This is a really interesting release. I remember The Old Dead Tree in particular from their excellent 2003 work “The Nameless Disease”. They followed this up with two albums before splitting, resulting in the EP “The End” being their first release for 12 years. As for the band, they are French and have connections with Arkan. But what I remember most about “The Nameless Disease” was its plaintive atmosphere which gave Katatonia a run for their money. At the time I was listening to a lot of French bands, in particular Himinbjorg, but instead of following a pagan pattern the more gothically inclined Old Dead Tree stood on their own with their strong and distinctive, mournful songs. Unsurprisingly The Old Dead Tree have shared the stage with Opeth, Paradise Lost and Katatonia.

The deliberate prog build up and the vulnerable vocal tones are familiar. The song structure and craftsmanship on “Sorry” are strong. Growls intervene and the sorrowful mood becomes darker. “Someone Should Know (The Truth)” has similar power. The quiet acoustic start breaks out. The vocalist sounds as if he is making an appeal. Instrumentally progress is smooth and laden with strength and colour of a shadowy and sinister kind. “Kids” starts with a typical light metal melody before giving way to a complex, increasingly epic piece. Emotion mixes with instrumental twists. It came as no surprise to hear symphonic tones. Developing into a metal song, there are spoken words, harmonies and above all emotion. The Old Dead Tree’s imagery is powerful and vivid. There are heavy passages, but songs like “The End Again” stand out for their musical variety and lingering reflection.

Throughout this EP I felt a sense of regret in the themes. This is not untypical of the band. The focus in this case is the death of one of their members 20 years ago. It’s too trite to say that everything points to a gloomy outcome, although this is the impression given. “The End” suggests finality for the band, and the album plays out in this spirit but as well as being another collection of well structured metal songs, for me it’s the unending sensitivity which is the most striking thing.

(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)