Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Man-Eating Tree - Harvest

The Man-Eating Tree
Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

When The Man-Eating Tree released their debut effort ‘Vine’ in 2010, I found the album falling below my expectations given the impressive resume of the members that makes up the line-up.
That’s not to say that ‘Vine’ was terrible, because it certainly wasn’t a bad album per say. But I would go as far as to say that while the Finnish act had well and truly captured the sombre atmospheric rock sound they were clearly aiming for, the song writing fell a little short of memorable in places.
In a surprisingly quick turnaround, the Oulu based six-piece act (Comprising of ex-Fall Of The Leafe front man Tuomas Tuominen, ex-Poisonblack/Sacred Crucifix guitarist Janne Markus, ex-Depth Beyond One’s guitarist Antti Karhu, bassist Mikko Uusimaa of melodic gothic rock act Reflexion, former Embrace keyboardist Heidi Määttä and former Sentenced drummer Vesa Ranta) are back with their new album ‘Harvest’. And what a difference fourteen months makes!
The band chooses to start the album off in a slow and atmospheric manner with the short instrumental piece ‘Harvest Bell’. Although only featuring guitars and keyboards, it’s a memorable piece of music, and a perfect introduction to ‘At The Green Country Chapel’. Almost immediately, you can tell that The Man-Eating Tree have made some attempts to add some new textures to their sound. The guitars have a little more to say (Both in terms of their riff structures and their overall presence in the mix), and Tuominen’s melodies are easily more memorable than anything from the band’s debut. ‘At The Green Country Chapel’ is something a little heavier from what you would otherwise expect from The Man-Eating Tree, but every bit as melancholy, atmospheric and mournful given the band’s past efforts.
Proving the former track wasn’t just a one off, ‘Code Of Surrender’ and ‘Incendere’ again showcase a heavier guitar approach musically, without overshadowing Tuominen’s emotive and catchy melodies, while the up-tempo and fast paced ‘Armed’ follows a similar path, albeit with one of the strongest and memorable choruses on the album.
The slower and sorrow filled ‘Like Mute Companions’ is another great cut that showcases the band’s ability to shift between atmospheric passages to full-on rocking moments (Complete with soaring choruses), while the downbeat and bleak ‘Exhaled’ is something of a minor epic with its slow doom-like tempo, huge wall of guitars on the riff front and Tuominen’s sorrow inducing vocals.
‘Down To The Color Of The Eye’ is somewhat of an oddity on the album with its modern and different sound on the musical front and the odd growl thrown in to shake things up. While the song does take a little getting used to (Especially in terms of the vocals, where Tuominen sounds like he’s singing in a different key at times), the song has eventually won me over and stands out as one of the album’s stronger efforts.
‘All You Kept Free’ comes across as a track that could have easily been lifted from their debut, which means that while it’s O.K., it’s not quite in the same league as the rest of the album. Thankfully, the predominantly instrumental piece ‘Karsikko’ closes out the album on a high (And somewhat reflective) note.
While I was a little disappointed with ‘Vine’, The Man-Eating Tree has well and truly made amends with ‘Harvest’. Despite the short gap between releases, the song writing and musicianship within the group has really come a long way.
If you’re after something that’s both atmospheric and sombre, but still packs a punch in terms of memorable choruses and plenty of guitars, I can now wholeheartedly recommended checking out The Man-Eating Tree’s latest and greatest effort ‘Harvest’.

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© Justin Donnelly