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Following up last year's debut offering, 'Vine', The Man-Eating Tree have made a swift return with sophomore album 'Harvest', the title apparently being a reference to the Finnish autumn. So I guess an autumnal/winter release is rather apt and, despite the fact it was recorded "during a time when Finland was suffering from the worst heat wave in many years", there's no sonic sunshine present in the songs, rather melancholically infused gloom and moody, crestfallen melodies throughout. The Finns seem to be so adept at balancing out said qualities - Swallow the Sun are an immediate example that spring to mind - and, likewise, The Man-Eating Tree also fuse melancholy and melody to great effect on 'Harvest'. 'Vine' is a release that passed me by so I have no point of comparison to judge how the band have progressed between releases although this time sees the addition of another guitarist, Antti Karhu, who was recruited, according to the press sheet, "to create the right depth and soundscape that was needed for their music". And the two guitars are layered and used to good effect as heavy chords resonate crushingly underneath lead guitar parts that are always given enough breathing space to develop melodically interesting ideas. Heidi Määttä's keyboards add another dimension to the The Man-Eating Tree's sound which, combined with the mainly down-tempo rhythm section of Mikko Uusimaa's bass and ex-Sentenced member Vesa Ranta's drums, form fairly captivating, atmospheric instrumentations over which Tuomas Tuominen exercises the smooth tonality of his clean vocals. It all works really well although my main criticism is the lack of variety and unoriginality in the songs. Sonic nods towards the second wave of doom's hegemonists, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, rear their head on occasion and, generally, the Finns opt for generic pastiche rather than transcendence. With that said, given a little time and a few listens, the sublimity of some of the melodies do start to come to the fore, thus partly compensate for the lack of songwriting innovation. At best, though, at least for me, 'Harvest', is a good album but certainly not a great one.
Century Media
Review by Mark Holmes
28th Nov 2011
1) Harvest Bell
2) At the Green Country Chapel
3) Code of Surrender
4) Armed
5) Like Mute Companions
6) Exhaled
7) Down to the Color of the Eye
8) Incendere
9) All You Kept Free
10) Karsikko
"...The Man-Eating Tree...fuse melancholy and melody to great effect..."