Nature is Beautiful (Vol. V – Tree Weirdos)


The chemical pull of nectar is more than just temptation for a fly, it’s an opportunity for survival and future generations. The quarry appears unguarded: no confined spaces, no spiders lurking in clustered petals, just a thin lip lined with sustenance. (It’s a literal version of the “free lunch” we sapiens have been warned about.) The waxen walls of the pitcher plant make short work of the insect’s struggles, and it slips into a pool of digestive fluid where it slowly disintegrates at the hands (flagella?) of bacteria and plant-based enzymes.

That’s all just a long way of saying that plants aren’t as meek and static as they’re often portrayed—Bob Ross wasn’t painting happy little Cape Sundews during his program. Plants and animals have been in competition for nearly half a billion years, and it can be seen around the world to this day: from corpse flowers to the Sword-billed Hummingbird, the evolutionary arms race between the kingdoms has stretched and compacted organisms into all manner of peculiar shapes. Let’s take a trip; can you not hear the sounds of the forest beckoning?

Aye-Aye – Percussive Foraging

So you’re the doomy/sludgey type—you’ve set Primitive Man as your alarm clock and your band’s list of influences on Facebook just says “hate” (apparently you went to school at NIHILISM as well). When you take a break from rereading your dog-eared No Exit CliffsNotes to attend a social event, your seething menace is met with little more than a slow drifting away of the party people. The Aye-Aye knows what it’s like to be truly hated; when spotted, they are often killed on sight by the Malagasy people, as the critters are thought to be harbingers of doom whose appearance predicts a death in the community. Being pointed at with their massive middle fingers supposedly marks you for death; in reality, this digit is used in a rare behavior called percussive foraging, a sort of echolocation performed by tapping on trees to find areas hollowed out by grubs. (This method is also effective when searching for positive qualities in sludge fans.)

Li’l guy uses its middle fingers more than Rob Flynn after his daily Red Bull suppository.

Here’s the technique in action:

Cranial‘s “Burning Bridges” is the musical equivalent of percussive foraging; when the concrete mix of the bass tone hits your sternum, it feels like the song is probing for weaknesses, like it wants to pull raw feelings from within. This is sludge that isn’t afraid to ditch the misanthropy for moments that reflect the actual range of human emotions—making the music more impactful in the process. Whether cleaning up their sound with pensive melodies or laying down thick grooves that get the body moving, Cranial understands that being destroyed and being placed back together can be equally cathartic.

Quaking Aspen – Clonal Colony (Pando)

You hold yourself as a true defender of the faith, swatting down “invasive” trends and making sure your local scene is as insular as possible so you can complain that new music is stagnant. There’s no gate you wouldn’t keep, no blending of styles you wouldn’t turn your nose up to, but compared to Pando, you’re a musical bleeding heart. This clonal colony of Quaking Aspens (propagating through vegetative reproduction) is essentially an entire forest composed of genetically identical trees, a single organism covering 106 acres of land in Utah. Its roots run deeper than yours (they’re thought to be ~80k years old), it’s heavier than you (6,600 tons), and it’s less inclusive; rival conifers and younger trees have been unable to gain a foothold anywhere near Pando due to environmental factors. Take notes, genre purists—this is how you create an army of clones.

Oh, so you’re into asexual reproduction? Name three rhizomes.

On the surface, Lungs might seem like a single tree lost in a forest of post-metal clones, but if you dig down into the soil, you’ll see how far their roots expand—into different genres, moods and tempos. “Oak” begins with a lush clean section (accompanied by MJK-esque crooning, minus all of the…everything) before flowing into bursts of sludgy palm-muted riffing and even some crusty black metal towards the end. There’s no respect for genre lines here; you’re as likely to hear indie folk influence as atmospheric growls à la A Forest of Stars.

Wilson’s bird-of-paradise – He just so extra (Iridescent Display)

Elaborate stagecraft? Duh. More layers than the ruffled Victorian clothing worn by all 9 members of your band? Oh, yes. These garish outfits are most often used by symphonic metal bands to draw attention from labels, but they serve another purpose in the avian world: attracting mates (this usually has the opposite effect with humans). Maintaining a bright sheen takes energy, and the elaborate courtship rituals can be downright exhausting due to the weight of oversized display feathers; only the most fit individuals will impress females. Just take a look at the Wilson’s bird-of-paradise. Go on, look. We’ll talk in a minute.

When your threads say “I work as a clown for a living” but your tailfeathers say “I drink exclusively double dry-hopped IPAs.”

Along with being fresh as h*ck in the fashion department, he also prepares a special arena on the forest floor; after clearing a patch of leaves and other detritus, the male performs a complex dance that reflects sunlight in a dazzling array of colors. He sings too—he’s basically the one your birdfriend told you not to worry about.

From the first seconds of Wilderun‘s “Far From Where Dreams Unfurl,” listeners are bombarded with synths, choirs, kitchen sinks and even traditional metal instruments. It’s a flashy mix of symphonic power metal and prog (with a hint of thrash riffing in places) that never trips over its long list of influences. The songwriting verges on overwhelming at times, but the orchestral elements are anchored by the rhythm section (especially the varied drum performance) and never feel like they’re drowning out other aspects of the music. There’s a bit of Roy Khan (ex-Kamelot) in the vocals, which, when combined with the surrealistic album art, give the impression of wandering through a folk tale—one with no shortage of details and motifs to explore.

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