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Very strong but unfortunately overlooked - 80%

Noktorn, January 30th, 2011

It's funny to me that all this band had to do was change their name to Ingurgitating Oblivion and they suddenly received way more attention than they'd ever had. I guess brutal death metal fans think a name like Of Trees And Orchids isn't bro enough. Well, it isn't, but the name does do pretty well to indicate that what you'll be hearing likely doesn't have many slams, nor lyrics about date rape and Natty Ice. Of Trees And Orchids were (or are, depending on interpretation) one of those avant-garde, somewhat progressive brutal death bands that seem to have mostly disappeared from the scene as of late, which is unfortunate: though the results weren't always great, they were unfailingly interesting. 'Thought-Cathedral', though, is one of the better releases in that style- yeah, it has its hiccups and inconsistencies, but overall, for a self-released CD, this is pretty high up there in quality.

The base of this band's music is a technical, progressive breed of brutal death. The brutal death itself seems to combine an NY or California brutal death sense of songwriting with a bit of oldschool weirdness ala Morbid Angel. It's closest in feel to the Unmatched Brutality or Unique Leader sound (unsurprisingly the band was later signed to the former when they changed their name), but significantly more streamlined that those labels usually released. While this is distinctly modern, given all its oddball non-metal influences, there's a definite oldschool vibe to much of the riffing- clearly the members of this band worship at the altar of oldschool Floridian and Swedish death metal, but the riffing style is amped up with an increase in technicality and speed, giving this the vibe of a smoother, more 'respectable' Disgorge. In short, this is deliberately seeking to avoid any brutal death stereotypes, which I would usually decry, but in this case works.

The brutal death on this album is dotted with numerous non-metal passages, from swirling ambiance with spoken word accompaniment to the odd jazzy break in the middle of a morass of blast beats and chaotic riffs. An early Kataklysm's sense of controlled chaos dominates this music- while Of Trees And Orchids do love their crazy technical bursts of blast beats, sudden fills, and twisting melodies, there's a certain consistency and reliability to how the band structures their music; it's never particularly surprising, but it's very engaging even if somewhat predictable. The technical skill on display here was probably pretty remarkable circa 2000, though it's dwarfed now- these are definitely very accomplished musicians, and the array of riffs and musical passages that are presented on every song tends to get pretty dizzying, with tiny variations on short riffs puncturing the songs and creating a sense of entropy without confusion.

There's a few more fun elements to this release: the absurdly brutal, Mortician-like grunting vocal presence, the periodic slow, Incantation-inspired double bass passages, or the hints of the avant-garde that litter the album, like the occasional clean vocals or synths which emerge from the background of the somewhat flat production. Admittedly, these avant-garde wanderings don't always work- brutal death bands really need to stop the jazzy fills- but in other instances, like on the self-titled track, where clean male and female vocals harmonize beautifully despite the chaos preceding it, it's surprisingly effective despite how out of place it might seem. Of Trees And Orchids is one of the only more stridently avant-garde brutal death bands I've seen who appear to be making such music not to prove a point, but out of necessity for the songwriting. Always a good thing.

This album is hardly perfect- the riffs are typically solid but not overtly memorable, and the songwriting can get a bit meandering and slowly paced for its own good- but it's still a very strong release from a band whose older catalog deserves more interest from the brutal death scene. This is a brutal death record for those who decry the genre- give it a listen and try it out regardless of your feelings on the style.