Garden Of Shadows — Oracle Moon
I try and look through my archives of music from time-to-time; the sheer volume of albums I've collected over the years makes it hard to recall everything I have lying around. Digitising my collection has helped, somewhat, but huge directories can become similarly as daunting as shelf-upon-shelf of physical copies. While this can be problematic for a compulsive collector, it does come with the fringe benefit that I am always re-discovering stuff in my own collection. The second full-length album from Garden Of Shadows is the most recent 'find,' and instantly reminded me of my first encounter with it. (The bevel and emboss effect on the text of the album title was enough to transport me back to the beginning of the aughts, and ditto for the tone of the keyboards.)
I actually dismissed Oracle Moon entirely, at first. I listened to it, didn't really absorb very much, and moved on to other albums. I was barely a death metal fan, so the mixture of more traditional, melodic heavy metal riffs with the guttural vocals didn't resonate with me. I figured that, because they had a keyboard player, they'd probably sound like The Project Hate MCMXCIX — that's how limited my understanding was. I gave the record 1 or 2 listens, and filed it away in the vault, figuring I would come back to it later and see if my opinion had changed. That was 18 years ago, but it ended up paying off, albeit much, much later than I would have anticipated.
Since the year 2000, my tastes in music — and overall frame of reference — has expanded quite a lot. Going back to this record, I am genuinely embarrassed that I didn't like it more at the time. Oracle Moon is chock-full of catchy, tight riffs which all aged very well. The vocals are pretty standard for death metal, neither good nor bad; they serve their purpose and don't sound out of place in the mix. The song-writing is very strong, as the average track-length is almost 9 minutes — disregarding the 25 second interlude, "Into Infinity" — and yet nothing sounds belaboured or overstays its welcome. Every song is a neatly composed assortment of riffs that flow perfectly into one another. I'm not sure why the aforementioned interlude track couldn't have been mixed onto the end of "Citadel Of Dreams" or the beginning of "Dissolution Of The Forms," but it's a moot point.
In retrospect, it's surprising that this record didn't get more attention, although a combination of being an underground release prior to the age of social media probably didn't help. Melodic death luminaries In Flames also released Clayman a month earlier — an album now famous for producer Fredrick Nordström's ingenious guitar recording techniques. Garden Of Shadows disbanded a year later, with bassist Sean Beasley joining death metal legends Dying Fetus in 2001 and remaining with them since. The performances are all very precise and technical, without sounding like a lot of over-edited studio recordings these days — the production absolutely enhances the music rather than carrying it. None of the other members appear to have moved on to other projects, but they do leave behind a really strong collection of songs, in Oracle Moon, that still sounds great almost 2 decades later.
A fairly obscure release, Garden Of Shadows casually dropped a 53-minute collection of excellent melodic death metal back in 2000. Oracle Moon does not sound dated whatsoever, features great audio production and is jam-packed with quality riffs. It would be a stretch to call this record essential, but I would recommend giving it a listen if you are at all a fan of death metal. Oracle Moon can evoke a sense of nostalgia, but holds up so well it doesn't feel dated in any regard.
Release date: August 28th, 2000
Record label: Wicked World Records
Chad — vocals
Mary — guitar, vocals (track 7)
Brian — guitar, keyboard
Sean Beasley — bass
Brett O'Connor — drums
- Oracle Moon
- Citadel Of Dreams
- Into Infinity
- Dissolution Of The Forms
- Continuum (Garden Of Shadows)
- Desert Shadows
- Twilight Odyssey
Published: February 3rd, 2018.