"A tree in winter – naked, the leaves have fallen, it stretches its thin branches in desperation to the cloudy sky." This is the conceptual basis of "The January Tree", according to DEAD SOUL TRIBE mainman Devon Graves — a man perhaps better known as Buddy Lackey from his days in Californian proggers PSYCHOTIC WALTZ. Pretentious? Yes, perhaps, but what really strikes you about this album apart from the will to delve deeply into the mundane (hey, it's a prog thing) is the stark nature of the sound that stays within the cordons of its organic production and refuses point-blank to explode into any degree of riotous heavy metal mayhem.
Ye olde progressive influences are certainly swimming around in there — from the flutes that punctuate the guitar drone of "Wings Of Faith" to the wealth of sullen mood-switching that renders "Spiders and Flies" an epic of biblical proportions in just a second over six minutes — but still, rather curiously, "The January Tree" ends up actually being a very repetitive album on the whole. And the reason for this is fairly simple — Graves, by his own admission, is a big TOOL fan, and seeing as he gets his hands on every instrument on this album bar the drums (ably thumped by Abel Moustafa), we get lots of that "take a riff and loop it for minutes on end" thing that the aforementioned contemporary weird-proggers just love to do. Hence, the likes of "Sirens" and "The Coldest Day Of Winter", far from being disastrous pieces of music, are just very hard to stay with through their repetitive, blunted guitars and hugely understated vocals. "Waiting For The Answer" is underpinned by tribal rhythms, which you do get lost in to an extent, although you'd be hard-pushed to explain exactly why with anything approaching brimming enthusiasm.
Far more uplifting are the two closing tracks — "Just Like A Timepiece" and "Lady Of Rain". The former is actually a re-record of a track from one of Graves's early solo albums, so possesses a lot more variation and texture, where as the latter is a piano ballad with bags of charm.
Much like its wintery theme, this album is cold, somewhat desolate and strangely attractive in some aspects. You can only take so much cold before you earn for more warming, colorful sounds, though.