Metal Blade is a record label that’s mostly known for horrible death metal bands with gruesome cover art that gets banned in countries too squeamish for their own good. So imagine my surprise when hearing the little known If These Trees Could Talk reissuing two albums of instrumental niceness that’s like Baileys for the ears.
Both “Above the Earth, Below the Sky” and “Red Forest” follow very similar paths, instrumental affairs that fall somewhere between Porcupine Tree and some form of atmospheric black metal like Woods of Desolation. Most tracks are based around a dulcet lead guitar that casually meanders around the rest of the instruments until they combine, normally for a classic hard rock breakdown of sorts.
It’s all enjoyable enough, but it’s hard not to feel like the whole thing needs vocals of some kind. Other instrumental bands such as Pelican manage to eradicate the need for vocals by having one or more instruments take a lead to provide a narrative in the place of a singer and whilst If These Trees Could Talk attempt this it’s normally quite directionless and not interesting enough to hold any attention. Many of the tracks lack personality with the exception of the occasional quirky title, “Barren Lands of the Modern Dinosaur” being a good example.
It’s hard not to feel slightly cynical about these reissues. Instrumental and ambient music is big right now, bands like Alcest have helped to popularise this movement and the music industry has grasped this with all the subtlety and dignity of a safari park chimp that insists on furiously masturbating in front of your grandmother.
But that’s not the fault of If These Tree Could Talk who have two very pleasant albums here, you just might only want to listen to them whilst you’re doing something and you want something playing in the background.