Review: Skeleton Trees Will Leave You Speechless

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is an experimental rock band from Melbourne, Australia. The band has been active since 1983, self-releasing 16 controversial albums and selling out large stadium tours across the globe. Since their incarnation, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have moved audiences with the lead singer’s spoken wordesque vocal delivery and lethargic storytelling. Unexpectedly, this experimental group released “Skeleton Tree,” on Sept. 9, 2016, alongside a documentary, “One More Time with Feeling,” chronicling the recordings of this album that took two years to produce. Much of the lyrics and instrumentalization on this album is affected by the passing of Nick Cave’s son who, at 15 years old, horrifically fell off a cliff in England. “Skeleton Tree” begins with a distorted

“Skeleton Tree” begins with a distorted steel-guitar, crying out to the gothic gloom fogging the atmosphere, as Nick Cave sends a dark anthem, creating a circadian rhythm with the repetition of his depressing words. In semisonic standards and distant synthetic keys, “Skeleton Tree” serenades you with howls and reminders of the trapped life we are living. The the third song on the track listing, “Girl in Amber,” features Nick Cave speaking in a deadly fashion, forcing you to close your eyes and imagine the rings of a telephone that

The the third song on the track listing, “Girl in Amber,” features Nick Cave speaking in a deadly fashion, forcing you to close your eyes and imagine the rings of a telephone that bares the news of your dead son, and, when you answer that horrendous call, the screeches of your son falling off the cliff sounding as you plead to yourself to end the suffocating pain. The listener is overcome with the urge to repent their sins as they look at their own life, and wonder if what they have accomplished amounts to something of worth. The narrator of this tragedy questions his faith as he wonders why his own life has not been taken. This confusion is casually displayed with scattered drums and awkward synths with a choir blooming in random, beautiful sessions.

Nick Cave, then, surrenders to a nihilistic stance during the last portions of his grief as he cries, “I need you/Nothing really matters.” Nick has to remind himself to breathe, but a task as simple as this is hard when your mind is polluted with emotions.

“Skeleton Tree” now brings us to the funeral of Nick Cave’s son in “Distant Sky.” Nick Cave seems to have accepted his son’s passing as his voice is filled with sadness, but is built upon the happiness of the times while his son was alive. An angelic voice creeps in along with growing violins and cellos, and an organ blowing the sounds of heaven as the crystal gates open up to accept the young boy.

The title track of the album, “Skeleton Tree,” gives us a glimpse into the future of Nick Cave. Although he has come to terms with the fate of his son, nothing can replace that feeling of his existence, so there is this hole inside that burns constantly and echoes to be filled again. A grand piano thunders and an orchestra is conducted with layers of dramatic, rhythmic structures whirl winding to the stratosphere until the album descends into a quiet abyss, leaving the listener with a melancholy sense of seldom hope.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds has surely created a masterpiece. It is one thing to listen to an album and be emotional, but there is a whole other sophisticated realm to feel as if you are actually living within the album itself. And that is what makes the album so special. It takes tremendous musicianship, and songwriting capability to develop a story so grand, with outlandish instrumentation and psychological vocalization to render you speechless.


– Colt Pierce

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