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Dead Soul Tribe: The January Tree

"A tree in winter is a mirror image of today's world. A leaf is only a leaf, but it is a small wonder that a tree lives with the help of his leaves. It is just the small which decide life over death and the level in between…" – Devon Graves

A statement like this is an excellent example of the deep thinking and insight of Dead Soul Tribe's Devon Graves. He has the unique ability to derive meaning and beauty from the most abstract of things. On the previous effort A Murder Of Crows the image that provided the inspiration was a dead crow hanging on a pylon, with it's wings outstretched as if it were being crucified. This time a tree in the dead of winter, The January Tree provides the inspiration. While some may see that and think of desolation and emptiness, Devon looks much deeper…

I found the description of the tree, to also be an excellent description of the music composed for this album (which in fact was written before any of the lyrics were. The album itself makes me think of the tree. The songs being the branches, and the intricate arrangements being the leaves. These branches of music seem to be ever outreaching. The leaves depending on the season (or the mood of the song), can illustrate warmth or coldness. But throughout it all, there is always life within this album as there is life within the tree even when it appears to be dead after the leaves have fallen during the Autumn solstice.

Devon (just as he did on the A Murder Of Crows album), plays all the instruments himself here with the exception of the drums on 3 tracks. These were handled by Adel Moustafa. Devon establishes himself as an excellent and inventive musician with his performances on this album. The guitar has a dark Savatage like tone throughout the album, and the complex drums patterns on it at times remind me of current King Crimson. I highly recommend The January Tree to fans of progressive metal, and fans of progressive music in general! With its dark beauty, changing moods, and deep thoughtfulness this is an album that will surely captivate the listener in every way!


1. Spiders And Flies
2. Sirens
3. The Love Of Hate
4. Why?
5. The Coldest Days Of Winter
6. Wings Of Faith
7. Toys Rockets
8. Waiting For An Answer
9. Just Like A Timepiece
10. Lady Of Rain

Added: April 1st 2005
Reviewer: Dean Pierce
Related Link: Deadsoul Tribe Official Site
Hits: 3522
Language: english

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Dead Soul Tribe: The January Tree
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-04-01 06:09:24
My Score:

It's always a challenging task to follow up your previous album, especially if it was such a great success among the prog community and garnered a lot of critical acclaim on various webzines and magazines. A Murder of Crows was an awesome record and my curiousity was piqued when I heard Devon Graves had already started composing his third Dead Soul Tribe CD -- The January Tree.

I know this is a bizarre way of starting a review, but I believe the melody line Devon Graves came up with on "The Love of Hate", the third track of the album, may be one of his best in his entire career. No exaggeration here, I've heard (almost) everything he's done so far and I have to point out the vocal melody on this track is unbelievable. In fact 98% of the melodies he created here are amazing, you've never heard him sing the way he sings on The January Tree. This record is a logical continuation of the philosophical AMOC, but it has more character and a more homogeneous overall feel. Even though it may be too early to pass judgement yet, I think The January Tree is perhaps the strongest DST album to date.

Given the lyrics on this disc, to say that Devon Graves is merely a "lyricist" would be daft. Graves is a modern "poet" whose art has yet to be discovered by most rock/metal fans. What's more is his lyrics make a lot more sense and are more effective when heard within the context of the song. Devon Graves has always had the idea of singing soft melodies over really heavy riffs and he utilises this idea to the best of his advantage on The January Tree. About all the songs here are very riff-based, the kind of riffs that are played very much to the point but are available throughout the entire disc. What Devon does is find the soft vocal harmonies and melodies and sing them over these riffs creating a beautiful sense of contrast. There are songs here which feature Devon's most fragile vocal lines to date and they sound totally heartfelt to say the least.

The January Tree, at times, is a wonderfully easy album to enjoy. Maybe it's because I'm so used to the signature sound of DST and Devon's vocal delivery throughout the 10 years I've been listening to him, so my guess is that if you're a fan of AMOC and some of the later era Psychotic Waltz stuff, you're most probably going to find yourself digging this CD a lot. Unlike AMOC though, three of the songs on January Tree were co-written by Adel Moustafa and surprisingly these songs have brought a very different feel to the record. Besides the terrific album opener "Spiders and Flies", the fourth track "Why?" features a very structured yet natural and memorable guitar solo. Once again the chorus here is incredibly beautiful. "Wings of Faith" is another song with different textures. It contains interesting vocal harmonies, background samples, processed vocals and tribal drumming. "Toy Rockets" sees Devon carrying his Jethro Tull influence into the focus of the song with even more tribal rhythms and hypnotizing melodies.

The longest song "Just Like A Timepiece" also bears another importance. First released on Devon's 1993 solo album The Strange Mind of Buddy Lackey, the songwriting is credited as (Devon/Lackey) in the CD booklet. That put a smile on my face. The song is reworked and interpreted in a new way. A lot of PW-ish guitar riffs abound the composition with a subtle folk vibe going on underneath the melodies. The fragile piano on this track is side by side by Sabotage-era Black Sabbath riffs and Devon probably never sounded better. He sure has improved and matured greatly on The January Tree. Once again he sings, plays electric and acoustic guitar, bass, flute, keyboards, piano, and he produces. Adel Moustafa does the drum work. The concept and lyrical theme is explained both in the lyrics and on the band's official website, so go and have a look if you're interested.

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