Album: The Art Of Trees
Label: Sliptrick Records
Genre: Progressive Metal / Progressive Rock
Release Date: January 8th, 2019
There are two important things to consider when looking at a Prog album. One, of course, is the quality of the progressions, the second is the cohesion of them. Going into Althea’s third record The Art Of Trees I wanted to see not only space being created but also filled. The record’s hour-long length made me hopeful for just that. However, I was more or less let down by what I was given here.
The first couple tracks on this record aren’t too bad. The opener, For Now, is somewhat cliched but I did find myself enjoying the song. I liked the usage of birds in the instrumental and the subtle reverb gives the song a very pleasant and warm atmosphere. Vocally, it’s a solid performance, but the vocals fade rather quickly, and it makes the track feel rushed. However, I would say that Althea opens up their record on solid footing. The next track starts with a bit more meat to it and changes between heavy metal passages and softer ones. The first two songs carry a similar tone, and while they’re not very long they made me excited for what the rest of the album would hold.
Unfortunately, after the first two songs, the record becomes more scattered and loses most of its cohesion. The track One More Time jumps between musical styles without any setup and each time it shifts the song becomes more and more off-putting. I wasn’t able to enjoy this track because the progression of it just felt too chaotic and forced. In contrast, the song Today is mostly stagnant, and while I do enjoy this song’s passionate energy, I found myself distracted by how cliched the overall sound and lyrics of the song are.
So, at this point on the record, I was losing some patience. The first four songs ended up being too random, underwhelming, and short for me to really want to sink my teeth into the album. The fifth track Evelyn is the first long track, at nine minutes, and is the first on here that I would consider a full-form Progressive Metal track. Thankfully, it’s also fantastic. The entire song feels massive and completely serene. Instrumentally, the track constantly evolves, and the vocal performances throughout fit perfectly. While there are some sharp shifts in the song, they are never too jarring. I did love this song, but the album doesn’t really keep any momentum from it.
The sixth track Not Me has the same issue as One More Time. It moves through its passages so quickly that it’s impossible to completely appreciate anything about it. Its tone and energy are all over the place and the strange country twanged passage at the three-thirty mark is completely unappealing. The odd instrumental choices continue onto the following song, The Shade, which features some oddly prominent piano and saxophone performances that really should’ve been left out. Thankfully, the title track follows these songs and it’s honestly pretty great.
The title track is the longest song, standing at over nine minutes, and features several instrumental solos at the beginning which all go over very well. The entire song feels like it belongs in a film score, but in the best way possible. It’s another massive and serene track, and Althea is able to fill these larger spaces with quite a bit of grace and talent. The issue is that they only do it twice. The next two songs continue the pattern of flubbing the momentum created by the previous one. Away From Me has the presentation of a closer. While it’s mostly anticlimactic the last two minutes do change that and the track closes on a pretty grand and exciting note. Unfortunately, the actual closer, Burnout, feels like a bonus track and is overall unessential to the record.
This album’s biggest issue is its cohesion. Several songs progress in a completely random fashion, and it makes it impossible to really sit and take everything in. Althea’s longest tracks feel like proper Prog Metal songs because they are given time to build and a structure to work from. The other songs don’t have a proper solid structure, and while they move in a linear fashion, their progressions feel somewhat pointless. I think Althea really should have increased the length of the songs overall, in order to give justification and clarity to what is currently chaos. These songs needed time to build and breath, but they weren’t given it.
There are some great ideas on this album, and sometimes they come with great executions. For the most part, however, the songs feel rushed and it harms the experience of this album. Songs like Evelyn and the title track should not have been the exception, but the rule here. While I admire this album’s grand presentation, too many of the tracks are too disjointed and chaotic.
- For Now
- Deformed To Frame
- One More Time
- Not Me
- The Shade
- The Art Of Trees
- Away From Me
Total Playing Time: 1:00:34