“Breath of Life” opens this Post-Rock/Metal instrumental recording in a way that feels as though a curtain to all life were being raised. Out of the darkened landscapes comes a sudden burst of light washing across the land, bleeding into “The First Fire” and it’s Sludge-heavy presence. Traces of the cleaner notes from the previous track linger from time to time, but the richer segments that pick up the pace with a bulkier distortion stand out the most, sorely not all for the better. Sure, the slower sections carry a little Progressive Rock styled mood to them akin to Animals as Leaders, but, while heart warming, they don’t help the washed out cymbals of the drums. That instrument winds up being the one major flaw of Red Forest. The rest of the kit sounds okay, though the distance they seem to come from could have been restricted a little bit overall. While it plays into the atmospheric tendencies of the album, their presence can be grossly overlooked due to the louder guitars and bass.
Red Forest does dabble in its fair share of Shoegaze as well. The sombre, far more intimate “Barren Lands of the Modern Dinosaur” really does set up a bleak presence void of life thanks to more Sludge Metal chords with hints of that aforementioned style scattered among some of the hooks throughout the just over six minute performance. Then there’s the title track and the passionate riffs you would expect to grace an Alcest album during their heavily Depressive Black Metal oriented days. The music itself simply feels cold and unforgiving, as if lost on a frostbitten plateau with no signs of life around as you struggle to get warm somehow, a hope answered by “Aleutian Clouds”. The vibrant and largely upbeat cut envelops you like a blanket with one wondrous riff after another, often as if looking up at the night sky inquisitively with friends in what could be considered one of the best nights of your life.
This entire journey eventually leads you to “When the Big Hand Buries the Twelve”, which, to me, was interpretted a few different ways. At times, the lead hooks can maintain the frosty environment that carries across to this one to an extent, but the underlying bass presence and drum patterns can also play up a hazy jungle theme. It can feel as though you’re the middle of the night after a rain storm with life blooming once more around you, all the while being bundled up with your family watching the rain drops fall, warmed by the fire in your cave or some other similar shelter.
Interpretation of music is often widely debated among fans of a certain band or genre. While there are times where unanimous reasoning behind the concept or theme can be met, some bands make it impossible to settle for just one outcome. If These Trees Could Talk stands firm on presenting their music in a way that remains open to interpretation, which really made this review hard to write in order to do it as much justice as possible. Every time through it seemed as though what I thought the atmospheric goal was for a song, the next time around something proved it differently. Red Forest is a well composed full-length that seems to continue evolving, especially based on the mood you happen to be in while it plays. With the “Post-” movement gaining plenty of speed, it’s easy to say that If These Trees Could Talk have their own sound that shouldn’t be lumped in with every other band out there, as they span multiple styles in order to present their take on this one in particular. It’s just a shame that the drums don’t come through as beautifully as everything else about this release does. If you’re the kind of person who appreciates mood and emotion in their music, Red Forest is a relatively laid back experience that can take you on a nice little journey if you let it.