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Hanging Garden - Skeleton Lake (2021) - Review

Band: Hanging Garden
Album title: Skeleton Lake
Release date: 21 May 2021
Label: Lifeforce Records
Genre: Melodic Doom Metal, Gothic Metal

Tracklist:
01. Kuura
02. Faith
03. Nowhere Haven
04. Winter‘s Kiss
05. When The Music Dies
06. Tunturi
07. Road Of Bones
08. Field Of Reeds
09. Skeleton Lake

The Finnish powerhouse of haunting deep emotions and melancholy brought into music is back to enlighten the doomed world with sweet misery once again. It seems that Hanging Garden are releasing full-lengths frequently every two years, and I hope that they don't force themselves into doing so, as it can hurt the quality but at least from the musical standpoint, that's not the case with them. Skeleton Lake is already the seventh album for Hanging Garden, and the band is loyal to Lifeforce Records since 2013 when they released their monumental album At Every Door. I think that Hanging Garden is one of the most unjustly overlooked bands. These musicians are masters in what they do, have a stunning discography behind them, with many memorable songs, yet are always trying to experiment with musical aesthetics each time they come around with a new release.

Emotions put into sound is the main thing for Hanging Garden, is no right or wrong here, yet it comes adorned with beautiful artwork. Since Riikka Hatakka joined the band as a full-time member in 2019, they manage to express all the gloom, melancholy and sincere misty euphoria to an even higher degree. This album has much more female vocals than the previous, Into That Good Night, and this approach certainly brought more dynamics and a warm, poignant and ethereal atmosphere. Rikka's dreamy voice is sensual, magically emotional, yet powerful and has an esoteric vibe that nicely complements with harsh and clean male vocals and with all the beautiful melodies. The only remark that I have is that here and there, harsh vocals are a little bit out of line, exaggerated, and the natural symbiosis might get broken for some instants, but even to that, you might get used after some spins.

The nine songs on Skeleton Lake are nicely flowing, there's constantly present a captivating drive. The band didn't try to make long epic ones this time as most of them are clocking between four and six minutes, except for the beautiful dramatic epic album titled closer that exceeds it. The music is dense and filled with emotions, there are many transitions between cold melancholy and sweet captivating structures. The thick gloomy, cautiously developed atmospheres nicely unite with massive guitar riffs in a minor chord and wailing rhythmic lines into one fine constructed sonic mass. Tender female and tight male vocals take you on an intimate journey. Many musical layers are brought together into cohesion that might get your thoughts out of reality. Musically speaking, this is doom metal combined with gothic metal, some post-rock, melodic death metal ("Tunturi"), sometimes going into prog waters ("When The Music Dies") but always keeping the Hanging Garden trademark poignancy at maximum. Many of the songs have a certain uplifting vibe, like if they want to make an ode to the winter, but at the same time to end it up, to abrupt from coldness and misery.

On the first listen you might notice that Hanging Garden have simplified the compositions to make them even more music-driven. Superficially that might be true, but underneath the surface, there's a whole other story, listen for example to the magnificent "Road Of Bones" or the sombre masterpiece "Skeleton Lake". In those years, since the formation in 2004, the sound cosmos of the Finns has broadened noticeably, and each song is a testimony of it, starting with the catchy "Kuura" until coming to the peak with memorable guitar riffs and soothing vocal job in the beautifully crafted "Field Of Reeds". Hanging Garden's atmospheric sound gained further importance and emotional impression within the years. Nothing else and nothing more can be said than to claim that Skeleton Lake is an album of utter significance, not only for Hanging Garden but for the entire dark, doom and gothic music scene, and it's now up to you if you'll give it a chance or not.

The review was written by Tomaz
Rating: 8,5/10

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