While usually stamped with the “doom metal” label, the Swedish quintet Memory Garden doesn't always adhere strictly to the conventions of the genre as much as genre-defining bands like their fellow countrymen Candlemass. Not that the title of their sixth studio album will do much to change that distinction, but rest assured the music of Doomain itself isn't a pile of somber dirge cliches; these dudes weave tons of vintage power metal and and progressive metal elements into their sonic tapestry, with more emphasis on tight instrumentation, rich melodic vocals and epic-scale production than thick, somber slabs of lo-fi riffs. Not that it would have been a bad thing to go all dark and murky (I'm a huge fan of the whole dirge/funeral vibe), but Memory Garden's sound is distinctive, melodic and heavy with vintage metal energy – we're talking more Queensrÿche or Dream Theater than Witchfinder General or Pentagram – and that's their hook.
The vast stage of Doomain is set by the suitably epic opening cut "The Evangelist," which showcases top-notch production by Dan Swanö (formerly of Katatonia and Edge of Sanity). The tone is pure without losing grit, and the sweep of the mix is massive, with multi-layered and often intricate guitar work by Simon Johansson and Andreas Mäkelä, with chunky chugs aplenty – a great sampling of that rhythmic muscularity can be heard in songs like "The King of the Dead," and the pristine lead work, while pretty no-bullshit for the most part, gets fairly daring on cuts like "Barren Lands." The '80s-style melodic approach of vocalist Stefan Berglund is put to excellent use on "Latent Lunacy," and even more so in the technically impressive "Daughters Of The Sea," which benefits from some sweet multi-tracked high-range harmonies.
Ironically, the title track is one of the less doomy entries, although it has a distinctively ominous feel and rhythm, again coming across like '80s style progressive metal with a darker, more down-tempo groove. Despite the prog elements (which include some really lengthy track runtimes), Memory Garden still consider themselves a doom metal outfit – and as if determined to prove it, they bring plenty of deep and ominous riffage in tracks like "A Diabolical Mind."
While Doomain is hardly what I'd call a doom metal album, it's still a dark and ominous work within the expansive boundaries of progressive metal, and the band's musicianship carries me back to a time when ballsy heaviness, pristine melody and well-structured songwriting weren't all mutually exclusive components. Taste their steel in the new video for “The Evangelist” below!