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Shadowgarden - Ashen 3.5/5

Reviewed: 10-1-10


1. Shadowplay
2. Last summer
3. With love and a bullet
4. The withering of mine
5. Sorrow's kitchen
6. 1:40 AM
7. Murky waters
8. Way down low
9. Empty days
10. Slowmotion apocalypse

An interesting newcomer to the gothic rock/metal scene is Sweden's Shadowgarden. A side project of guitarist Andreas Hindenas from gothic/doom metal band Draconian to be precise, created sometime in the late 90s and then continued with over time after he left Draconian in 2002. The project didn't really come to fruition until about 3 years ago when their demo first appeared. Hindenas' replacement in Draconian, Johan Ericson (who is still in the band) is the other main member of Shadowgarden. There are also 2 session members (both from Draconian), including drummer Jerry Torstensson and female vocalist, Lisa Johansson; however Lisa is not the lead vocalist of this band.

Sounding similar to other gothic metal/rock bands to come out of Scandinavia, such as (early) Poisonblack, Sentenced, To/Die/For, Beseech, Lacrimas Profundere and For my Pain; Shadowgarden churn out the best that gothic rock has to offer - sombre yet catchy melancholic melodies, semi-acoustic guitar passages, down tuned guitar grooves and infectious dark romanticism to help bring out the inner depressant in all of us. Quite commercial in sound, don't let that turn you away from this excellent CD, with typically impressive craftsmanship from one Andreas Hindenas and a great performance from all involved.

Interesting that these members of Draconian would produce a gothic style which is almost the opposite of what Draconian has become over the years. I guess side projects are exactly that, creating something that is different from the style that spawned it. Nevertheless, Shadowgarden is now official with their debut release, entitled 'Ashen', following a self-released demo in 2007. Picked up by European label, Napalm Records, 'Ashen' is a solid CD, however a little "pedestrian" in some parts throughout the CD due to its softer gothic rock radio friendliness.

Many jewels can be found within the release, with standout tracks none better than the CD opener "Shadowplay". Probably the rockiest of the 10 tracks, "Shadowplay" comes across as more of rock song with gothic traces and performed in a way that reminds me of a local bar band playing in a smoke filled room on a Saturday night. More top tracks can be found, including the emotional rocker "Last summer", "Sorrow's kitchen" in all its melancholic glory, the catchy "1:40 AM" and the sorrowful "Murky waters". Another track worth mentioning is "With love and a bullet", which features Lisa Johansson as lead vocalist. Lisa voice is quite haunting and indeed a wonderful singer and the song itself is one of the most memorable on the CD.

My only gripe on this CD is that I feel a few of the tracks sound similar with one another and that the bulk of the tracks follow the same script, the same structure and by the time you get to the last couple of tracks you sometimes find yourself looking at your watch; wondering when it's going to end. Lacking quite a lot of originality is an understatement, while it wouldn't have hurt if the band had spiced things up a little either. Still, overall 'Ashen' is a catchy, productive and entertaining CD, provided that sombre gothic rock/metal is your forte and you don't mind tracks that are fairly identical with the others. Andreas Hindenas is a superb musician and he has done well guiding this side project. I just hope that if there is a 2nd CD in the band's future, that they take a bit of a risk and produces something with more heaviness a little more bite.




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