Memory Garden – 1349 (No Remorse Records)Monday, 27th December 2021
Forming in 1992, Swedish act Memory Garden entered the scene with their classic power/doom edge at a time when more extreme genres of metal were all the rage. Developing a cult appeal through their discography, including their work with Metal Blade for records such as Verdict of Posterity in 1998 and Doomain in 2013, it’s taken another eight years for a new album to hit the streets for 1349. A conceptual effort taking place during the pandemic years of the black plague, the mixture of fact and fiction keeps the storyline moving along at an intriguing pace – molding seamlessly to the darker textures of the music.
To those not well-versed with Memory Garden, the intertwining of power and doom metal comes up in terms of the riffing and tempos – along with the soaring, multi-octave vocals. It’s evident that elements of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus come into focus – as well as Dio and Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath, plus strains of sturdy US/European power acts from Sanctuary to Morgana Lefay. Dual guitar harmonies sit next to calmer, melodic strains to allow “Distrust” to be a front half highlight, keyboard supplementation arising at key points for vocalist Stefan Berglund to shine in a Robert Lowe meets Ray Alder register. The progressive, off-time accents beyond normal drum duties courtesy of Tom Björn elevate the tranquil atmosphere for “The Flagellants”, which along with bassist Johan Wängdahl propel this moody number into classic Memory Garden catalog status – the heavier movements and wah-wah infused lead break garnering fist banging hails. Acoustic guitars in addition to guest female vocals from Josefin Bäck give “The Messenger” an emotional charge, a stirring ballad that provides a soothing reflective moment before the double kick mid-tempo power follow-up “The Empiric” (featuring Wolf guitarist/vocalist Niklas Ståvind) kicks into gear. These veterans add all the requisite bells and whistles from majestic multi-part background vocals to narrative sequences, even piano and medieval instrumentation to get across an all-encompassing sonic experience.
Six albums may not be much in a 29-year career, but Memory Garden go for a quality versus quantity philosophy that pays massive dividends to their followers. 1349 is another compelling record for those who love classic doom with a power/traditional slant.