The Burning Tree – Pariah

Rating: 2.5/5
Distributor/label URL: Self-Released
Released: 2019
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Band line-up:

William Jennings — all instruments, vocals, arrangement, and recording except where noted
Anthony Rich — drums on “Lovely Lyra”
Nina Rich — backing vocals on “Lovely Lyra”
Sarah Powell — backing vocals on “Lovely Lyra”
Patrick Delagrange — drums on “Joan of Arc” and “Operator”

  1. Oranges and Lemons
  2. Lovely Lyra
  3. Joan of Arc
  4. Lost Boy
  5. Operator
  6. Fever

The Burning Tree is a ‘dumpster pop’ project as Ohio native William Jennings puts it – the band leader singing and playing all instruments. (Apart from the stuff performed by guest musicians). Jennings also plays bass is the stoner/doom band Ghost:Hello as well as dabbling in several other DIY projects. His music in TBT is influenced by Dax Riggs, Cocorosie, and The Magnetic Fields and its six song EP ‘Pariah’ will be released on 6th September. It is honest and open, and features themes of evil and tales of loss.

For music without angry super-distorted guitar riffs, heavy, frantic drums and screamed vocals, this mostly ‘clean’ material is pretty dark and creepy. Maybe Jennings would have a bigger audience if he was more ‘metal’, but on the plus side, the work he has produced is more melodic and creative than typical thrash, for instance. The music here has an interesting range of dynamics and colourful textures, but the latter are perhaps a little unusual at times – a sitar-like instrument features in ‘Joan of Arc’ along with wah’d guitars, for example. With repeated listens, they will likely grow, however. Unfortunately, what are most important – lyrical themes – are not so creative, but are rather unadventurous and have dull note choices. Considering the often strong and dreamy harmony, that is a little disappointing.

‘Lost Boy’ has a bit of a Nine Inch Nails vibe which will be pleasing to many, but the singer doesn’t have Trent Reznor’s trademark moody, aggressive attitude. Instead, whilst coming across as tortured he sounds more weird than anything else. The once romantic song ‘Fever’ by Little Willie John sounds more scary than romantic, when covered by Will, that’s for sure. Whether that was his intention or not, without the heavy, rocking/thrashy instrumentation, that’s pretty weird, too. However, whilst the frontman is arguably lacking in charisma, he does seem genuine in his self-expression, which is maybe better in the end. 

In conclusion and in my opinion, it’s hard to see this material having mass appeal. On the plus side, the singer is very good at showing his suffering moods, but his choice of genre is kind of unusual. But not to the point of sounding totally bizarre. It’s certainly different, I’ll give him that. The compositions have their strengths and flaws; everything flows nicely and the music sounds musically ‘correct’ if a little wrong emotionally, but it is lacking in catchiness. Give this album a try if you like stuff that is daring and quirky, but maybe not if you’re into music with virtuosic displays and genius writing. 

Review by Simon Wiedemann