Like a ghost on the edge of humanity – a review of Hanging Garden’s “The Garden”

Author Silvia Tortiglione - 12.5.2023

An eighth chapter opening toward the sun. Hanging Garden, eclectic melodic doom metal band from the 2000s, tries to vary the formulas of the past, mixing apocalypse and rebirth, melancholy and hope, along a path of sonic expansion and masterful technical execution. Released on 24 March 2023 via Agonia Record, the opus is set to be a milestone in the band’s career.

A dreamlike unraveling is what the first track “The Garden” presents us with. Riikka Hatakka’s voice hovers over the cadence of the first march, almost as if it were a ghost among the ruins of humanity. We are in areas of pure gothic, harkening back, in some ways, to the structures of early Leaves’ Eyes and Theatre of Tragedy. One example among all is “The Four Winds”, which to the dark mood of the early female-voiced bands, adds a pleasant use of electronics. Riikka and Toni’s contrast perfectly embodies the album’s concept, carrying forward, not without some correctable redundancies, the dualism of annihilation and construction.

A turn stuns the listener with “The Song of Spring”, what I might call the definitive manifesto of Hanging Garden‘s new direction. The architecture of this song has solid prog foundations that extend into clear singing and deeply evocative, almost ambient, instrumentation. It is the dream, the one made by Toni Hatakka, announcing to fellow keyboardist Nino Hynninen the arrival of a new album, the band’s supreme masterpiece. Personally, I believe that “The Song of Spring” is indivisible from the subsequent “The Fire at First Dawn”, which also strengthens the conceptual link. I will therefore judge them as a single piece, perfectly organic and lucid in its more veiledly arty passages. A technical rather than spiritual interval, but one that finds in expansiveness its strong point.

“The Stolen Fire”, on the other hand, is Toni’s winning horse, juggling one of the album’s high points. In no uncertain terms, here we are faced with a marvelous, incredibly narrative score, with bone-shaking peaks of ranting and scratching. The epic tone of a prophecy marries the nocturnal airs of a cosmic wedding. Once again, day and night, mistakes and sacrifice. As in the case of “The Song of Spring”, it seems to me necessary to let “The Stolen Fire” embrace the next track: “The Journey“, which continues the precise storytelling and sublime orchestration in the background.

Melancholy never dies, whatever the variations operated by the band. “The Derelict Bay” is a Lovecraftian interlude, immediately daring with extensive use of synth. Pure atmospheric, it works to open its direct opposite. “The Fireside” is a return to the past, to the more classic doom cadences, with some typically Finnish nuances. “The Resolute” concludes the trip, maximizing what the previous track had done, alternating between lines of lucid melody and heavier storms.

In conclusion, “The Garden” is a dreamy album that manages to strike at first listen. A strong injection of melancholy and an excellent point of arrival for Hanging Garden. All these musicians prove, once again, that they can handle even the boldest experimentations.