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DEAD SOUL TRIBE 'The January Tree' Inside Out Music (2004)

Dead Soul Tribe

From little acorns mighty oaks do grow. Whether or not the January Tree is an oak is open to discussion, but one thing is certain - Devon Graves has definitely planted something quite unique in today’s Metal scene.

Inside Out is traditionally known as a ‘progressive’ label, which implies that Dead SoulTribe could be pigeonholed as such (although, in my opinion, unlike most genres, the term ‘progressive’ is actually quite loose and offers greater scope for self-expression).

You will not, however, find the classical Dream Theater-esque progressions in Dead Soul Tribe’s music, it is generally more ‘accessible’ to the untrained ear, due to its rhythmical, hypnotic drumbeats, thanks to Adel Moustafa, and its undulating guitar melodies.

Dead Soul Tribe’s combination of guitar, keyboards and the flute (which makes a star appearance on ‘Toy Rockets’), together with a few reminders by Devon of his former band, Psychotic Waltz, are enough to captivate both the traditional Heavy Metal fan and Progressive Enthusiast alike.

Devon was quoted in an interview after the release of Dead Soul Tribe’s previous release, ‘A Murder of Crows’, as saying: ‘I don’t really change from one album to the next. Hopefully I grow, but I don’t really change. Like a tree, where it starts out small and every year there’s a few more branches and it just gets bigger and bigger.

'You can see this sort of pattern of growth from the first to the second album and if I tend my garden well there will be the same growth from the second to the third. The direction will be upward and outwards like the tree was going to begin with’. I am not sure whether Ian Anderson’s prodigal ‘son’ wanted to give us a clue at this point regarding his subsequent release, but these words definitely offer an insight into the idea behind the new album and the direction in which both Devon and the band is heading.

Listening to the opening track, ‘Spiders and Flies’, you could be forgiven for thinking that the January Tree is actually ‘A Murder of Crows, Part II’, as many of the riffs and melodies on this song echo those of the previous album, but this misconception is short-lived: yes, Devon still uses similar rhythms and vocal melodies, but there is a definite movement here beyond the horizon drawn by ‘A Murder of Crows’. Presented here is a more balanced approach to songwriting- Devon Graves’ trademark pessimism is the starting point for most songs on the album; the rhythmical drumming is then phased out and Devon changes his singing to a softer, more lyrical style. A perfect example of this approach is the track ‘Waiting For The Answer’.

Most of the tracks on the album follow a similar style of development, but one that is worth mentioning particularly, ‘Just Like a Timepiece’, is actually a song written by Devon in his former ‘life’ as Buddy Lackey, a song which he has chosen to re-introduce as the penultimate track of the album. This is a beautiful song with a melody, as well as the gentle softness in Devon’s voice, that captivate the listener, but there is a small variation towards the end in which he releases his pent-up frustration, and then returns to the calmness of the song. It could be that Devon wishes to make this a ‘signature’ song, a thread to be pulled through his future work, a reflection of the ‘growth’ he spoke about - the name certainly implies this - but even if he doesn’t, this is still a fantastic bonus for anyone buying the album.

Devon is an enigmatic figure and it is a belief of mine (I may be quite wrong, mind you) that Mr. Graves uses his music more as a medium for self-expression, an outlet for frustration, anger and disappointment, as opposed to a ‘weapon’ in the fight for his beliefs. ‘Why’ is a perfect example - there is a feeling of despair and bitterness both in the music and the lyrics, in which Devon sings ‘Land of Democracy, Land of Hypocrisy,Land of Morality, Hand of Brutality’.

There are no prizes for guessing which Land is being referred to, but the anger with which he sings the refrain gives us an idea as to his feelings towards the place. A different musical approach, but a similar sentiment, is expressed in Buddy Lackey’s ‘Let’s Start a War!’ (off the solo project, ‘The Strange Mind of Buddy Lackey’). Incidentally, Buddy Lackey was Devon’s former name before he changed it voluntarily to Devon Graves. How Morbid.

The only reason why this album doesn’t get top marks is because we all know that Dead Soul Tribe is capable of progressing even further and achieving even more and I somehow believe that Devon is one of those artists who will never be fully satisfied with what he produces. Otherwise, this is a must for all Dead Soul Tribe and Psychotic Waltz fans and generally all lovers of great music.


Review by Emily Dgebuadze


***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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