There are bands whose power lies in singularity. They’ve released a few albums but, somehow, their power only grew in the years of their silence. Think yndi halda. Think Necrophagist. Think Disillusion. Maybe because we’ve had so much time with so few moments from the band, what we had was gestated over and over again in our brains, until a heady concoction was produced. Perhaps it’s just because we are drawn to the rare, enchanted with the pull of unique things. Whichever the case, If These Trees Could Talk and their two albums (and EP) have echoed much farther than one might expect. Both releases are phenomenal moments within the history of post metal defining, along with bands like Pelican, what instrumental post metal even means. Both releases are like powerful hits on a massive bell, their reverberations echoing throughout the viscous fluid that is the metal scene.
And now, the bell has been struck again. Today marks the release of The Bones of a Dying World, a deep knell which rings for all the lost moments of your life and the places you’ve yet to leave. Instrumental post metal might be a beleaguered genre (one which we keep besieging, because we are slightly masochists) but this album proves that it is still able to cry far and wide. At the basis of this strength lies the hallmark style that always empowered If These Trees Could Talk; the trio of guitarists once again enables them to explore places and ideas that other bands, limited to age old structures of lead and rhythm, are unable to reach.
The album relies heavily on this setup, cleverly playing to the band’s strengths. Take “Swallowing Teeth” for example, one of the calmer tracks on the album but also one of the most beautiful and hauntingly powerful. The metadata says it has a runtime of just over four minutes but that sounds impossible; so much happens during it that it seems much longer. This is because of how the guitars are set up: one constantly explores the staple tremolo pick. The other plays a lilting lead on the guitar, a forlorn musing on frozen lakes and fading, grey skies. The third is in the background, almost droning away to its own chord stylings and progressions. This makes the track thick, resplendent in a full, rich glory that will continue on in your mind long after the runtime itself has ended.
However, the band is far from just that. The drums and bass are an essential part of the inner working of If These Trees Could Talk. Imagine a high tower, asymmetrical, jutting across its balconies. It seems stable but if you would take a closer look at its bottom, you’d see that it rests on one pin and, should that pin be removed, it would come crashing down. Such is the role of the drums and bass here. See for example “After the Smoke Clears”, one of the more complex tracks on the album. The guitars are doing their thing, creating that very same complexity. Underneath, the bass churns out groovy understanding, little touches across the rhythm of the track that make the whole thing come together. The drums are constant and reliable without falling into boredom, hinting towards new things but mainly filling out the places that need more flesh.
In this sense, the most impressive quality of If These Trees Could Talk is that they are a band. You’re listening to a whole which moves together but doesn’t sacrifice flexibility. It’s a many armed monster but one which still holds plenty of prehensile agility and subtlety. Using that subtlety and suppleness of their sound, If These Trees Could Talk can dish it all; we focused on the more ambient and complex tracks above but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention “Iron Glacier”, a heavy and, more surprisingly, catchy track. Yes, amidst all this complexity, The Bones of a Dying World also has catchiness and aggression. Its leads are hoary and sharp, its central riffs powerful and punchy. In the faceted realm of a band that lives internally, gestating more and more energy which culminates in an album in infrequent bursts, all sounds and approaches are fair game. That’s what makes If These Trees Could Talk one of the best post metal bands ever: they never sacrifice one path for the other, never settle for what comes easy on the back of what sounds great.