Well, this new EP is a bit of fun…OK, maybe not “fun”, that’s too up-beat for a Dark Gothic Doom Metal band named Hanging Garden…so let’s plump for engaging shall we? Last year’s “Blackout/Whiteout” opus was released only last year (reviewed elsewhere on Ave Noctum by yours truly) but the bands desire to grow and experiment has driven them straight back into the studio with some guest vocalists in tow – namely Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun), Alexander Högbom (October Tide, Centinex, Volturyon), and Victor Wegeborn (The Moth Gatherer).
Mikko kicks things off on opener ‘Penumbra’, and there’s no denying the similarity and feel the track has to his band Swallow The Sun. Dark and melancholy but then with a slightly quicker tempo than you would maybe expect. There’s more than an inkling of turn-of-the-millennium Gothic Metal in evidence, carrying on the snippets of To/Die/For etc. that I picked up on from their previous album. However, second track ‘Sircle Of Onan’ is a different affair as Victor steps up and delivers a mix of harsh and clean vocals over chunks of Post Rock/Metal held together in an arrangement that wouldn’t be out of place on the recent In The Woods album. Good stuff.
There’s a greater focus on ambiance and atmosphere on the next song which is the title track – a mix of Hanging Garden vocalist Toni’s clean male with ethereal female vocals that has me thinking of the recent Beseech offering with hints of Green Carnation and a touch of Dargaard. Enter Alexander for the fourth track, which I find the most similar to the previous album – a dash of Katatonia, a little more Amorphis and unsurprisingly a bit of October Tide, but altogether darker and more brooding than the latter. And then, almost as soon as it began, Mikko brings it all to a close with ‘Towards The Sun’, a more atmospheric track with a gorgeous acoustic guitar melody line and some fabulous cello, which builds the song perfectly into the heaviness it possesses from the middle forwards and incorporates some more fine female vocals to just round the sound out – I think they saved the best for last.
This is a great way to test the water as a band. Try some new angles, see what the feedback is like and follow the routes you like without spoiling the flow of an album by too much experimentation. It’s also a great way to work with some vocalists you admire and see what input they would give to your songs, because there is no doubt that there is always a little bleed-through of styles with any guest vocal. This also whets the appetite for the next album as well as throwing question marks over exactly what particular vein of Hanging Garden’s sound it will take. I personally hope they incorporate all the moods they capture on here as they do them all so very well.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)