Reviewed: March 2023
Released: 2023, self-released
Reviewer: Simon Wiedeman
From The Petrified Forest are an instrumental post metal/progressive metal band from Portland, Oregon who formed in 2008. They self released their latest album Seahearse II on 1st of January, 2023 and it is a reimagined and re-recorded version of their prior album ‘Seahearse.’ The original album was intended to be performed as a trio, meaning its sonic and melodic depth was limited. The newer versions of the tracks are more complicated and interesting.
Early on in opening track ‘Colossal’, it is found that for vocal-less music the sound is a little stripped down in terms of instrumentation. Don’t expect the more ‘full of life’ style of Steve Vai. However, when it comes to structure, things are actually very clever, varied and beautifully flowing in impossible to predict ways. (Impossible at first I mean – we all have memories). If the band had James LaBrie as a singer, the listener could think Dream Theater have released yet another very admirable effort with Seahearse, just a little darker in tone than Images and Words, for example. Personally, I’d have loved to hear the guy providing vocals for FTPF. So if the latter band are reading this review, please bear that in mind and consider searching for a frontman. I know that you’ve already made some improvements with this release, why not take things further?? In Colossal, I’m sometimes reminded of Metallica’s ‘The Call of Ktulu’ in terms of harmony a little. The following section is more doomy, kind of think the thrash metaller’s clean intro section of ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’, but bleaker and more adventurous.
‘Hunter/Gatherer’ has some surprisingly pretty harmonies, kind of like an electric version of Yngwie Malmsteen’s acoustic guitar piece ‘Memories’, before switching to a more metal sound once again. The twisting of the rhythms of the guitars and drums is particularly cool. Even DT don’t always get quite so much out of their ideas as FTPF do, the latter band really do know what works and when enough is enough. The song speeds up to a Mastodon style, showing the band can very easily compete with some of the genre’s best. However, they don’t show off all the time, rather they play complex ideas to achieve their goals of exciting and captivating. Don’t expect any mindless shredding. Towards the end, there is a section somewhat reminiscent of the evil yet super fun chords of Sabbath’s ‘Symptom of the Universe’, just without the drum soloing on top of them.
‘For Our Friends in The Fossil Record’ has some more strange and interesting harmonies but rather than them being truly otherworldly, I’d instead call them ‘semi otherworldly’. What does that mean? Maybe I’m reminded of mysterious deep sea life, rather than aliens. Maybe that’s just me. I forget what my point is. No, I’m just trying to say imagine an out-there sound, just not offputtingly so. I’m not sure I’d call the track friendly, if someone dedicated a song like that to me, I’d probably feel just a little bit fearful, but it does have a positive energy to it at times, I guess. Phew. But hearing the intro of the track alone and fearing the worst? I’d call the police.
Other than the ambient intro in ‘Lipstick and Lamp Oil/Blood on Baleen’ the sound hasn’t changed too dramatically, but you do get more cool spacey (or sea life style) chords and hard to predict riffs and structures which is no problem at all. The rhythms are a little more safe here, but ending on a more ‘comfortable’ style may have been the band’s intention. Maybe they were deliberately creating huge amounts tension then wanted the listener to feel at least some relief at the end. If so, they have achieved their goal. Audiences don’t have to end their listening experiences by being as excited as possible, right? Maybe the act are creating the audio version of a nice relaxing bath. Ahhh. Okay, that was an absolutely massive exaggeration, a bad comparison even, but hopefully you get my point.
In conclusion, I’m sure there will be many who say the music would have been better with vocals, especially as it isn’t as complicated as the stuff artists such as Tosin Abasi create, however there is whole lot of depth to it. I wanted to give the album 4.25/5 but such a specific score isn’t allowed. Sorry, FTPF. The band have their own sound, they know exactly what they’re doing and their instrumental style works perfectly well, but had the album had vocals or instead the more traditional instrumental metal leads or solos in the style of Joe Satriani/John Petrucci, this album could have been fantastic. There are plenty of higher pitched guitar parts sure, but they often have more of a harmonic function than truly melodic. On the whole, strongly recommended!