Released: 2013, Metal Blade
There was quite a long gap between Memory Garden’s third and fourth album, 8 years to be precise. In the intervening years, it seems that many people forgot about this great band and CARNIVAL CARNAGE did not seem to have the same prestige as the early records. The fact that they dropped to a smaller label had an uncharacteristically evil (ie. non-doom-like) album cover and title, and a logo change, may have thrown some people for a loop. As it stands five years on from 2008 the band are back on Metal Blade, the logo has returned along with a more doom-like album cover and title, DOOMAIN.
Album member five is another truly superb slab of Power/Doom. I have always admired this band for playing a type of sound pioneered by Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus, Memento Mori and a select few others, rather than wallowing into the myriad sub-genres of Doom such stoner doom, funeral doom, sludge and so on. Memory Garden has always been a touch faster, heavier and darker and it has served them well. Primarily to my ears they have always written just solid Metal songs with meaty riffs, and good guitar tone. I’m pleased that DOOMAIN has all those hallmarks.
The 44 minute long album has nine cuts and the band has had some line-up changes seeing guitarist Ante Makala and bassist Johan Fredrickson joining the fold. The band recorded the album in their studio with the help of Dan Swano and it sounds superb. The guitars are warm and thick and everything is clear and loud. The loss of main lyricist hasn’t really hindered the writing as Stephan Berglund delivers his doom-tinged tales with conviction and passion. There is even a tiny bit of a death growl, but very minimal as you can hear on the song ‘Barren Lands’. There are some good sonic elements, a smattering of keyboards, a bit of acoustic guitar, a few backup, choral type vocals, but mainly straight up Metal. Those other audio elements just nicely accentuate the already great melodic songs with their conventional arrangement and strong composition.
There is certainly a vintage sound that might too ‘Metal’ for the doom kids who want everything slow, as the band is not afraid to play fast. There is not written rule that says doom has to be slow all the time, look at the Candlemass song ‘Into The Unfathomed Tower’ for example. It rages with speed and power and Candlemass practically, single-handedly, invented the doom sound. So I have no problem when Memory Garden bursts into a flurry of speed with some double-kick. However, the tone is generally mid-paced like a good later-era Mercyful Fate album and the songs sit nicely in that 5-6 minute range.
I don’t want my numerous references to other bands in this review to suggest that Memory Garden lacks originality. Far from it! There are so few bands that have the ability to preserve the classic sound with a direct lineage, even back to Black Sabbath, that they can be easily counted. DOOMAIN is an excellent display of some of the finest elements of Power and Doom and young doom fans should certainly discover (or re-discover) this veteran Swedish doom horde.