As this strange and uncertain age of alternative facts scuttles onward, I find increasingly a great many things difficult to believe. For one, I can’t believe that the same devices that rescued us from the tethered cacophony of dial-up have effectively reduced us to a species of palm gazing idiots. Frankly, I also refuse to believe it’s not butter. Evermore difficult to believe has been my luck in the ongoing war against the promo bin. Despite multiple attempts to lower my less than angry rating average, including seeking out non-atmoblack/Muppetcore albums or else surrendering my fate to Steel like a damn N00b, I somehow just keep wading out from the promo sump smelling like roses.1 This brings us nicely to my main point, being that I can’t believe that Dr. Fisting turned down the opportunity to drop everything and craft an unpaid review for Into That Good Night, the sixth album by Finland’s Hanging Garden.
To be fair, the “meh” to “ok-ish” Dr. met a much younger and less mature Hanging Garden than the one that I’ve been waltzing in moonlit graveyards with. At the time, the likewise young and stupid2 Fistling noted that the core of the bands sound was sufficiently melancholic, yet felt that their “(s)ongs blur into one another, sharing similar tempos and feel, creating a listening experience that is pleasant enough but not particularly memorable or attention-grabbing.” While the calmer, ambient moments of the album do have a tendency to linger listlessly for longer than I’d like, the driving death doom of the title track transforms me into a headbanging Muppet every time, and the desolate, crystalline clean guitars of “Navigator” are just straight-up beautiful. Throw in alternating male/female vocals that range from being likewise pensive and pulchritudinous3 to serrated blackened hate at a moment’s notice, and there’s nothing not to love. Realistically, if a band cries into a microphone and tremolo picks the shit out of any given three minor chords then I’m probably giving them a 5.0/5.0, but these Finns do a few other things as well, so 6.5/5.0 it is.
It’s possible that I was being just a tad hyperbolic there,4 but I can assure you that Into That Good Night is hardly any 2.0 weak sauce. Whether the band has grown over time or if we simply can’t trust Fisticus is up for debate,5 nonetheless, 2019 Hanging Garden offers tons of standout riffs and memorable passages. What’s more, they carry a lot of sub-genre cards which all happen to make a nice hand no matter how they’re shuffled and dealt. From Katatonia and Ghost Brigade, to Novembers Doom, Swans and Enshine, Hanging Garden have studied the sacred teachings of the dark masters to a tearful T, and Into That Good Night is the kind of pessimistic project that professors ov doom are likely to slap a gold pentagram on…
…Or else demand to speak with the band after the bell as to level accusations of the Finns copying their classmates. Anything from Katatonic vocal melodies (“Anamnesis”), Ghost Brigade riffs (“Of Love and Curses”) to the goddamn X Files theme (“Rain”) was apparently up for grabs when Hanging Garden hit the studio, posing a particularly problematic pet peeve for this peculiar puppet; it can be tough to clearly recognize that thin black line between idol worship and lifeless mimicry when the end result is as enjoyable as this. One could accuse the band of simply Frankensteining their favorite riffs n’ pieces of the aforementioned monoliths ov melancholy, and yet the arrangements here are just as strong as anything by those same bands — perhaps even stronger, one could counterer argue, given the subsequent comparatively greater sense of versatility that Hanging Garden have attained through their scavengery.
In many ways, I could comfortably accuse Into That Good Night of being on equal levels of exemplary execution, overall atmosphere and personal enjoyment as Theia, and yet the latter felt like a lovingly restored and renovated obsidian castle ov atmospheric doom whereas the former feels more like a modvlar høme. A trvly kickass modvlar høme, no doubt, but anyone who visits it will immediately recognize the furniture and floor designs from previous acts of black n’ blve hearted gold. Olde Man Fistathan may have been on to something back when he was but the Wee Baby Fistus after all; it seems that Hanging Garden still somewhat struggle to sow seeds of a standout sound of their own. Nevertheless, they’ve harvested a bumper crop of ribbon-worthy clones, and personally I don’t give a fvck where the seeds originated if the end product gets me this low.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: LifeForce Records
Websites: hanginggarden.bandcamp.com | hanging-garden.net | facebook.com/hanginggardenofficial
Releases Worldwide: November 15th, 2019