Review Summary: Deep down in their doomain, you'll find your share of pain.
One by one, the unsung heroes residing within the Swedish power/progressive/doom “Bermuda triangle” come forward into the light, discarding their prior status of inactivity. This time around, it’s the turn of Memory Garden, an act that somehow deserved more acclaim, yet the inability to interpret the trends in the ever evolving “music industry”, as well as the undertaking of hasty decisions, condemned it into obscurity. The outfit had made quite a name for itself during the mid ‘90s and the (then) newly established Swedish power/doom metal circuit, firstly with Forever
EP and shortly after with the “underground classic” debut album Tides
. Those two releases introduced a dark, adventurous and intense power/doom metal sound, in a similar vein to bands such as Solitude Aeturnus (Beyond The Crimson Horizon
-era), Abstrakt Algebra and Memento Mori.
In subsequent steps, the band enriched the prog element at the expense of doom in Verdict Of Posterity
(2000) was a solid effort on the other way around, while Carnage Carnival
(2008) captured the band mixing doom with modern power metal (Tad Morose and Nevermore come to mind). Since their last outing, no smoke had been witnessed from the band’s camp up until early 2013, when Metal Blade Records signed Memory Garden anew for a full length release (their first cooperation with Metal Blade took place at the closure of the previous century). Their fifth album, titled Doomain
(sic), is, if anything, a solid effort that sees the band homogenizing its power, progressive and doom metal leanings, with the latter element being discretely brought at the forefront.
Memory Garden have never made the exact same album twice and Doomain
continues that way, starting from the sound production, made by none other than the great Dan Swanö. Leaving aside the rhythm section and the vocals which are well taken care of, the most striking difference with respect to the band’s past albums, lies in the rhythm guitars and their dry, “nu-metal” texture. This attribute is likely to discomfort fans of traditional doom and/or the band’s back catalogue. However, it comes as no surprise for those who are aware of the band members’ musical preferences, as the latter extend to outfits such as Korn and their respective point of view about guitar sound production. On the other hand, this choice seems to be working because of the interesting contrast between the rhythm guitars and the melodic vocals/lead guitars.
As previously mentioned, in Doomain
, the band has assessed its power, progressive and doom ends as almost indistinguishable, with the doom elements discretely prevailing. The latter are a mix of the band’s trademark style and more traditional, “Candlemass” bits and riffs. That being said, the album is embraced by a latent progressive aura, which manifests itself through the atmospheric twists and turns of songs such as “Violate & Create” and “Daughters of The Sea”, the powerful and heartfelt vocals of Stefan Berglund and the magnificent lead guitars of Simon Johansson. The latter lie easily on the same level with the work of guitar giants such as Chuck Schuldiner, Andy LaRocque or Bobby Koelble (remember his solo in the track “Perennial Quest” from the Symbolic
Despite its fair load of merits, Doomain
is somewhat lacking in strength when brought in front of its immediate predecessor, the first two Memory Garden releases, or other acclaimed power/doom metal albums. Is it that the band had been away for too long as a result of personal and musical endeavours other than those corresponding directly to Memory Garden" Is it that Doomain
was recorded in sparse sessions since 2011 and as such, a portion of its material feels as incomplete" It’s difficult to tell with certainty. This notion is primarily evident during the first listening sessions of the album. However, as the latter keep piling up, Doomain
turns out to be a slow grower, with songs of good-to-great replay value that will satisfy long-time and dedicated fans of the band and the sub-genre it files under. As for curious newcomers, Doomain
is a good starting point for getting acquainted with Memory Garden and a safe passage towards more and better releases in the same sound sector.