Dead Soul Tribe is the brainchild of Devon Graves who has done a Phil Collins on their third full-length release by playing all the instruments (although with the exception of the drums!)
The January Tree opens with a building wail of feedback that blasts into a symphonic discharge of metal groove that echoes Led Zeppelin‘s Kashmir with Ed Kowalczyk (Live) on vocals. Follower Sirens breaks the band into much more prog territory, with the hair metal lead intro breaking into a very off-kilter number, seemingly influenced by Lateralus-era Tool.
It is at this point that another Tool-like quality to the Dead Soul Tribe’s sound emerges – the pristine clarity and precision of the production. With the exception of the occasional dead-sounding snare drum, the monstrously heavy riffs and licks which dominate the album between breaks of mellow, intricate musicianship are all separately definable while simultaneously merging into a synergy of kick-ass metal beauty.
The Love Of Hate takes a poignant look at the world we inhabit in 2004, with not-so-subtle references to the state of play in the Middle East and man’s insatiable thirst for power, atop brooding, snarling guitars and smashing cymbals. The progressive lyrics such as “why have we come to this?” and “hate can only create more hate” sit well in a song which screams aloud that despite The Who‘s opinion, no the kids are most definitely not all right. Having said that, the “Jesus is saving no-one, so save yourself…” lyric is as brainless and aimless as the rest of the song is informed and directed.
Why? follows the searching questioning theme with a very Stairway To Heaven-like verse, which thankfully breaks out into its own in the form of a gargantuan solo that howls its way back into a severely demented time signature break. Strong vocals and a catchy hook make this possible single material, but at six and a half minutes, you get the feeling MTV won’t be placing it into heavy rotation.
With a 180 degree turn, Wings of Faith begins as a techno-goth B-side that falls flat on its face. Sequenced, distorted beats are fine if you are being remixed by Rob Zombie, but going “prog” does not justify brief flirtations with the (dark) dance side.
One oddity I will allow, however, is the brilliant surprise that debuts on Toy Rockets and appears again on the penultimate number in the form of a pan pipe, flute or other such windy type instrument. Played and recorded with perfection, the unique sound adds another dimension to their brutal epic grooves.
Waiting For The Answer is straight from the King’s X corner, with ominous verse and huge anthemic chorus to boot. The album then closes with a piano-led ballad that could easily be a mid-era Dream Theater song and that doesn’t quite hit the benchmark.
The January Tree is most certainly an album of two halves. Its second segment lacks the genius of the first, but it still provides a compelling, if slightly hit-and-miss performance.