Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interview with GARDEN OF SHADOWS in Issue#4, 2000

GARDEN OF SHADOWS is one of my greatest find during the lead-up to the release of Issue#4. Much less is needed to elaborate if you listen to their massive demo "Heart of the Corona". They execute prime epic atmospheric melodic death that doesn't sound Swedish, a thing that's hard to achieve if your band is going the melodic ways back then. The band had split-up, but not before leaving us with a masterpiece of an album,"Oracle Moon" before bowing out gentleman-ly. Brian has always been a great friend too, I wish him all the best in whatever he's venturing into nowadays.
I’ve been listening to the demo “Heart of the Corona” ever since from the day I’ve received it until now, and I guess that it’s not that hard for all of you to guess how high I regard their demo is. It’s been a while since then, so perhaps you all could just fukk off and read this nice conversation with Brian, the guitarist.
How’re you there, Brian my friend?
I am doing fine as I hope you are as well.
And what about the band?
We are all practicing hard and getting ready to record an album!
I think we should start with the MCD release on X-RATED RECORDS, shall we?
Okay, it’s actually a re-release of the demo; with an extra bonus track “Shards of the Sphere”.
What leads to the deal? What’s the purpose then, since I think that your demo sold quite a lot?
We received the deal from X-RATED unexpectedly. We sent them our demo because we hoped they would be interested in distributing it. They were interested and they offered to release it on CD. We received offers from several labels to release it on CD, but we went with X-RATED because we had heard that they were very honest and we knew that they had done a good job promoting their first release (WITCH-HUNT “Prophecies of a Great Plague”). Our demo has sold fairly well – we only have 40 left of the original 900 – but there were several reasons for releasing it on CD. First of all, we were not very happy with the presentation of the demo, and the packaging of the CD is much better. It includes an 8-page full color booklet with all the lyrics. Another reason for releasing it on CD was so that it could have better distribution. There are a lot of distros that do not distribute demos, and we felt that the music on the demo was worth getting it out there. Also, many people prefers CDs to demos because of the convenience, durability, and improved sound quality. But the main reason for releasing it on CD was the re-mastering and the inclusion of the bonus track, “Shards of the Sphere”. In my opinion, that is the best song on the CD, and it will remain exclusive to the “Heart of the Corona” CD.
Apparently there’s some problems concerning the recording of the track “Shards of the Sphere”. Could you tell us what actually the problem is? You have to do the mixing in another studio… why don’t you use Oblivion Studios again?
We didn’t use Oblivion Studios again because we wanted to get a better quality recording and we hoped we could get that at a more expensive studio. We thought that if we were just doing one song it wouldn’t take too much time (we had to pay for the recording ourselves). We were wrong! Here is what happened: We let the engineer handle everything and we wound up really regretting that. To start with, he miked the guitars poorly and we were so unhappy with the sound that we completely scrapped the first days’ guitar tracks, re-positioned the mikes ourselves, and re-recorded them on another day. This didn’t force us to go to a second studio, but it did cost us a lot of money! On the day we mixed we were even more unhappy with the final result than we were with the first guitar tracks. The entire recording sounded very muddy and we didn’t know what to do. We called several studios and one told us that it was probably the drums and that if we went to mix with them they could add compression onto all the drum tracks to make it sound better. We went there to mix and then we realized it was the drums – you could hear the entire drum kit on every drum track! There was hardly any separation of the elements of the kit. That studio couldn’t help us either, so we went to the third studio that had automation. There they were able to help the mix by raising the levels of specific drum tracks when they were supposed to be playing and lowering them when they weren’t (for example, bring up the floor tom track when it was being played and lowering it at all other times). By doing this we were able to generate a mix we could accept.
I know that the keyboardist Scott has left the band due to musical differences, right? And there’s also the inclusion of Owen as the bassist. Could you tell us more about him, and probably more insight about Scott’s departure. So who will handle the keyboards next?
Yes, there were musical differences between us and Scott. He wanted to play in a more improvisational style and we wanted everything to be structured. After a while, he had joined another band that was more improvisational and we both agreed it would be best for him to concentrate on that band, so he left. Owen joined us a little before we recorded “Shards of the Sphere”. He was a guitar player, but he offered to buy a bass to play with us and so he became our bass player. After we recorded the cong and released the CD, our old bass player Sean, who had first joined us after we recorded the demo and left (because of his job) a little before Owen joined, rejoined us on bass. Since we did not have a keyboardist, Owen agreed to play guitar synth. We have played several shows with guitar synth, but there are a lot of limitations to the guitar synth (we didn’t want to record using it), and so we are still looking for a keyboard player. Since I don’t think we will find one in time to record, I will play keys on the recording.
It’s no secret that you’ve penned a deal with WICKED WORLD, the sub-label of EARACHE Records, and the album is scheduled for release in January 2000. Probably you could inform us a bit about this debut. What’s the working title for it?
It will be titled “Oracle Moon” and it will consist of seven new songs. Some of the song titles are “Oracle Moon”, “Citadel of Dreams”, “Desert Shadows”, “Dissolution of the Forms”, and “Continuum”. Most of the material is similar in the style of the demo, but I think it is a little heavier and more involved than what we have done before. I think that anyone who liked the demo will like our new stuff at least as much.
If you could, then tell us what might be different between it and the demo?
