Shadowgarden - 'Ashen'

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Shadowgarden - 'Ashen'

If this is an indicator of what Ericson can do outside of his Draconian confines, then let's have more of the same, please.

To say “don’t give up the day job” to Johan Ericson would be extremely unfair. ‘Ashen’ is the debut release by Shadowgarden, the side-project to his more well-known post in Swedish goth-doomsters Draconian, and it’s an extremely good album indeed. 

The idea behind Shadowgarden was originally conceived by the guitarist and his then Draconian bandmate Andy Hindenäs back in the mid-nineties, and as a project it’s been picked up and put down more times than a well-thumbed copy of ‘Playboy’. But with demos being recorded off and on, here and there, over the years Ericson and Hindenäs began to pull together the nucleus of something quite special. Last year finally saw the pair in the studio to record the album, recruiting along the way Draconian’s live bassist Björn Johansson and renowned sound engineer and drummer Daniel Flores to help bring ‘Ashen’ to fruition. To top and tail things Draconian’s Lisa Johansson also turns in a stunning performance as special guest on ‘For Love And A Bullet’.



And the music? Well, it’s not as heavy or downbeat as Draconian; in fact it’s goth metal with a spring in its step, with lively choruses and forward-driving riffs and not an ounce of misery to be seen. In fact, Ericson and Hindenäs have crafted a brace of eminently memorable and exciting songs. “Gothic rock with some seriously catchy choruses” is how the pair themselves describe their music, and they ain’t far off. Think some of Paradise Lost’s more lively moments –yes, they have had some – and you won’t be too far adrift.

From the exquisite art deco style cover to the dying notes of closer ‘Slowmotion Apocalypse’ the band don’t put a foot wrong. The ten emotion-laden songs flow beautifully and seamlessly, and walk the high wire between seriously melodic and necessarily heavy, not dissimilar to the early days of HIM (before His Infernal Majesty Ville Valo became His Annoying Poster Boy). There’s not a duff track on this album – trust me on this – so it’s a bit difficult to come up with individual highlights, although those that are perhaps more equal than the others would include ‘1.40am’, opener ‘Shadowplay’, ‘Way Down Low’ and the aforementioned ‘With Love And A Bullet’. If this is an indicator of what Ericson can do outside of his Draconian confines, then let’s have more of the same, please.

John Tucker

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