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Thorns of the Carrion : The Gardens Of Dead Winter

In 1994, Thorns of the Carrion was self-releasing its first demo album and little did they know that it would prove nearly as influential as 'Streams From The Heavens' for the years to come.

It is said that there isn't any coincidence in the universe, that everything happens for a reason. In 1994, while the USA and a big part of western Europe were experiencing the death of Grunge and the rise of Nu-Metal, some months before Kyuss would guide us into Sky Valley, a cold tidal wave of Black Metal was ready to drown the world. And in Finland, a rather unknown band named Thergothon was forging a piece of Doom Metal history. At nearly the same time, in Cincinnati (Ohio), another young band was self-releasing its first demo album and little did they know that it would prove nearly as influential as 'Streams From The Heavens' for the years to come.

You have to sit and think a bit about what the Doom scene was like in 1994. Actually, there was hardly a Doom scene at all: Candlemass was supposedly dead, Hellhound Records had closed their doors amidst relative indifference, Scott Weinrich was facing charges for armed robbery in a liquor store... apart from The Peaceville Three, there wasn't anything of interest for a Doom fan (side note: yes, I know there were Sleep, Solitude Aeturnus and Count Raven but trust me, in those days, their audiences were very small). Thus, the first release of Thorns Of The Carrion simply arrived totally unnoticed both as a demo and when it was re-released some months later as a full album.

The band is most often seen as a Gothic Doom act, and one cannot underestimate the influence they had on this particular subgenre with their sophomore effort 'The Scarlet Tapestry' in 1997. In fact, Thorns Of The Carrion may well be one of only two bands that can be credited with having created this subgenre (the other one being My Dying Bride). And most of what would develop - in terms of sound and musical structure - on 'The Scarlet Tapestry' is already there on 'The Gardens Of Dead Winter', but under the disguise of some grim Doom/Death. Don't expect to hear the vocals of Beauty here, for only Beast prowls these gardens. A putrid Beast. It's hard to imagine, when reading the superb Gothic lyrics, that it can be sung by someone whose voice sounds like it comes from a rotting corpse rising from its grave: in fact, Matt Chapman sounds a lot like Bill Steer in the early days of Carcass. The riffs are morbid beyond words and they remind me of Winter. Most of the bands pretending to play morbid Doom/Death nowadays (I'm looking at you Encoffination and Wooden Stake!) simply cannot compete with the level of cold morbidity displayed here. As for the pace, expect nothing but slowness and heaviness: only Thergothon is slower and heavier.

Adding a really clever twist, the band combines violin, piano and keyboards in the numerous instrumentals that serve as intro/outro for the songs. Those instrumental passages are quite long (sometimes bordering the 5 minute mark) and bring a healthy dose of Gothic melancholy that fits with the lyrics and the song titles. What are considered today as totally separate genres get mixed incredibly well on this album - so well that you can't help asking yourself why other bands haven't tried that approach more often than is actually the case. In doing so, Thorns Of The Carrion manage to bring more depth and sorrow to some already cold and miserable music. While one could complain about many of the keyboard lines being as 'simple' as in Burzum's music, I can't see that as a flaw. Instead, it's pretty much how this instrument was used in Extreme Metal at the time (not everyone can be Emperor) and it gives an even more strong dose of morbidity to a music that was already oozing with it. Talking about 'morbid': if you manage to find the Wild Rags re-release of this album, you'll get 2 live bonus tracks that are so morbid and desperate that you can only picture the band recording them in a graveyard during a mass suicide under the full red moon.

Nowadays, Thorns Of The Carrion are (at best) remembered for having nearly single-handedly created the Gothic Doom genre with 'The Scarlet Tapestry'. While this album is indeed a masterpiece worth tracking down, I shall myself remember them as the band that, in a small corner of Ohio, gave birth to 'The Gardens Of Dead Winter', an opus that I still find as influential to the whole Funeral Doom scene as 'Streams From The Heavens'. In my opinion, this is a milestone of an album that any Extreme Doom fan should have.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Everstill Cry (The Tears That Flood Tomorrow)
2. Images Within The Tides Of Tranquillity
3. The Abide Of The Undead knights
4. As Shadows Asway The Soul
5. Portrait Of The Impious
6. On Watchers From Towers Above
7. Mourners At The Edge Of Black Rain
8. When The Sunlight Fades
9. A Shade Of Sorrow (Into Forever)
10. As Shadows Asway The Soul (live)
11. On Watchers From Towers Above (live)

Duration : Approx. 54 minutes

Visit the Thorns of the Carrion bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-09-03 by Laurent Lignon
Hate Your Guts Records
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