To start with, I hope the sound quality will be better! I think the material is more mature than the demo, but it is not a huge departure from the demo material. We are happy with our style and we have no plans to make drastic changes.
Your music is in its totality death Metal alright, but you seem to add up lots of musical style into it…
I think it is just that we listen to a lot of different styles within death Metal and we draw on influences from everything we listen to. Death Metal as a genre seems limitless to me because it can incorporate elements from so many other areas (for example, ORPHANED LAND incorporates a middle eastern feel into their style of death Metal).
But what important is, the music contains lots of emotions…
I think it is important for music to evoke an emotional response, but it is not something we consciously think about when writing a song. We just make sure the song sounds good to us. We listen to music that we feel is emotional and that is an important element to us.
What might be different is the use of growling vocals in it. I mean, music like yours usually have that kind of screamy-type of vocals these days…
Other people have said the same thing, but I really don’t agree. I remember a time when the term ‘atmospheric death Metal’ referred to releases like SEPTIC FLESH “Mystic Places of Dawn”, or THE GATHERING “Always”. I would say these are examples of atmospheric death. Now there are many atmospheric black Metal bands… so many that a lot of people seem to think that if the music is Metal and melodic it must be black Metal influenced and have black Metal vocals. There are black Metal bands in this vein that I enjoy, like DIMMU BORGIR and DISMAL EUPHONY, but I think many of these bands could be considered atmospheric death Metal if they changed the vocals in pitch slightly! We enjoy the sounds of older bands that combine death vocals with atmospheric music and we plan to continue to do this ourselves.
You don’t seem to utilize Mary’s vocals that much though…
That is true. She will sing a little on our upcoming full-length, but it will not be too much. I think she has a great voice, and many people have asked if she could sing more, but we do not want to exploit her vocals to jump on a trend. We just use them when it feels appropriate and I do not think they would fit properly over much of our music. But for those who want to hear more, there are a few places where her vocals will fit quite nicely with our new material… but I guess I will leave that up to the listeners to decide.
Can you delve more into your lyrics? I’ve read them, of course; but it’s still pretty vague for me to understand it wholefully. I hope you could give a clearer vision on them.
Each song is an individual piece which is designed to be a poem in its own right. It is our hope that listeners will interpret the lyrics their own way. Of course we have an intended meaning when we write them, but I think that different people might take different things out of them. As for the song on the MCD, “Shards of the Sphere” deals with knowledge and uses a sphere to represent all possible knowledge in the universe. As we gain knowledge, we are collecting the pieces, or shards, of this sphere. Just one shard enables us to do so much…imagine what we could do with the entire sphere… “Heart of the Corona” deals with the paradoxical nature of the sun – its power to sustain life and to destroy it. “Lovely Cold” is a mythical tale of ancient civilizations who destroyed each other and all of their achievements were lost to time. “Apollonian Realm” is about the ancient cult of Apollo, and “Company in Solitude” deals with desperation and loneliness and takes place as an inner dialogue inside one person’s head.
I know that you have a band before this, FUNEREAL OPERA. Could you brief us about the band? And, if there are; any other band that you involved in before GARDEN OF SHADOWS?
There were no other bands I was involved in before GARDEN OF SHADOWS. When I first joined FUNEREAL OPERA, I was the only guitarist, and I had just picked up my first guitar, so it is probably not a surprise that we were terrible! Everyone in the band wanted to go in different directions and we had no real focus. We never did anything worthwhile in FUNEREAL OPERA, so believe me, you aren’t missing anything there!
I hope you could tell me something about the US scene. Don’t you feel a bit left out, as the US is renowned for the massive number of brutal bands?
It is true that the US scene has a large number of brutal bands, and there are several festivals here that are almost entirely brutal in focus, but I don’t feel left out. It seems like things are changing here. There are more melodic bands than ever before and the list keeps growing. Just a few of the American melodic black and death Metal bands include FORTY DAYS LONGING, IN RUINS, ASSISTING SORROW, SORROW BEQUEST, WITCH-HUNT, RAIN FELL WITHIN, DAWNBRINGER, EDENROT, DISINTERMENT, ESTUARY OF CALAMITY, THORNS OF THE CARRION, SCHOLOMANCE, EPOCH OF UNLIGHT, AGALLOCH, SCULPTURED, ABOMINANT, and more and more are appearing all the time. Things are changing and hopefully we will have entire festivals dedicated to extreme melodic Metal soon!
Give us your opinion, why there’re lots of bands like that in the US scene…
I really don’t know why there are so many bands of that style. The European sound has always been my preference, so I never wanted to play in a purely brutal band myself. Perhaps it is just that many of the great melodic death Metal bands didn’t have good distribution here in the USA and so more people into Metal here heard bands like CANNIBAL CORPSE and used that as their main influence.
People almost succumbed to the fact that US bands could only excel by just reproducing that kind of sound…
Well, I think if you listen to some of the bands I mentioned, you will be able to hear that it is not necessary to reproduce the same brutal sound to be an American Metal band!
Probably I’m running out of ideas, so maybe you could add up things that I’m supposed to question you Brian.
Well, I think you have done a pretty good job of thinking of questions! Seriously, this has certainly been one of the most complete interviews I have ever done. I hope you have enjoyed reading my answers. Thanks for this opportunity to be in the pages of RANDOM fanzine and for your support. KEEP THE METAL FIRES BURNING!!!

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