Review Summary: The album that depicts Tre Watson at a crossroads between the dark and heavy "Death of a Monarch" and what seems to be a bright, new, progressive sound.
There's a lot of potential to Tre Watson. That's been evident since his first release, Lexicon of the Human Subconscious,
but, arguably, the stigma surrounding him has held him from living up to it. Tre is looked at as a monolith of the djent community, and as a musician with a solid foot in the establishment of the genre, it can be hard not to tie yourself to that sound. Unfortunately, tying yourself to something like that can sometimes be exceedingly limiting, as has been the case for Tre. While Lexicon
was an impressive first outing and a new spin on things in the djent scene, followup Death of a Monarch
came around at a time when the djent scene suddenly became flooded with "talent" capable of unleashing down-tuned, syncopated chugs to the sounds of a singer being disemboweled. Unfortunately, Monarch
proved a formulaic djent piece stripped of melody with only halfhearted attempts at the experimentation and humor seen on Lexicon
, and was, ultimately, a disappointment.
Lesson apparently learned, Tre Watson released Gravestones
, his first solo piece since Monarch
on September 10th. The serious and emotional hue is still present on this album as it had been on Monarch
, but this time around it seems genuine. Not only that, but the melody and experimentation that had been removed on Monarch
have suddenly come back in droves. From the melodic and atmospheric opening of "The Mortal Coil," it's apparent that Tre is finally back to a point where he's ready to dial things up and play outside of the djent comfort zone. In truth, the album reads as much more progressive than anything else, which is a welcome surprise coming off the heels of Monarch
The listener will find that the EP is infused with orchestral arrangements, 8-bit midi parts, bass groove breaks, record scratches, dubstep breaks, vocals from death growls to vocoder-based Cynic-esque vocal harmonies, and of course, masterful guitar solos. Most importantly, however, on Gravestones
, Tre cultivates a sound that, on each track, develops a cohesive sound from start to finish, making a logical and interesting progression along the way. His decision to incorporate such a vast variety of sounds seems to be out of a genuine desire to create a new and interesting sound all his own, and he certainly succeeds.
The biggest fault with Gravestones
may be its jarring translation from the light, warm, atmospheric sound of opener "The Mortal Coil" to the more metalcore-based "Demise" that seems better suited, on the whole to Tre's band, Carthage. While it's hard to say the track isn't good on its own merit, it's easy to say it doesn't fit in. The opening guitar lick seems to play into the previous melody and leads the listener along, but the sound of Matt Renner's mix-dominating death vocals crushes that illusion, which is unfortunate, being that a strained ear brings out some nice-sounding guitar melodies for a time before they're swapped out for low chugs. While the clean vocals on the track are generally acceptable to good, the presentation unfortunately falters until the three minute mark, where the melodic outro begins.
To an extent, this fault carries over into the following track, "Thread of Humanity," but only to the extent of its first few minutes where blast beats and death vocals become a bit overbearing. Luckily, powerful, clean choruses interrupt the dark sound, and a music box effect drives the track back into the more progressive direction and delivers it from the deathcore elements, allowing the track to take off in a progressive and somewhat digitized sounding direction comparable to Last Chance to Reason's recent release, Level 2
while alternating with progressive swells that liken themselves to bands such as Dream Theater and Seventh Wonder.
Of course, the true highlight of the album is eighteen minute closing epic "Dancing on Gravestones," featuring Dan Wieten of The Omega Experiment. The orchestral element is brought to full effect to close out the EP here, and begins with an authentic orchestral composure by Alex Previty that translates into a groove spanning the length of the track, highlighted by Wieten's always amazing voice, complete with as many well-done variations in as many relevant styles as possible. It is here that Tre shows his chops and modernizes the instrumental epic track by seamlessly integrating metal, rock, virtuoso, orchestral, hip hop, dubstep, and progressive styles. This is the track that really shows Tre take off and is certainly worth the attention of any listener new or old.
On the whole, Gravestones
provides a little of something old and a great optimistic view into the future for Tre Watson. With any luck, Tre will continue to examine his strengths, experiment with his form, and continue to move his sound forward as illustrated particularly by the first and final tracks of the album. With this much marked improvement from his last album, expectations should be high for Watson's next full-length release.