Shadowgarden is a side project of Draconian mainman Johan Ericson which is aimed at creating gothic rock of a different variety than his well-loved goth metal project. Breaking away from the beauty and the beast style and heading towards a much more commercially viable rock sound, the band has produced 10 new tracks of music for the consideration of all metal types out there to be released via Napalm records at the end of August (yeah, so this review is a tad late, but read on).
To be honest I had no idea what I was going to be expecting from this record. When I got it I thought that it had a pretty rad cover, actually. The comic book style and the grayscale feel definitely gave the album a different feel than a lot of records I get these days, and I was pretty excited about it. That excitement lasted until about 15 minutes into the album, when I was met by what I consider to be some of the most pedestrian gothic hardrock that I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It may be that the gray on the cover symbolized not the feeling of the music on the record, but instead the range and variation with which the musicians involved wrote the music and I just misinterpreted.. but either way, I have to say that I was really disappointed.
So let’s dissect this a bit. I mean, the guys are signed to a respectable label and have other projects to their credit, so what the hell is wrong with this album? I’ll tell you: pretty much everything. Similar to late Sentenced and Poisonblack, Shadowgarden writes what is pretty much just standard hard rock tracks that don’t do much to move the soul (to say the least). I don’t get depressed, the music is too rockin’ for that. I don’t get angry, the music is far too mid-paced and melodic for that. To be honest, the only feeling I really ended up with here was bored. Boredom, boredom, boredom. And curiosity: who likes this stuff? It’s not dangerous, it’s not emotionally potent, it just.. kinda stinks. Also, the song “Sorrow’s Kitchen” wins the Angry Metal Guy ESL Award for the month. Puuuure cheese.
There are two exceptions to the stinkyness, however. First, the track “Murky Waters” has some great female vocals in it and some superb melodies and was the one song that really caught me as I was listening to the album the first time through. And secondly, the last track “Slowmotion Apocalypse”, which is a far more death-doom affair and is very enjoyable. Here all the things that were missing on the other tracks click. The vocal melodies are better, and well offset by fantastic growls and a really good heavy part. The guitar harmonies and melodies are solid, and aside from a solo that’s a little on the melodramatic side at the end of the track, it pretty much nails home what this whole damn record should’ve been like. But then it would’ve sounded like Draconian, you know, good.
So yeah, unless you really love commercial rock and tepid tempos with underwhelming rock formulas you should probably avoid this. Check out Draconian or, if you’re up for some sorta gothy, depressing doom stuff, go back and pick up My Dying Bride‘s Like Gods of the Sun. That’s a good record that leaves you all suicidal when you’re done. Sure, it doesn’t have the feel good guitar melodies that Shadowgarden‘s got. But it’s interesting and unique, something that few could say for Ashen.