Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Gardens of Gehenna - Dead Body Music (2000)

Gardens of Gehenna swapped over to Last Episode for their second recording, and it marked a small if insignificant shift in style as they began tiptoeing around the inclusion of some industrial elements into their Gothic, drudging death/doom framework. We're not talking the full rivet-head package here, but in tracks like the opener "Requiem" they have that one grating industrial tone in the verses along with the guitar that gives it a bit of a weird, crunchy groove. The synthesizers are more prominent, not always just following along the rhythm guitar as they often did on the debut, and they are continuing their mix of haunted house tones and slightly more industrial effects. Overall it's an incremental evolution for the Germans, but one that at least makes this more interesting than the tawdry Mortem Saluta.

There's a little more depth in everything, from the roil on the rhythm guitar, to the grunts and growls, which while stylistically are the same, have a little more variation within them, a bit more ugliness too which casts its shadow over the listener. The bass is present but rather mundane here as on the prior effort, but the lead guitar melodies are more mournful and effective to compensate. They are also willing to strip some of the flourishes away at moments to do something like the churning "Tod und Teufel", a more frightening sort of tune where the synths are more used for the background to create a mix of horror and martial/industrial for the chugging guitars to brood upon. These songs usually falter when it comes to becoming truly 'catchy', but there are a few simple passages and configurations that are at least fun enough to nod or bang head along to while you're in the moment.

It's almost like someone shoved some keys and other electronics at Paradise Lost between Lost Paradise and Gothic and told them to have at it, or a pauper's early Therion, so if that sounds appealing you might make it through at least a couple listens of this sophomore outing. It's pretty harmless, and shows some modicum of growth, but I still feel as if there's not enough payoff that they can build to in these tracks. Still, the better production, the fractional increase in atmosphere and mysticism make this a much better starting point to the band's catalog than the first album.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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