Hanging Garden – I Am Become (Lifeforce)Friday, 3rd November 2017
Hanging Garden knew of the fundamental risks associated with 2015’s experimental Blackout Whiteout. The Finns, while certainly one of their country’s better melodic death/doom bands, do not have the aspirations nor wherewithal to that of Swallow the Sun, a band they are, at times, sonically in synch with. Therefore, the sometimes aloof and disjointed feel of Blackout Whiteout was an itch Hanging Garden needed to scratch, for without the pressure of being in a full-time band, creative risks can be taken. Sure enough, the album remains perhaps the weakest in an otherwise strong catalog, highlighted by 2013’s must-have At Every Door. I Am Become, however, splits the difference, blending Hanging Garden’s boundless doom of yore with the aforementioned outside touches.
Odd album title aside, proverbial gloom and melancholy remains at the fore of Hanging Garden’s sound. Even as vocalist Toni Toivonen jumps from his horrid death bellows to soothing cleans, the Finns have yet to lose their grip on doom, whether it’s on “Hearthfire” (complete with a guest vocal appearance from Amorphis’s Tomi Joutsen) or “Our Dark Design.” However, this isn’t standard-fare Finnish doom. Hanging Garden’s insistence on stray electronics, odd melodies and unconventional arrangements keeps I Am Become off balance, with the album eventually reaching its peak on the closing cut, “Ennen,” a certifiably wistful, reflective number that benefits greatly from Toivonen’s clean vocals and female accompaniment.
Always curious how mid-level, but respected bands like Hanging Garden operate. As mentioned, they’re without the crush of being full-time, allowing them to essentially do as they please. Hanging Garden find themselves in the enviable spot of having progression on their side while working off their patented death/doom template. It shows on I Am Become.