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The Mercury Tree - Spidermilk CD (album) cover


The Mercury Tree


Heavy Prog

3.61 | 53 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars What a creepy, unsettling album cover! I hate spiders!

What an amazing, yet unsettling album! I love it!

"The Mercury Tree" comes from Portland, Oregon and is a Heavy Prog band that has been around since 2004. They have gone through a few line-up changes through the years and have had some changes in their overall sound through their 5 full length albums that they have released to date. Their latest album is called "Spidermilk" and it boasts the use of a 17 note microtonal scale. That in and of itself sounds intriguing. This album was released in April of 2019 with the following line-up: Ben Spees on vocals, guitar and keyboards; Connor Reilly on drums; Oliver Campbell on bass; and Igliashon Jones on guitars. Tony Mowe also appears as a guest on alto and baritone saxophones. There are 11 tracks on the album ranging from just under 2 minutes to just over 7 minutes.

The sound of this album is quite unique. There are the microtonal scales that give it the unique and maybe a little alienist sound. The guitars go from a jangly sound to a heavy progressive sound in many of the tracks, and you even get a sense of later King Crimson style arpeggios and chord progression, but add in that sound of the microtonal harmonies and you can add a good amount of dissonance in there too. The vocals, in contrast, are not as dependent on the microtonal scale, so you get this almost pop sound in the vocals (not melody-wise, but tone-wise) and a completely non-commercial sound in the instruments. It's actually a cool sound, kind of jazzy in an abrasive way, yet totally progressive and unique. I love it! But then I tend to love the quirky stuff as long as it is done smartly. When the vocal harmonies come in using the 17-note scale, that is when things really get interesting. That must have been tough getting those tones right.

When you listen to "Arc of an Ilk", you will really notice the odd harmonies. Starting out like a jazzy riff, things go south fast when the vocals start, because this time, the melody is in half tones, and that should completely throw you off. Just wait until you get to the part where the synth plays the repeating atonal chord. By using microtones, it may seem the guitars or vocals are sliding into position giving you the feeling that things are slightly out of tune, but they are not. This all makes sense, and it is something that may not sound right when you first hear it, but if you give it several listens, you'll start to understand how genius this whole thing is.

The song "I'll Pay" is a masterpiece in it's own right with some nice dynamics, changes in tone, crazy bass riffs and totally off the wall passages. Later in the track, the band moves very smoothly into Kayo Dot territory. Yes this is Heavy Prog, but the band's sound definitely moves deep into Avant-Prog territory with this wonderful album.

The instruments were all purposefully tuned to this microtonal scale which give it the unique, yet very nice texture and sound. The album also took 2 years to completely create, and much of that time must have been learning the harmonies and perfecting the sound. I know this is definitely not going to be to everyone's liking, but you can't deny the sound is unique, challenging and groundbreaking, and above all, 100% progressive. Those that love that kind of music will love this, and lovers of RIO/Avant-Prog will love it too, not to mention lovers of progressive jazz. I know this much, I love it! And with the genius behind this music makes it a must have for those that want to be on the cutting edge of progressive music. 5 stars without hesitation!

TCat | 5/5 |


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