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Memory Garden (May 2013)

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    Posted: 25 Sep 2015 at 1:02pm
This is an archival re-posting of my interview originally done for Heavy Metal Haven, transferred to Metal Music Archives due to the original site's closure. 

Memory Garden are a doom metal band from Sweden with a difference; they mix up the genre with power metal, two genres at entirely different ends of the metal spectrum. Heavy Metal Haven's Adam got the low-down on their new album Doomain, their first album in five years, from guitarist Simon Johansson.

Heavy Metal Haven:  First off, congratulations on the release of Doomain. This is your first release in five years, what’s been happening with Memory Garden during this time?

Simon Johansson: Thank you Adam, glad you like it.

Well, what have we been doing? During the first year after the release of ‘Carnage Carnival’ we were playing a lot of shows and supporting that album, during that time we didn´t really think at all about working on a new album. We also had some member changes during this time and that also took some time, the changes went really smooth thought since we knew both Johan and Andreas since before and they were actually the only guy´s we approached regarding this. But still it takes time to get them into the song etc. Then some of us has been working with our other bands, I play with both Wolf and Bibleblack besides Memory Garden and have been touring quite a bit with both bands. Tom plays with Nightingale and been doing that a bit. We also had some time when we were without label and at a point we really didn´t know if we would find anything good enough. We really wanted a proper label and decided that we wouldn´t release a new album if we couldn´t get a good deal. So we are really happy that we managed to get signed to Metal Blade again.

HMH:  Memory Garden hasn’t been the most productive band where full-lengths are concerned since the release of Mirage in 2000. Do you intentionally leave it a long time between albums or do circumstances just dictate that this is the way it happens for the band?

Simon: It´s been a lot of circumstances, mainly label related. After ‘Mirage’ we split up with Metal Blade and we really thought we could find a similar label pretty easy, this was not the case. We got a lot of offers from small labels but nothing that was interesting and we felt we wanted to go for. Then we got in contact with Vic Records when they bought the right for a couple of our earlier releases called ‘Tides’ and ‘Forever’. We got along really well with them and when they offered to release the new album we didn´t think twice about it. But all of this took a long time and was the main reason to why we had the big gap between ‘Mirage’ and ‘Carnage Carnival’. During this time we did release a 7” vinyl single in 2004 and played a bunch of festivals so we weren´t really gone for 8 years. Then as I said we split with Vic after the release of ‘Carnage Carnival’ and found ourselves in the same spot again. Of course we spent time playing shows so we have been active during this time as well. But let´s hope the next album find its way out faster.


HMH:  I’m curious about the title of the new album; at a glance it’s easy to mistakenly think the album is called ‘Domain’ rather than ‘Doomain’ (And the Internet keeps trying to correct it to Domain). Is this just a clever play on words given that you play doom metal or is there a deeper meaning behind the title?

Simon: It´s a game with words, a combination of the words Doom and domain and is meant to refer to Doom metal which is the genre we been connected to since we started, it´s also referring to what we do on this album is our domain, our own territory so to say.

HMH:  Now, the music on Doomain; My first impressions were that your sound was quite unusual, because I was hearing primarily traditional doom metal, but crossed with some power metal. That’s a rare combo in my experience, in fact Memory Garden is the first band I’ve heard that has done this. What’s the inspiration behind merging these two genres of metal? That’s if, of course, you agree with this classification?

Simon: Yeah, I agree with that classification. When we started out our sound was more doom oriented but during the years we have developed a bit and added some power metal influences to the mix. We prefer music that has a lot of elements and ingredients and to us it´s important that there´s a lot of things happening. I don´t really know what the inspiration is, it´s something that happened by itself. But we are all big fans of bands like Candlemass and also old Fates Warning, Nevermore and maybe that´s what´s behind our sound?

Memory Garden's recent music video for The Evangelist, Doomain's opening track

HMH:  What specific bands and artists have inspired Memory Garden over the years?

Simon: As I said we´ve listened a lot to Candlemass, old Fates Warning (John Arch era), Nevermore. Some of us are really into Halfords solo albums as well. King Diamond and Mercyful Fate have played a big part in our musical life as well. I think I should mention Psychotic Waltz as well since it´s one of my personal favorites ever. Trouble has played a big part also since we borrowed our band name from their song….:) I had the privilege to play together with Leif Edling from Candlemass in a band called Abstrakt Algebra, we released one album in 1995 and this was the first album I released myself. Besides me and Leif you could also find Mike Wead on guitar and Mats Levén on vocals. A cool band and it really gave me a lot about experience in the music industry. 

HMH:  Is there a particular song from Doomain that you’d name as your favourite?

Simon: I really love ‘Violate & Create’ myself, very straight forward song with some cool melodies and riffs. Also ‘The Evangelist’ and ‘Daughters of the Sea’ is some of my favorites. But to be honest I think the entire album is really strong and I have some problems picking favorites.

HMH:  Doomain has been my introduction to Memory Garden’s music, how do you feel it compares to your past work?

