REVIEW: Sea of Trees – Envision [2014]


Artist: Sea of Trees

Album: Envision


It isn’t too often that bands write music that truly reflects their name—that truly melds with the moniker they have chosen to identify themselves as. More often than not, it’s simply a matter of like-minded men and women who hear something and…well hey that sounds cool. It isn’t a common occurrence that the music that emerges from the project stands true to the projects name; but as long as the music is good, who cares, right? Fortunately for the two-man project Sea of Trees, they hit on the best of both worlds with their full length masterpiece, Envision. Envision is a collection of songs that have all the power, irreverence and steadfast resolution as a hundred-year-old Oak—yet has the fluid, immersive dynamic and rolling, powerful intensity as the world’s most boundless bodies of water. Sea of Trees craft a punishing, yet poetic album that will beat the listener into submission and rip the heart from their chest—only to show them that no matter what, there are ways to keep it beating.

Let us break down Sea of Trees’ name—and their subsequent dynamic—into its two major constituents, shall we? This means the first thing that must be dived in to is the sprawling, oceanic expanses of mesmerizing sound present on Envision. Tracks like “Sky” and “Workaholic” feature guitar lines and vocal harmonies that soar sky-high and create vast, in-depth soundscapes that ebb and flow as smoothly as waves along the album’s shoreline. Intricate, looping riffs harmonize with hypnotic electronic elements and punchy, rolling bass tones that lull the listener into a daze deeper than the strongest drugs—however, these spans of smooth aural sailing only last for so long. Like any ocean, Envision is prone to moments of unpredictable turbulence. This is exceptionally true in “Bare,” a brief snippet of soul-shredding, surreal, stormy heaviness that is laced with the same mesmerizing synth that seems like the listener is trapped in a demented, violent version of Pokemon Red/Blue’s Lavender Town. In this respect, even the album’s tracks of immense, lumbering heaviness feature hints and touches of ethereal, transient atmosphere that allow them flow. Contrast this with “Narcissistic” or “Wasted Potential,” the two tracks which flank “Bare.” Both of these tracks are home to over-the-top moments of hypermelody and harmonization that place a firm, capable chokehold on the listener’s focus and attention span. This same chokehold manifests itself in the towering stalwarts of aggression that define the other half of the act’s dynamic.

Trees—speechless, timeless guardians of our planet. With strength and stubbornness enough to transcend eons, the integrity of these lumbering legions is the source of our earth’s very existence. In this respect, the some of the finest moments of Envision arise not from Sea of Trees’ penchant for the placid and harmonious, but for the bold and bashful—or rather skull-bashing. “Bare,” along with “Pills” and “Blown” are perfect examples of this. In these tracks, smashing, spine-shredding percussion bowl through the fields of ambience and passion standing in their way—while razor sharp guitar lines and intense vocals follow suit, leveling the jagged path foraged by the drums. “Pills” especially—along with “Bare”—is home to a vocal onslaught that sears directly through the listener’s skin and into their skull, sucking up their sanity as if a syringe and using it to fuel the peace-hungry violence-engine that Sea of Trees have brought to life.

The Poetry that is Sea of Trees—and their album Envision—doesn’t truly come to life until the two aspects of their sound reach a marvelous equilibrium. “Bare,” along with “Workaholic” and “Coward” showcase this best. Awe-inspiring atmosphere sucks the listener in, swirling them around like a tide-pool in the beaches and sandbars of the album. This is transient—as soon, intense instrumentation and aggressive, reproachful vocals pull the listener into the release’s expansive depths, grabbing their ankles and pulling them slowly under, forcing them to choke on the band’s hard-hitting, hard-to-swallow bitterness and energy. These moments are where the album is richest in both emotion and evocative imagery—drawing from personal experiences of Brandon McKagan and Ryan Strain—to create an intense, immersive experience. However, Sea of Trees aren’t without their slight squalls; there are moments of Envision which find the band over-indulging in their proclivity to produce ambient, peaceful reprieves where they are neither needed nor fit. These are forgivable, however—as moments like the ones found in “Revision” and “Sky” are brief, and do not truly detract from the album, but rather break the hypnotic effect crafted by the remainder of the tracks.

Lost, drifting in a tiny lifeboat, the listener embarks upon the journey that is Envision. Sea of Trees combine devastating aggression, engaging energy, passionate, emotive and poetic lyrics with electronic effects and prolapse-inducing heaviness alike to create a dynamic, fluid mosaic of pure intensity—even if it finds itself lapsing in focus towards its conclusion. At the end of the day, Envision is a release from Sea of Trees the listener will be more than happy to find themselves lost at sea in.



For Fans Of: Anamanagucci, Searching for Satellites, The Overseer

By: Connor Welsh