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Review: Scum - Garden of Shadows
Garden of Shadows

Label: Blood Music
Year released: 2016
Duration: 43:46
Tracks: 8
Genre: Melodic Death Metal

Rating: 4.75/5

Review online: May 3, 2021
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Readers Rating
Garden of Shadows

Rated 4.75/5 (95%) (4 Votes)

Scum were among the many Death Metal bands from Finland that got their start right as the tide of the scene was receding, which can partly explain why they aren't as fondly remembered as other acts. They started out as an angry Grind band but got more melodic over time and eventually got signed to Black Mark Productions, who released their two full-lengths Mother Nature and Purple Dreams and Magic Poems. The band actually fully recorded Garden of Shadows back in 1996 and sent it to the label for release, but they never got a response back and broke up shortly afterwards because of it. Can't say I blame them, as I'm pretty sure I'd quit too if my band got ghosted by Quorthon after a few releases.

Thankfully, someone at Blood Music got a hold of the recordings and gave them a proper release nearly 20 years after the fact. Considering why it was never released in the first place, there is some reasonable cause for concern that it's not as good as what came before it, or at the very least that it would be a bit dated considering the time that it comes from. Neither of these concerns apply to this release, however, because Garden of Shadows is more than worthy of what came before it, and it may well be their most consistent album overall.

That said, you can't go in expecting another Purple Dreams and Magic Poems, as this isn't trying as hard to toss every idea at the wall to see what sticks. Rather, it takes their Amorphis influence, mixes those with more progressive elements and even some '80s rock, and cranks it all up as high as it can go, making for an album that may as well be the spiritual sequel to The Karelian Isthmus. That's not to say this is a carbon copy, as I'd say Scum had a better feel for epic melodies and mood than Amorphis ever did. Opener "I Am Messiah" may not be the strongest song on here, as it's a bit slow to get going and never hits a proper climax, but then you get absolute killers like "Mountain of the Hawks" and the searing, Danizg-inspired "Rise Like Morning Star" (go look it up if you don't believe me), which bristle with killer riffs and gorgeous melodies that only the Finnish seem to know how to make.

The real centerpiece of the album, though, is the 4-track epic that makes up the second half. It opens with the moody "On the Altar of the Mystic Centuries (Prologue)", complete with a freaking jew harp to back the doomy riffs, and that leads into the 10-minute epic "Trilogian Tales", which is without a doubt the greatest Amorphis song ever written, and among the best Scum ever did. Things wind down with the almost ballad-esque "Black Swan" before closing out with the propulsive quasi-title track, ending the album on a rather energetic note. The songs appear to be connected more thematically than through motifs (can't exactly confirm that, as most of the lyrics have been lost), but they all represent the band working at their strongest, so much so I can only imagine it was changing markets that prevented this from getting released the first time.

Considering how much the Finnish scene was changing at the time, it's admirable how dedicated this album was to keeping with the signature Death Metal sound while most of their contemporaries were moving more towards rock territory. It's a shame that was probably what did them in overall, but it resulted in an absolute classic of the genre that was unjustly hidden from the underground for the longest time. It may not have anything as captivating as "Flames of the Silver Sea", but it has about seven songs that are almost as good, and anyone who misses the old days of the Finnish scene needs to hear this if they haven't already. A gem well worth unearthing.

Other related information on the site
Review: Purple Dreams and Magic Poems (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
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