Simon: It follows the typical Memory Garden sound. I think we might have worked even more on vocal arrangements than before on this album but I can promise that if you like ‘Doomain’ you will also like our previous albums. We recorded most of this album on our own which made it possible to spend more time on each song in recording mode. We didn´t have a studio costing money every hour which was a big relief. The back side with doing it this way is that it can take a bit longer to be finished, but as I see it that´s easily worth it.

HMH:  Given that it has been several years since you last released an album, for those of us who got into the band through Doomain which of your past albums would you recommend be the next step in exploring the music of Memory Garden?

Simon: I would recommend the previous album ‘Carnage Carnival’ which in my opinion is just as good as ‘Doomain’. Maybe a bit darker but absolutely down the same alley. Also our album named ‘Mirage’ would probably be a good choice.

HMH:  There’s also a 2CD version of Doomain, which includes some cover songs. What promoted the band to cover these particular tracks?

Simon: All of the cover songs were done in ‘98-’99 and the reasons why we did those songs is that we were contacted if we wanted to participate on tribute album done for those bands and since all of them are favorites to us we really wanted to do this. Now when Metal Blade asked us if we wanted to put them on the bonus CD we thought that idea was great. The songs are really rare and not many people have heard them so it´s a great chance to give our fans something extra.

Queensrÿche - The Needle Lies:

Really great song, one of the best from the ‘Operation Mindcrime’ album as I see it. A cool thing is that this tribute album was never released so this is the first time our version is out on an album. Another cool thing is when the songs was just recorded ‘Queensrÿche’ actually had our version up on their web site. So I guess we did an OK version. J

Mercyful Fate - Nightmare Be Thy Name:

One of the best bands ever existed. This tribute album was released by a polish label. They contacted one of our old labels called Heathendoom Music and asked us if we wanted to do this song. It´s a great song from a great band so of course we wanted to do it.

Black Sabbath - Country Girl:

Another legendary band. This particular tribute album was to the Dio era of Black Sabbath. We was offered to do the song ‘Country Girl’ so this was not a choice, but it´s a good song and I think our version turned out really great. To me Dio is the best singer ever, I think we will never see anyone better and it´s sad that he´s not around anymore. Glad we got the chance to do this tribute though.

HMH:  The rest of the bonus CD is made up of two thirds of your second album, Verdict of Posterity. Are these songs taken directly from that recording or redone with the new Memory Garden lineup? And what is the reason that so much of this album has been represented as Doomain’s bonus content?

Simon: It´s demo recordings we did before we entered the studio for the actual album recording. We got the question from Metal Blade if we had something laying around so we could get a bonus disc together and we had those 2 recordings on DAT tape and thought it could be a fun thing as bonus. We are not totally happy with the way that album turned out sound wise and we have always been more happy with the feeling of the demos so when we got the chance to get those recording out we took it. 

HMH:  The artwork on Doomain is quite striking; does it tie in with the album in any particular way? Also, who is the artist?

Simon: It´s done by a Hungarian artist named Hjules, he is really brilliant and I love his work so much. He also did our previous cover for ‘Carnage Carnival’ which I love but the ‘Doomain’ cover fits our music better. We gave him some small guidelines and the idea with an abandoned and desolate church but the rest is from his brain. This time we said that we wanted a cover that represented a feeling more than an actual character like the clown on the ‘Carnage Carnival’ cover. He first came up with another front cover but we told him to remove some stuff and when we got the second draft it just blew us away. He nailed out thoughts and guidelines perfectly. 

HMH:  What are the current plans for Memory Garden now that the album is out?

Simon: We hope to be able to play a lot of shows to support the album. We have just started to work with a booking agency called Factory Music and hopefully they can find something good for us. But that´s the main focus, play as many shows as possible. Unfortunately we´re a bit late for the festival summer so I think we won´t get any of those this summer. 

Memory Garden

HMH:  Any recent albums (2012 – 2013 releases) that you’ve been listening to lately that you’d like to recommend to our community?

Simon:  There´s some really great new albums out there, I think the ones I’ve been listening to the most is Candlemass ‘Psalms of the Dead’ and Katatonia ‘Dead End Kings’. I also love the new Testament album ‘Dark Roots of the Earth’. Would like to mention Accept ‘Stalingrad’ as well and a Swedish band called Sideburn who released an album named ‘IV Monument’. There´s probably a lot of albums I missed but there´s some cool ones I think.

HMH:  Thanks very much for taking your time to answer our questions, if you’d like to add anything, please feel free to do so:      

Simon:  I would like to thank you for this interview and I hope you all give ‘Doomain’ a chance. It´s an album that might takes a couple of spins to get into but if you do so I promise you will find and album that has a lot to offer. I also hope to see you all on tour later on.
All the best and cheers
Simon Johansson – Memory Garden

The Heavy Metal Haven review of Doomain may be read here.

Memory Garden online:

Edited by adg211288 - 25 Sep 2015 at 1:13pm
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