riven, heartbroken vocals work magic on each and every tune and he really sounds on the verge of slitting his wrists. Janne Markus and Antti Karhu shine as well with some beautiful, haunting and spacey fret-work. The morose solo at 4:33 of “Like Mute Companions” is touching and rings of personal loss. Elsewhere, “Down to the Color of an Eye” and “Incendere” have trilling riffs that remind of Insomnium. Rounding out the Tree sound properly are the understated but effective keys from Heidi Maatta and a crisp, sharp production with a satisfying low-end thump to it.
This type of melodic downer-metal/rock clearly won’t work for everyone but it’s exceptionally well done and I’m eating it up like chocolate covered bacon (mmmmmmm, bacon). Fans of Fall of the Leafe or other goth-influenced melodic metal would be well advised to spin this and let it soak into the soil of the mind. It’s both beautifully dark and darkly beautiful and that kind of quality doesn’t grow on every man-eating tree. Be sure to check out Fall of the Leafe’s Vantage too, you won’t be sorry!