Garden of Worm
Idle Stones

I don’t think many of us will dispute the fact that the Fins know their metal.  They’ve given us headbangers a lot to enjoy and admire over the years, and the pattern has continued long beyond the storied bands of old.  Named after a King Crimson song, and often billed straight to the chin as a doom band, Garden of Worm maintains the tradition of quality Finnish metal.  My familiarity lies only with their debut album and a split with another underrated cult of heavies Mirror of Deception.  Back to the doom aspect though, this trio is hardly what I’d call a flat out doom band.  The down-tempo is there, riffs sink down to Hell instead of parting the clouds to heaven and the arrangements are plodding, but a few things differentiate these guys from a thick pack including the cleaner tones, dual melodic vocals, off-the-cuff time changes and inventive song structures that do a lot with a lean foundation.  This stuff is psychedelic like a good clean trip, just as heavy as it needs to be while possessing an emphasis on hooks you’ll remember long after their audio hallucinations retreat back into the swirling nether from whence they came.

The title track “Fleeting are the Days of Man” is an absolute slice of heavy, 70s hard rock bliss that lumbers like Sabbath but is dry, open and head-clearing like Floyd or Rush.  The sound isn’t exactly like that, but the feel is.  Musically, it shifts between earth-moving, gravitational trudges and swifter passages where the rhythm section pushes the speed of the solitary guitarist.  While a lot of shit nowadays can end up retro to a fault, these guys aren’t blatantly throwing arena rock riffs or one Iommi groove after another in your face.  Really, as it stands, I can’t think of any distinct peers to truly liken to Garden of Worm.  They’re really their own thing and that’s fucking more refreshing than a beer and a lawn chair on the face of the sun.  Drummer JM Suvanto is really one to watch…at first you don’t think he’s doing much, but then he’ll pepper the groove with some effortless jazz on the snare or a peppy little fill when you least expect it as guitarist EJ Taipale plays crystalline heavy doom grooves with just the lightest tinge of distortion.  EJ doesn’t let ‘er full-on rip until a squealing, wah-soaked solo brings the main hook back late in the song’s second half.  All the while perpetual motion is maintained by SJ Harju’s crystalline blues.  There are more changes in this stuff than a single listen picks up, and further spins are an absolute must to catch the magic.  Vocally, SJ and EJ split the duties, and end up as the Finnish duo of Cantrell/Staley…saying it “works” is the understatement of the year.  These two are really in tune with each other.  I’d be down for having this tune on the playlist at my funeral.

“Summer’s Isle” benefits from a looming intro that forebodes like a tornado on the horizon making imminent plans on huffing, puffing and blowing your whole house in.  The vocals merge and meld in perfect unison as the melody-greased bass and guitar chords crest on dramatic cymbal rushes.  If Rush was slowed down to the pace of St. Vitus you might end up with a valid reference point as to what’s happening here.  Harju’s low-end dirge is given loft by Taipale’s triumphant, tuneful melodies which buoyantly balance the bass long enough until the somber licks rise into doom-riff grandeur.  Percussively speaking, this thing teeters on a tightrope juggling knives, Suvanto’s sticks reaching for complex beats as often as they lay into anvil-heavy, doom abandon.  The constant fluxes in tempo, especially the speed-ups and more progressive leanings in the later stages are a sight to behold; the song even jumping the tracks into noisy, blasting Coltrane-esque free jazz when you least expect it!  They corral the insanity back into the pen during a break of pure riff-y hard rock after the maelstrom, leaving no stone unturned and no punch pulled.  This isn’t your grandpappy’s doom by any stretch of the imagination!  This is something entirely different.

Largely instrumental, “Desertshore” is heavy on the FX, the guitars drenched in reverb, delay and echo while the bass buries itself in the blues.  Again, the idea of Floyd with a doom-edge and more complex playing comes to mind.  They milk the groove udder until they work up some creamy hard-rock that is always moving forward and never regressing.  I recommend some headphones for this jam (not to mention the entire record) to really immerse yourself in all of the subtle dips and jagged aural ascension.  At the 3:32 mark the pacing sees the song structure take its true form with powerful, emotive vocals strung tight to a beefy doom riff that is the true definition of catharsis for all of the compacted tension heard earlier.  The song ends up a total show-stealer as a result.

19+ minute closer, “The Sleeper including being is more than Life” is practically a mini-album within the main album.  Opening with the tolling of church bells, birds chirping and looping, warped-tape background accoutrements, a long, quicksand slow unravelling of psyche is the order of the day.  Not only is the kitchen sink thrown into the package, but they toss the whole kitchen at you as well including toasters, fridges, cutlery and the whole cupboard full of fine china.  Huge swells of Earthy, super slick doom mixes with twinkling, falling comet melody chords with the bass lines aiming for the chest cavity.  Vocals are sparse though can often be found either soaring to the front of the mix or dwelling in a watery cavern of phasing.  Fuzzy lead guitar interjects the quaking pull of heavier doom riffs and this beast drags itself on haunches so gigantic that every footfall cracks the permafrost.  This is hardly just a punishing plodder though…a My Bloody Valentine grasp of texture and ethereal dreamscape crafting holds equal court with the heavy.  I can easily say that the best listening conditions for this track is during the dead of night with a thoroughly lubricated equilibrium.

Idle Stones is a moving piece of work, and by far the best material I’ve heard from Garden of Worm thus far.  It’s very hard to compare this trio to anyone else in the doom underground.  They’ve got a specialized approach to smashing out riffs, and there’s much more than simply riff-rock happening here.  I’m pretty certain that this album will be on my year end list for 2015.  It took a long time to write this review, because there was so much to absorb and take in.  Doom fans that are looking for a unique take on the genre should pick this up without hesitation.  Highly recommended!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
March 18th, 2015

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