I wasn’t sure, if I would be able to experience this again - a new MEMORY GARDEN album! Their last masterpiece “Mirage” dates back to the year 2000 and in the eight years since they only managed to release one single (“Marion”) in 2004, so I had thought another great band lost in the depths of the Metal ocean, but then Dutch Vic Records gave me a ray of hope – “Carnage Carnival”. The Swedes had always been one of my favourites in the Epic Doom Metal genre, ever since I laid hands on their EP “Forever” in 1995, released via obscure Heathendoom Records. Led by the charismatic vocals of Stefan Berglund, whose light lisp adds even more character to the performance, the band then turned more progressive for “Verdict Of Prosperity”, before returning more to the powerful Doom of before.
For “Carnage Carnival” I had no idea what to expect, also due to the cover and the sad abandonment of their original logo, which always are things that I view with a certain suspicion, as I’ve been surprised negatively way too often. But the title track shatters any even remote doubt, because listen to this riff and chorus and then tell me that you’ll be able to forget this any time soon, after I had listened to the whole thing for the first time, I woke up in the night several times and had it stuck in my head every time, so talk about catchy! Powerful and epic Doom at its best, with Stefan’s characteristic vocals and the lisp just is part of it, they probably haven’t sounded as close to their debut “Tides” as with this song and that is a huge compliment, as it is my fave so far among all of their outstanding albums. And the beauty is that MEMORY GARDEN are not one of those bands that shoots all of its creative powder in the first song and then fizzles out, but knows how to keep up the quality level.
“The Bitter End” right after might lack this immediate hook of the opener, but has a little more urgency in its delivery and also sees several faster moments come through, but still is unmistakably MEMORY GARDEN, while “Nameless” is a slow and viscous Doom roller that finishes off the troika of what these Swedes stand for sound-wise, all of them irresistible on their own accord. So there is not just slow melancholy, but actually quite a bit going on, a theory further strengthened by “Beggars Anthem”, where we get a few distorted vocals (not sure I am a fan of those, though) as well some incredible melodies in the chorus, underlining the class of this act! Sometimes the compositions take on an almost progressive touch, just look at the rhythm changes of an “Endless Fear”, but always remain accessible and downright catchy without compromising the songwriting quality.
The production manages to highlight the right things at all times, so anything else but an attestation that “Carnage Carnival” is a full return to form for the Swedish Doomers, which should satisfy any fan of epic Doom Metal, and hopefully it will place MEMORY GARDEN back on the map, because they are one of those bands that never even remotely got the attention they deserve!
(Online March 3, 2009)