Hanging Garden
The Garden

Look, I am, by my own admission, a long-winded individual. Especially so when talking about heavy metal, but with The Garden, the eighth full-length album from Finnish “Beauty &/vs the Beast” deathly doomsters, Hanging Garden, I simply don’t need to be. The straight up truth is that when it comes to The Garden, I’m just not a fan. Okay, that might be a bit harsh, and it doesn’t mean that I hate the album, nor do I think it is actually a bad album. It just isn’t for me, or rather, it simply doesn’t do much for me.

Normally, when I crave something of this ilk, I tend reach for Novembers Doom, Paradise Lost, Draconian, Officium Triste, or even Katatonia, before I go for Hanging Garden.  I have to be honest though, my experience with the band is relatively small, and much of the little experience I do have, comes from time spent spinning their 2019 release, Into that Good Night, in preparation for review; by the way, I found Into that Good Night to be a fantastic album.

Yet with The Garden, the band just doesn’t seem to move me to the degree I was hoping for. Maybe my own personal expectations were too askew, or maybe I’m just an asshole. While damn near every individual track on The Garden is, in all honesty, good in its own right, the album as a whole just doesn’t reach that pinnacle of greatness. The album opener, “The Garden”, starts out quite promising, it’s slow, somber, and beautiful with its Draconian-like etherealness of beauty and beast. The track is really good, but overall just a bit too safe and after repeated listens becomes, dare I say, boring. The song never really hits any proper peak and probably could have benefitted from being shaved down a minute or two.

Things seem to pick up nicely though, with the following track, “The Four Winds”. With some really nice guitar work, including some great melodious licks, as well as some terrific vocals from both, Riikka Hatakka and Toni Hatakka, the song gives me a strong feeling of Orphaned Land in more than a few places. Though “The Four Winds” has solid pacing, it never really seems to break out or give us a breakdown, so to speak. Too bad, as the potential for greater dynamics is missed.

On more than one occasion Hanging Garden really let their Paradise Lost influence shine, not that that is a bad thing by any means, and they surely take said influence and turn it into their own sound, but one can’t deny the feeling of the U.K. stalwarts in tracks like “The Construct” or “The Stolen Fire”. The former brings dominant gutturals with guitar and piano that seem to share the same presence and make smart use of getting in and out, with the song only reaching the three-and-a-half minute mark (Hell, that practically grinds when it comes to death-doom of this nature); while the latter is a slower to mid-paced affair that is heavy on emotion, but doesn’t really go anywhere in the long run.

“The Song of Spring” had me hooked from the getgo with its wonderful beginning, ringing so much in the vein of Officium Triste, but after a mere 37 seconds the song loses the potential steam it could have played off of and falls into the slow-moving pace of beauty and tragedy. They do return to that opening salvo, but instead of adding to it and playing off of it, they muddy it up with vocals that feel somewhat unnecessary. I rather enjoyed “The Journey”, it’s a solid track with a bit of added rawness to it that sticks to your ribs, though the song’s slower moments tend to drain the energy just a little too much. Cutting some of those moments down would have turned “The Journey” into quite a little blistering number.

The Garden ends on a pair of high notes in “The Fireside” and “The Resolute”. Coming in on the more commercial-sounding side of things, “The Fireside” is simply a well-rounded track that doesn’t really offer a lot in the spectrum of peaks and valleys, but satisfies quite well. “The Resolute” is honestly, just more of what we know the band is capable of, but it manages to showcase pretty much all sides of the group. I dig the guttural vocals mixed with the somber yet engaging melody and the emotion achieved. A good song and a good closer.

Pair all of this with solid performances and great, crushing, and heavy production, and The Garden seems to be quite a nice album. Though for some reason it just seems to fall short of the mark with me. Some of it lays with three tracks that probably should have stayed on the cutting room floor i.e. “The Fire at First Dawn”, “The Nightfall”, and “The Derelict Bay”. The first two songs are not bad really, but they don’t feel necessary, while “The Derelict Bay” is a definitely unnecessary instrumental.

As I stated earlier, The Garden‘s individual tracks are almost all good, but as a whole the album just seems to miss the mark. Mixed into your playlist and shuffled amongst others, while you commute or do whatever the hell you guys do, these songs seem to work better for some reason. Listening to the album, as a whole, while driving your car and this album feels draining. Maybe it’s just that The Garden is probably best absorbed on a late night with the lights low, and a nice drink in hand as you kick back in your favorite sitting spot. Maybe my expectations really were too lofty for whatever reason. Most likely though, it’s just that I’m an asshole.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kristofor Allred
April 26th, 2023

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