For this album, the third from Finland’s Hanging Garden, we are invited to imagine a mix of Cult of Luna, Sisters of Mercy, Daylight Dies, Ghost Brigade and The Cure. With all these possibilities, it follows that this album is not about sounding like anyone but about the moods that the band creates. Those moods are predominantly dark, sometimes doomy and bordering on heavy. Great play is made on the contrast of light and dark atmospheres, but such is the level of calm and control that any violence is precluded.
With a mix like this you need structures, and they are here. The changes of climate are never gratuitous. “Ten Thousand Cranes” starts with a gothic-sounding keyboard before a steady death/post metal melody cuts in. Acoustic magic provides an interlude. There’s a little bit of folk. Darkness turns to delicacy and light. It is pleasingly dark. May I add Agalloch to the list of bands-to-be-compared-with? The darker and sludgier “Ash and Dust” is befitting of its title and has an earthy and natural sound. Through the carefully constructed instrumental line, we are taken to a sad place. The mellow chorus on top of the controlled darkness reinforces the notion of melancholy over thunder. Old-fashioned piano precedes a doomier technical guitar piece. “Hegira” is quiet and gloomy. I was reminded of The Prophecy (UK version) with extras. As the depressive track picks up in intensity, the vocalist growls his way through another steady tune. There’s no danger of over excitement nor are there any rushes of blood yet there is a buzz. “Wormwood” is whispered. There’s a typically ambient background. The drum patters on and on. The epic and plaintive nature of this track has a strong air of Kataonia. Accordingly it borders on threat. In amongst the instrumental slumber and background beauty, there’s a gentle quirkiness. The scene becomes sadder. “At Every Door” makes ponderous progress as the vocals are shadowy and the drum provides the heartbeat. From this melancholy scene, the mood becomes moody and steady. The tome rises after the opening which features sleepy and mysteriously whispering voices. It’s always quiet. It’s also hypnotic. As this is dreamy, so “Evenfall” has an element of harshness. The colourful instrumental work now had me thinking of the Pet Shop Boys. Heaviness contrasts with the dreamy chorus on this up front track. Always steady, the final track “To End All Ages” fades into the world it wants to find. There are deep and lush rumblings. Post metal drumming makes the scene dark and sinister. The calm transforms into a dramatic ending and the faint sound of bells. Everywhere there is gloom.
“At Every Door” has a real authority about it. The despair is that which you might associate with Sentenced. There’s a power which Hanging garden exploit through contrasting moods. This album is not explosive and it’s not really spectacular but it is interesting and there’s much to enjoy and absorb here.
(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)