A Tree of Signs

Portugal’s A Tree of Signs offer yet another entry into the increasingly crowded style of 70’s-inspired, occult doom rock.  Drawing influences from Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, Witch Mountain and of course Black Sabbath, A Tree of Signs offer just enough of their own quirks to avoid sounding like a blatant rip-off of their influences.  The female-fronted trio are comprised of V-Kaos (vocals, keyboards), NH (bass) and P. Tosher (drums) but unfortunately Salt contains its share of frustrations and the inevitable limitations of a guitar-free set-up.  Over the course of four lengthy tracks (the EP clocks in at just under 25 minutes) A Tree of Signs creates an earthy, mysterious atmosphere befitting of the wooded mysticism and ragged edges of the music within.

Firstly, the production and accompanying mix must be touched on, as the sonically strange foundation provides a source of frustration.  As expected of the style, vintage tones and a rough, lo-fi aesthetic is applied but the mix sounds all wrong and the drum production leaves much to be desired.  It’s a shame too as P. Tosher creates some interesting drum patterns within the plodding compositions and some of the lively, energetic drumming breaks up the otherwise lumbering pace of the songs.  Unfortunately the snare drum has a cheap, horribly distracting and lifeless tone, while the drums are mixed way up high.  The effects are quite jarring to say the least and to these ears they put a real black mark through the EP.   It’s disappointing to harp on about production issues but in this case it proves detrimental and limiting to the quality of the music, which all in all is a decent example of the style.

On the positive side, the bass has a nice buzzing tone and is reasonably expressive, though expectedly limited, and the keyboards are carefully integrated into the mix; creating some spooky atmospheric touches and livening up the minimalism of the recording.   Again the bizarre mixing cripples some of the power of the bass riffs as they often lurk in the background and don’t have the presence they should demand.

“Greate Python” lumbers forth through the murky atmosphere with a funereal gait.  The keyboards are used effectively during the song, sliding unobtrusively in and out of the structure, adding depth and working as an atmospheric backbone.  The real ace up their sleeve is the smoky vocals and alluring melodies of V-Kaos.  Her vocals have a haunting quality that fits the music well and provides the songs with a deeper emotional and melodic punch.

“Red Lune” tinkers with the tempos and explores some refreshingly rocking territory on the back of catchy, upbeat doom riffs.  The song supplies some of Salt’s catchiest moments and structurally and musically is one of the more interesting tunes on offer.   Overall the song-writing on Salt is not particularly ‘hooky’ or memorable enough to stick in the brain, but each song does contain its share of enjoyable moments, and the structures have an unconventional and therefore unpredictable quality.  However, A Tree of Signs sound all the more interesting when they mix up the tempos and explore a greater dynamic range.  This will be one of the challenges the band will face in order to take their music to a new level and build more consistent and compelling musical frameworks to support the enticing vocals of V-Kaos.

A Tree of Signs display potential and enough individuality to please die-hard fans of the style, but they don’t quite have the songs, or the production, to compete with the big guns.  Perhaps a rethinking in the studio and a sharpening of their song-writing chops could reap benefits in the future, while surely a guitarist and a few ripping leads would give them some added heft and spark.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
January 10th, 2013


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