Sunday, June 11, 2023

Gardens of Gehenna - Mortem Saluta (1998)

I could not remember this band's name for the longest time. When I first flirted with the idea of covering some Gothic metal stuff for a change, I had this vague inkling of a band whose albums I either bought cheap at the local import shop, or received to review back in the zine days of the 90s. I thought I had finally stumbled upon them but that was Garden of Shadows, a different beast altogether. Alas, I recall not liking the albums that I did have very much, but wanted to go back and give them another chance, because who knows after such a long gulf of time I might feel about this stuff. I often find that albums I once head a lukewarm view to improve over time just because their sound ages well from such a unique period of style or production.

Mortem Saluta is the Gardens of Gehenna debut, and it's very basic, crunchy death/doom with a guttural vocal not unlike what other bands were doing in the wake of a Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride. The difference here was that they would often have a keyboard or organ constantly following along with many of the riffs, rather than just arriving at sporadic moments to provide atmosphere. The drums mix steady, basic rock beats with some double bass rolls, but the latter sound kind of irritating in the mix, like a piece of plastic sheeting that is fluttering in a strong breeze. The songs are definitely dark and daunting, but they can also grow rather dull over their 4-5 minute song-lengths. Thankfully there is some degree of variation in how the riffs are put together, as well as the percussion, but I wouldn't mind a lot more, once they lay into some hook they a little too confident with it, and it becomes a slog. 

The mix is overall not much to write home about, but it's fairly crisp and steady. I wish the drums were a little heavier, and the backing instruments like synths were mixed in a little better, it feels more like a demo reel than a production with much depth. The guy has a decent growl that he can sustain, but a lot of his delivery sounds the same between tracks, which makes this overly monotonous. At best, the vocals and some dark doom ("Those Who Walk the Shadows") come together to create something appropriately ominous, and there's no fairy tale bullshit anywhere, this is all pretty gloomy stuff in outlook, like a death/doom to complement old black & white horror flicks; it just needs a better mix for more impact.

Verdict: Indifference [5.5/10]

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