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Memory Garden - 1349 Award winner

Memory Garden
by Mark Machlay at 07 February 2022, 2:07 PM

Now on No Remorse Records after a strange return and exit from their long-time label Metal Blade Records, Swedish doom metal band MEMORY GARDEN released their six full-length studio album “1349” on December 17, 2021, 8 years after their previous effort. The band has a long history, starting back in 1992 and releasing a six-song demo only a year later. They would release an EP – including their much lauded “Forevermore” EP - every year thereafter until finally releasing their first full-length, “Tides” would in 1996, making significant waves in the doom metal world. That year they would be picked up by Metal Blade Records and release “Verdict of Posterity” and “Mirage” with them in 1998 and 2000. They would split with Metal Blade Records in 2002 and would sign with Vic Records for 2008’s “Carnage Carnival”. Strangely, it would be their return to Metal Blade that would see a dip in audience reception with 2013’s “Doomain” receiving arguably the lowest reviews the band has seen.

Now 8 years since “Doomain” and some member changes later, MEMORY GARDEN seem stronger than ever on “1349”. It is a conceptual album, and the storyline covers both fact and fiction, taking place during the pandemic years of the black plague. Longtime members drummer Tom Björn and vocalist Stefan Bergland were insistent that the album be a concept and in quite an appropriate time, were stuck on the idea of the black plague. Björn states, "A very dark and tragic period of history… We drew some guidelines, or a few key words for the concept, and after that I developed the story incorporating a few facts with the fictive elements. It's not a linear timeline throughout the album, but a few songs are connected by the same character and happen in the correct order. Some things have to be read between the lines though." The album also sports several guest artists including Niklas Stålvind of WOLF, Josefin Bäck - who featured as the original voice of “Marion” from the first demo in 1993 - and Göran "Freddy" Fredrikson who played a variety of medieval instruments on the album.

So, being relatively unfamiliar with MEMORY GARDEN despite the brief stints into popularity being part of Metal Blade Records, this is some of the most epic and grandiose metal music I’ve heard despite the fact that they still fall into the category of doom metal. Having gone back and listened to some of their back catalog, I’d have to say “1349” is possibly their best work to date, driving further into possible prog metal territory in areas, not to mention the fact that it’s a concept record. Their style is quite like fellow Swedish epic doomers ISOLE who are equally stylistically varied and dips their toes occasionally into “progginess”. A standout for me is “The Messenger” which features a duet with longtime vocalist Stefan Berglund and the aforementioned return of a feminine touch of vocalist Josefin Bäck. Tender at times and heavy and crushing in others, they tend to follow a similar trick that OPETH were one of the first to pioneer, going between crushing and brutal to poignant and delicate and they have certainly perfected their technique on this long-awaited new album.

Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Shallow Waters
2. Pariah
3. Distrust
4. Rivers Run Black
5. The Flagellants
6. The Messenger
7. The Empiric
8. 1349
9. Blood Moon
Stefan Berglund – Vocals & Backing Vocals
Tom Björn - Drums, Piano & Backing Vocals
Simon Johansson - Lead Guitar
Johan Wängdahl – Bass & Backing Vocals
Andreas Mäkelä – Guitars - Rhythm, Melodic, Acoustic & Backing Vocals
Record Label: No Remorse Records


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