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Winter Tree, The: Guardians

The Winter Tree is a collaboration between founder Andrew Laitres (bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards, sound effects, vocals), Mark Bond (lead vocals, guitars, bass, sound effects), Deb Bond (keyboards, backing vocals) and Bob Hynes (drums).

Formerly known as Magus, Guardians is Winter Tree's second album, the follow up to their self-titled debut released in 2011. That was an excellent album and the trend continues with Guardians. The music of The Winter Tree continues to be melodic progressive rock with influences ranging from Pink Floyd to Camel. At times it is quite a mellow affair, with pastoral elements scratching the surface giving the album a dreamlike quality. That said, there are more intense moments to be had, especially Bond's Gilmour influenced guitar work. The opening piece "Visions" is a case in point. The dreamy textures are intensified with Bond's exceptional lead work invoking a strong '70s sensibility. "Voice on the Wind" is more upbeat and heavier, the guitars carrying more crunch and a little more bite. There are still softer elements; a subtle electronic sound in the background and a more languid guitar tone at times but the overall effect is a heavier sound.

One of my favourite tracks is the lovely "Elune" filled with gentle acoustic guitar and emotive vocals, a good match for the evocative lyrics. Other worthwhile mentions include the lush "The Sparrow" complete with subtle piano and washes of steel guitar and the symphonic "The Woman and the Dragon", an instrumental number showcasing nice dynamics between softer and more intense sections. A couple of moving ballads, "Beautiful World" and "Good Times" rounds out the package before the organ drenched "City of Light" brings to an end with what is a very good album.

If you liked their first album Guardians should be a no brainer. Symphonic progressive rock with an artful twist. Recommended!

Track listing:
1. Visions (1:50)
2. Voice on the Wind (6:27)
3. The Sparrow (5:55)
4. Guardians (3:17)
5. Elune (3:14)
6. The Woman and the Dragon (3:31)
7. Beautiful World (4:17)
8. Good Times (7:24)
9. City of Light (4:31)

Added: September 7th 2012
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 2175
Language: english

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Winter Tree, The: Guardians
Posted by Mark Johnson, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-10-24 23:46:56
My Score:

I was fortunate enough to receive The Winter Tree's debut and self – titled album last year for review. The album came as a complete, but wonderful surprise. I enjoyed that debut and said I was very interested in receiving the latest album for review when it came out. Well surprise…it is here already!

The Winter Tree, (formerly Magnus), is made up of Mark Bond, on lead and harmony vocals, electric and acoustic lead and rhythm guitars, steel guitar, additional bass, (track 8), and sound effects; Deb Bond, on keyboards and backing vocals; Andrew Laitres, on bass, acoustic guitars, keyboards, sound effects, and vocals; and Bob Hynes, on drums on tracks 3 and 8.

Their debut album was wonderful traditional prog album, in the vein of some of the masters and seminal founders of the genre. This album picks up where the last album did, only this time they have added a good storyline well narrated and illustrated by the artwork of Minna Sundberg, who helps to encapsulate the story well within the cover art.

"Visions" opens with some overwhelmingly great moody/dark keyboard sounds before some excellent chord work, probably inspired by Gilmour's "Wishing You Were Here" magic, enters the sound space. It is the perfect instrumental entrance to the story and album.

"Voice on the Wind" picks up where "Visions" left off with more cool spacey keys and sound effects. Cool Moog – like synths and then Mark Bond's first vocals. The story begins, "He heard a noise deep in the valley as the skies turned black and grey. The sun obscured, the wind was howling. He realized that this was the day". Yeah, an Apocalyptic feeling to it. "Be ready for the final day. But few believed. A white horse appeared and was gone". The synthesizer and bass work are excellent and full of power helping to create the all-encompassing doom effect well. The piercing lead electric chords add enough light to cut through the fog.

"The Sparrow" opens slow and quiet and full of mysterious winds and synth/keyboard effects. Love it. Then brilliant piano mixed well with launching lead guitar chords. Welcome to the full effect of the story. You are encapsulated by the wind, if you turn up your speakers and sit in the middle of the room. The winds and that piano are extraordinary. More than music…an experience.

More cool keyboard/synth and bell – like sound effects add brilliant touches to "Guardians". It is a short, over 3 minute instrumental track that will take you right back to all your favorite Tony Banks highlight reels. Excellent.

"Elune" is a beautiful acoustic guitar and piano opener full of great melody and sound. The story continues amid wonderful lead electric guitar flights mixed with solid bass, drums befitting the flight of an owl.

"The Woman and the Dragon" is full of more interesting and solid Banks – like keys that will certainly make any fan of Genesis remember fondly when those sounds filled the air continuously. Solid lead electric keys and drums only add to the dynamic range. The guitar work even brings back memories of Hackett and Rutherford.

"Beautiful World" is one of the best tracks on the album. A great message wrapped in the intricate sounds of well-timed keyboards, solid bass and drums, and perfect lead electric guitar.

"Good Times" is the epic, (at over 7 minutes), track on the album. And it starts off with some unbelievable guitar chords that absolutely make this the most desired track on the album. This was the show you bought the album to hear. A la "Hotel California", or maybe Al Stewart, "Year of the Cat", solo guitar lightning. You just don't want it to end. And Bond plays each note as if it were his last. His vocals and the lyrics also help create a great environment, with "I hope when we meet again, that we won't forget the good times". Then an orchestrated string section takes the soundscape even higher. Yeah…cliff's edge. Another one of those great experiences in music from and experienced musician. The keyboards are well placed at the end to help burn into the memory...just like Banks did on "...And Then There Were Three".

"City of Light" has a funky, bass and drums pumping sound, that changes the rhythm, but there are more great keys to follow. The electric guitar adds some great highlights to the mix. But the best song played a few minutes ago and this instrumental doesn't match its potential.

Two in a row! Solid albums that take you back to some of your favorite sounds of 70s seminal bands, while at the same time add new dimensions and storylines to your music catalog. Keep up the good work. I'll say it again. I'm ready for number three.

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