Garden of Shadows – Oracle Moon

Garden of Shadows – Oracle Moon – 4.5/5

Melodeath without the Gothenburg, can it be true? Welcome the vision of a progressive melodic death metal band that actually does as the genre states. No generic watered down riffs, growls actually fitting from a Death Metal band and aggressive drumming to sink your teeth into. Whilst they perhaps are not the most innovative or creative of bands, they do exemplify how to play the genre without resorting to pretending to be someone you’re not.

Interspersing soft atmospheric sections with perhaps a more old school death metal tone at times, thrust into modern times and slapped with some decent melodic riffing there is a lot this band do well. The drums refrain from using blast beats except for when they are required, and even then succeed in making subtle changes. In fact, it’s a shame that – like many bands – they are held too far back in the production, and not given the opportunity to kick out along with the rest of the instrumentation. The bass sustains the thick atmosphere, and results in the main differentiation between the two sides of their sound. This combines with the use of keyboards, cleverly utilised in the background to not draw attention, but assist in creating an atmosphere.

The guitars in a similar fashion rarely feel complex, but rather fluid. They can in an instant change from a doom like deep droning tone, to an aggressive or soft emotional tone. Constantly providing an ever-changing rhythm, often (unfortunately) falling into the trap of being a bit monotonous, where the riffs to come forth they prove to be superb, the intro for ‘Citadel of Dreams’ or ending to ‘Desert Shadows’ standing out beyond the rest of the band. The growls too are not to be scoffed at, providing a deep guttural tone perfectly fitting to the atmospheric hopelessness, combining with sporadic used of higher pitched growls they top off this line-up.

But it’s not all good, for as much as the tracks progress, it feels rather like a pointless meandering. It has no real purpose or direction, it neither tells a story, nor explains the shifts in atmosphere throughout each track, and they come frequent and abruptly enough to feel rather oddly fitting, if not necessarily unwelcome. Furthermore, the tracks all rely on a similar formula, which whilst unique to them, doesn’t make for the most memorable of albums. Straddling the line between the ‘3.5’ and ‘4’ score, I relented and chose the latter, for whilst its pretty damn good, it won’t last.

Highlights: Oracle Moon, Citadel of Dreams, Desert Shadows

EDIT: It's now over a year on. It still gets played every now and again. Lasted, it certainly has. Score bumped. - The ferret, (29/9/10)