Eight years have passed since the release of “Doomain”, the last album of Swedish Powerdoom-Metal masters MEMORY GARDEN. Now they are back with their new “1349” album that will be released via No Remorse Records, on December, 12th.
“1349” is a conceptual album and the storyline covers both fact and fiction, taking place during the pandemic years of the black plague. Have I just refereed to “pandemic years”? Oh well…
During the time I am typing those lines another pandemic is a fact and not a fictional story. But there is another fact that exists in here: MEMORY GARDEN never disappointed their fans. Since their early demo years they have been releasing first class Epic Doom Metal developed through a Power Metal basis. On their latest release they are evolving this particular formula: In the new album we can hear a wisely developed mix of the classic Swedish Epic Doom Metal sound, combined with Power and Progressive Metal elements, characterized by a dark and melodic approaching. The result is unique. Here we are dealing with an absolute artistic experience.
There are many Scandinavian references to each and every musical influence that completes the puzzle pieces of this release. For example, a careful listening of the excellent Power Metal riffing which is a key element to many of the songs, would of course bring into your mind many Swedish Power Metal classics of the 90s. On the other hand, the dark and dramatic melodies on guitars vocals and piano parts, work as a perfect reflection to the melancholic Scandinavian Prog realm of the 90s. Oh how wisely all this stuff is combined to form a solid and powerful Metal result!
Yes of course the songwriting is the key element in this album.Without inspired themes that would form songs that really matter, no band is going anywhere. But there is something more about this release: The way that the band have developed and combined all their ideas and all their influences makes this album a top class one.
For example you may want to hear this excellent Prog riff that accompanies the solo guitar theme, on the middle of the “Distrust” song. Just listen how smoothly it appears simply to overtake the particular part offering the needed emphasis to the amazing guitar solo. This is pure wisdom. But more importantly this is a band that have spent hours and hours on song development.
We got excellent songwriting, we got wise song developing and we got aesthetic. Yes the band is bringing to the foreground and serving for one more time this very particular musical aesthetic that have became their ultimate trademark through the years. This is not a simple “lets get into the studio to make a new album” case. This is a complete artistic vision. Each and every element of this record actually fulfills this vision. The newcomers on the globe would better take the above fact as an example to be followed. Especially when they just drop some random riffs on a project just thinking about the number of views they may collect on youtube.
For the Garden nerds out there I have to point that to my ears the album carries this special vibe of the “Verdict Of Posterity” and “Mirage” albums. It sounds epic and dramatic and while the basic Doom Metal elements are used as a starting point, the sound is expanded to various musical realms under a rich orchestration that makes the big difference. Many elements from the later MEMORY GARDEN albums can be heard as well but the above mentioned releases are the main soul givers to the new album in my opinion.
All the kinds of guitar riffing are presented in here. Some riffs carry the classic Swedish Doom vibe, some are faster and Power Metal oriented, some are slow and heavy with a little modern touch and a lot of the riffs are complex and Prog oriented. The sure thing is that someone would never get bored. Especially the “I want the guitars carefully developed on my Metal” listeners. The solos are excellent as well. In general Ante Mäkelä and Simon Johansson have given their best on this one.
It is a fact that Stefan Berglund have composed some of his most fabulous vocal melodies on this album. Just listen to the “Blood Moon” song and you will understand my point. By the way “Blood Moon” is probably the darkest song in here. I loved the piano as well. Back to the vocals: yes we have those narrative verses and those epic choruses that mark the songs of “1349” forever. Excellent stuff. The voice of Stefan is in perfect shape. I have to point this. Yes the special color of his voice is still here (I know that you all agree that THIS is the ultimate MEMORY GARDEN trademark, end of story).
Speaking about vocal performances I would like to refer to the excellent vocals of Josefin Bäck (the original voice of “Marion” from the first 1993). She has done an excellent job on the “Rivers Run Black” & “The Messenger” tracks. Same goes for Niklas Stålvind (WOLF) who sings into “The Empiric” track.
Of course here we are dealing with a HEAVY album. Thanks to the rhythm section of Tom Björn (drums) and Johan Fredrikson (bass). But heaviness is not the only point in here: Complexity actually meets intelligence so the listener is able to experience a perfect rhythm section result.
I have lost the counting of repeated plays in almost each and every song of the record: The “Blood Moon” epilogue -that carries the best chorus on the album- , the “Shallow Waters” opener, the following “Pariah” track, the “The River Runs Black” opus and of course the “1349” masterpiece. I also have to point that “The Messenger” song is in my opinion one of the most inspired moments on the overall album (listen carefully the medieval instruments in this one – played by: Göran “Freddy” Fredrikson).
If I have to add some specific albums that have influenced “1349” I would point “Chapter VI” by CANDLEMASS together with some MEMENTO MORI classics like “Rhymes Of Lunacy” and “Songs For The Apocalypse Vol. IV”.
The album is mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö. The production is ideal and does justice to the overall material.
The artwork is great, fitting perfectly to the album’s concept. It is once again done by the mighty Hjules (DESTRUCTION, GRAVE DIGGER, ANNIHILATOR, STRATOVARIUS).
“1349” is not only the best Doom Metal album for this particular year (2021). It is one of the most inspired, adventurous and powerful Metal albums that you will be able to check out in general.
“I really can stand listening hundreds of crappy albums, just waiting to finally discover and enjoy a masterpiece like this”. This was the first thought I made after I listened the whole album for the very first time. I see myself remaining into this mood.
Check the first single on our radio show: