Doom Grows in Garden of Worm

With Finnish doomers Garden of Worm, the trick in listening is not to succumb to riff hypnosis and miss out on the interludes and progressive movements that make their sound unique. Right from the opening track of their self-titled debut Shadow Kingdom full-length, the trio offer deceptive intricacy on songs like “Spirits of the Dead” and “The Ceremony,” sounding on the one hand like little more than post-Reverend Bizarre players in a crowded scene, but actually exploring roots both deeper and more satisfying to hear. You’re not three songs in before they break out the mellotron sounds.

In fact, you’re not through the aforementioned “Spirits of the Dead” before a left turn leads to a proggy-type jam that concludes the cut. The guitars of EJ. Taipale take a temporary backseat to SJ. Harju’s foundational bass (both also handle vocals), and gradually the track comes to an apex with the driven cymbal work of drummer JM. Suvanto, and if you weren’t paying attention you could have easily missed it. To be perfectly clear, this is doom we’re dealing with. Garden of Worm play doom and Garden of Worm is a doom album. “The Black Clouds” is lumbering, slow and riff-led, with crashes and mournful vocals in the grand tradition. There’s just also more to it structurally. Like the opener, it soon twists toward the progressive for its back end.

The second half of Garden of Worm is little different from the first, although anyone with a track name fetish should be able to easily get off on “Psychic Wolves.” As for the song itself, it’s a great hulking beast, all the more powerful coming off “The Black Clouds” – both songs are well past seven minutes in length – but Taipale’s guitar leads into a jazzy, near Opethian thoughtful musical space where the song seems to want to rest a while. Guest keyboards from Markus Pajakala (who also provided the “mellotron” to “Rays from Heaven”) make the piece standout, but the real surprise is when a heavy Scott Kelly-style riff takes hold and Garden of Worm transpose the vocal style they’ve been using the whole time over top of it. You wouldn’t think it would fit, but they make it work.

It takes “The Alchemist’s Dream” a minute or so to pick up, but when it does it proves one of the tightest tracks on Garden of Worm. Rather than meander from the song, they push it forward, picking up the pace just after four minutes in (that’s a pretty common launch point for them) and keeping some angularity to the guitars but not losing sight of where the track has already been. There are about 10 seconds of silence that set up the closer, “Hollow,” which makes full-use of its 10 and a half minute runtime and seems to incorporate all the elements Garden of Worm have been using this whole time, opening with dirge-style hits and gradual traditional doom plod. Seven minutes later, a change comes, and almost two minutes after that, Garden of Worm rush the album to its feedback finish.

There’s something unceremonious about the end of each of these tracks. Garden of Worm have a good sense for structuring the songs and a cohesive working aesthetic, but when every song ends, it just kind of plops out. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels anticlimactic. Even as “Hollow” draws to its close, it’s noticeable. All the more mournful, I suppose. In any case, Garden of Worm is a stirring reminder of the avenues down which capable players can take the well known, well established trad doom sound. The prog pasts of Harju and Taipale (both were in the four-piece Blueprint Human Being) come out in the structural complexity of the material, and with Suvanto backing them, they manage to balance one sound against the other well. I wouldn’t be surprised to find their influences even more meshed on a future release, to where the song doesn’t so much break to go into a prog part as much as that element is already ingrained in the otherwise more simplistic doom, but in the meantime, this is a cold Finnish winter’s soul-searching put grievously to tape, and there’s a lot more beauty in Garden of Worm’s sound than their album cover would lead you to believe.

Garden of Worm on MySpace

Shadow Kingdom Records

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