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Release Review: Memory Garden – Doomain

Doomain has been my first exposure to Swedish doom/power metal ensemble Memory Garden (cool name!), who have been around for a good pair of decades now. So I can’t tell, fellow metal brothers and sisters, if the sound exposed here, in their fifth long play so far, is more or less what they’ve been doing since their beginnings. The title is a bit misleading, since the doom metal component of their music is not as predominant as the power metal in it. Indeed, this sounds like a mixture of Ripper Owens-fronted Iced Earth and Tomas Vikström-fronted Candlemass, around 60% of the former and 40% of the later. Even though Stefan Berglund’s middle-range operatic wails sound more akin to Vikström, the riffing patterns and overall musical style is more power metal tinged, though never as fast or gallopy as that of Iced Earth. An interesting blend, nonetheless.

Right since the first riffs of “The Evangelist” erupt from the speakers one notices the compelling guitar tone, the forceful vocals and the solid rhythmic section. The bass guitar is subdued, the guitars drowning it most of the time, even though the production is balanced, modern and potent. In fact it’s only fully perceptible when the six string axes take a break. But that’s not a big issue here since the guitars are the real stars, both in presence and quality. Each tune is packed with heavy, downtuned rhythmic riffage, often being embellished with a melody on top, creating a nice contrast in the guitar attack of the Swedes. Drums seem content in keeping the pace, not varying much but neither becoming dull. They’re never too fast or too slow and just like the quieter bass they just do their job properly. Tom Björn’s double bass patterns are slightly more compelling than what he’s playing upstairs. As for Berglund’s vocals, they come second place as the element of interest here, but I think the guy generally sticks to the same limited register.

In fact, that’s my only niggle with this album. Everything seems to work fine, every component properly integrated, the music flowing nicely, everything done with care and professionalism, BUT, I never came across a single moment in this album that blew my mind away, or made me shout a “HELLYEAH!” I feel this is by-the-numbers doom/power, and sadly there’re few surprises, few twists and turns awaiting the listener within the record. I’ve listened to it a good deal of times, and even though I enjoy it, right after the disc stops playing the music vanishes from my memory as fast as a bug flying from one garden to another. A shame really, I even feel I should like this more than I do, but I must be honest: I was not impressed nor moved by this.

Actually, I enjoyed more the three cover songs found in the extra disc of Doomain’s Limited Edition than their own songs. Now, don’t get me wrong, none of those versions are better than the originals, but at least they show a greater degree of variation, much needed in this band’s repertoire. To be fair, it’s not exactly variation they lack in their own material. For instance, they add female vocals in songs “Daughters of the Sea” and “Violate & Create”, and unimpressive death growls in “Barren Lands”. They combine acoustic, calm moments with muscular chugging passages. They use tasty keyboards occasionally to enhance atmosphere. Yet all this yields unspectacular results. I can’t exactly pinpoint what’s the ingredient missing here to improve its flavor. Is it passion? Conviction? Should they take more risks? Should they experiment more? It actually pisses me off to be unable to give a precise diagnosis of this band’s ailment, yet clearly there’s something here that needs improvement… or removal… or addition.

To finish this review in a more positive light, I have to say that this album does have its moments. My favorite song is “Daughters of the Sea”, in which I think the female vocals work better, intertwining neatly with Berglund’s. Some choruses like the one from the title-track or the more uplifting one from “The King of the Dead” are also compelling to a degree. And if you split and vivisect several of the tracks, I reckon a fine amount of good individual riffs can me amassed. So I guess there’re potential fans of this band/album out there, waiting to lay their ears to Doomain. I’d recommend them to get the double disc version, it’s really worth it. Personally, even though I enjoy a lot of power and doom metal acts, I didn’t find this to be my cup of tea… or to be more accurate, my pint of beer. But I must congratulate the band for not giving in to the trends of late, delving into innocuous sludge or stoner metal, and continue to produce their (not so) doomineering power. I hope their next release finally tickles me in the right spots.

Memory Garden - Doomain

Tracklist:
1. The Evangelist
2. Latent Lunacy
3. Daughters Of The Sea
4. Barren Lands
5. Violate And Create
6. Doomain
7. The King Of The Dead
8. A Diabolical Mind
9. Misfortune

Memory Garden - Band picture

Memory Garden are:
Stefan Berglund – Vocals
Simon Johansson – Lead Guitars
Ante Mäkelä – Guitars.
Johan Fredrikson – Bass Guitar
Tom Björn – Drums

More Memory Garden:
Website
Facebook
MySpace

About Ricardo (18 Articles)
100% Mexican metalhead, classic prog lover, international cuisine fearless explorer, avid traveler and virtuosic air-drummer who’s aim is to make a living out of professional illustration from his den in Guadalajara city. A fan of many artists, let’s just say that some of his very favorites in music and beyond include Pink Floyd, Judas Priest, Agalloch, Amon Amarth, Depeche Mode, Alphonse Mucha, Gustave Doré, H.R. Giger, Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, Guillermo del Toro, Quentin Tarantino, Studio Ghibli amongst zillion others. Loves to meet people from around the world, and to discover METAL from around the world as well. Not that he loves it all, but a good majority. What he searches in music (and art in general) is passion, honesty and emotion above everything else. While he sets up a new illustration site or blog this 2013, you can visit his DeviantArt gallery (http://xyrth.deviantart.com/) with old illustrations, drawings and paintings.

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