There used to be this big billboard on the way into my childhood summer camp that read, “The trees will remember your being here.” It made me feel safe, thinking about how all the eucalyptus trees that lined the road into camp were watching over me. But in retrospect, that’s a pretty creepy idea. Those bastards just sat there silently, observing and never interfering. They must have witnessed some horrible things go down over the years, the kinds of things that are scratched with bone dust and blood into the craggy trunk of Lights Bane, the debut album by extreme doom-metal quartet Trees.
The two endless tracks on Lights Bane, predictably named “Nothing” and “Black,” belong to the same extremity caste as Khanate–heavy metal so slow, bleak and a-musical that it leaves only the memory of its suffocating tension after it’s over. Lights Bane contains not a single proper riff and recoils from regular rhythms; mammoth guitar slabs drop irregularly and thunderously, splashing up long plumes of acidic spray from the feedback puddles that surround them. There’s never any warning as to when the next one is going to come, so we’re left huddled in the corner like some abused dog, waiting helplessly for the beatings to cease. They don’t.
I’ve got no clue what vocalist Lenny Smith is howling about, and it’s probably just as well, since the whoosh of his effects-treated screaming is far more frightening than any words he could come up with. There’s an implication of terror, and it’s that ominous portent that defines Lights Bane. It’s the same quality that characterizes Monarch! and Corrupted, and like both bands, Trees can get pretty tiresome after fifteen minutes of arrhythmic plodding. But within a subgenre that cares little for variation in form or texture, the monastic blackness of Lights Bane is strangely soothing.