MEN AS TREES- From The Crow's Nest, Looking Out (Blank Forest Records)
With as esoteric a band name as MEN AS TREES, it can be inferrred that music produced by such a band will live up to the strangeness of their name, and while From The Crow's Nest, Looking Out
isn't exactly unclassifiable avant-garde material, these four Michigan musicians do indeed take an interesting approach on a style that often is associated with general negativity: screamo. The band describe themselves as "experimental screamo", and simply judging by the lengths of the two songs on this EP (each in the 13 minute range) they've definitely nailed the experimental part down. MEN AS TREES incorporate a lot of post-rock into their sound, expanding the sound and giving it a cold, meandering atmosphere. This is definitely solitary nighttime music, intense even when the music isn't heavy. When the band do get going full-throttle, the vocals drive a stake through the icy desolation and immediately convey the sense of utter desperation and anger that so many screamo and emo artists try and often fail to communicate effectively. The effectiveness comes from the fact that they are completely relentless the entire time and sound so honest and real. This is aided by the awesomely low-budget production, which in this case helps out a ton. Its not so DIY that its difficult to listen to, not by a long shot, but it clearly sounds like all the basic music was all recorded together probably in the same room during one full take. That also probably accounts for some of improvisational qualities and also the long songs lengths; there is a lot of repetition along with unnecessarily dragged-out buildups, which if edited down could have probably improved the songs. Further evidence is when the guitars and bass are playing unaccompanied you can even hear the rattling of the snare drum from the vibrations (if you're in a band or play drums you know what I'm talking about). It all gives a really genuine feel to the recording, and personally I am a fan of less polished recordings, so this is a major advantage. MEN AS TREES are one of the only bands of this ilk that I listen to, because they do it with such honesty and raging passion that the emotion is actually tangible.
The first song "Come Outside And Warm Yourself By The Wolf's Sun" builds up quietly for the first half the song with some great atmospheric post-rock, before just exploding into a total blind rage of anger and hatred, absolutely dripping with emotion from the pounding drums and maniacal wailing screams. The guitars are incredible as well, with some hint even of a little melodic death metal near the end. Another fantastically titled number in "Driving North On Withered Winds" makes up the other half of the album, one that starts off more immediately with straight-forward hardcore punk feel to it. The drumming is insane too once again, this dude just plain hits hard. One of the coolest parts is when the music slows down and gets quiet the singer starts almost chanting, and it builds and builds in intensity along with music, and right when it seems like all hell is about the break loose again, they pull in the reigns unexpectedly and go back into another wonderful clean section.
This is just awesome stuff that I enjoy more and more every time I hear it. Jam-packed with raw emotion that manifests itself even in the delicate parts of the music, the From The Crow's Nest, Looking Out
EP is a refreshing take on a genre that ironically seems to lack emotion above all else. Bands like MEN AS TREES are putting the "emo" back in "emotional."