On their sophomore EP Saturn, Portugal doom rockers A Tree Of Signs conjure a ritualistic concoction of Sabbathian riff ballads and grim stoner dirges. Following the departure of vocalist V-Kaos, the band’s reverence of 70s rockism has been pushed to forefront of their songwriting with the arrival of Diana Silveira on vocals. While the band takes a number of cues from the essential texts in the stoner/doom canon, Saturn is more than just Electric Wizard worship. From the imposingly intricate Nick Blinko-esque cover art, one would estimate a quintessentially dark and foreboding doom album, but what awaits within is the demon seed of Thorr’s Hammer and Hawkwind.
The prophetical “Red Lune II” sets the ceremonial tone of the album from the first bar of hand clap rhythms and thick, filthy guitar strikes. The Delphian moans of Silveira preach of apocalypse and destruction, often reaching Dio levels of ham. Although the juxtaposition of the grandiose lyrical themes and the base instrumentals create a suitably jarring sense of discomfort, it’s easy to catch yourself banging heads to the ‘70s tinge. It’s really enjoyable and could almost fit in a party setting, though the ambitious concepts pursued by the band seem lost within the more accessible songwriting.
The title track is the real meat of the EP, building on the band’s doom rock formula with an almost post-punkish groundwork, with cosmic synth textures and vocal layering, which although is reminiscent of their debut, is still updated to their current sound. The keys along with the vocal layering really creates a huge spacious feeling within the song. The primal percussion and the tight guitar work works in tandem with the majestic vocal work, swelling and evoking a huge anthemic quality about it. It’s huge.
The issues with Saturn reside mostly in its direction. Although it rocks as a record, it is tied down by its ambition. The band’s technical and songwriting abilities are superb and the musicians themselves have great chemistry between one another, but Saturn feels like it aspires to be more than it is. The middle-child of the album, the third part in the ‘Red Lune’ saga, feels lost within its two older siblings and between two short ambient interludes; It feels more like an unnecessary segue in an already brief record with its lack of expansion or progression, which in a sense reflects the whole record itself. While the songs themselves check all the criteria of rocking, their direction feels aimless and lost.
While A Tree of Signs claim that their primary muse is the recitation of old ‘alchemical manuscripts’, aiming to create a “musical ritual”, this interesting and promising approach is dwarfed by the almost poppish sensibilities of the record; the problem is that these lyrical aspects are unfortunately second-hand to the music itself, and in a band which draws so much of its inspiration from classic heavy metal, it’s difficult to pitch their talent based on something like that.