It's time to end 2011 in style with our final CD review of this year, and 30th overall, and as expected, it's our review of Garden of Bedlam's new album "Everything Will Die"! Independently released on Boxing Day at a CD release show at The Canadian Nightclub, this is the popular Sault Ontario metal quartet's first full length album & second CD. Like for their 2009 self-titled EP, "Everything Will Die" was recorded & mixed at Stereo Soul Studios with producer Miguel Gauthier last summer, and was later mastered by Andy Krehm at Silverbirch Productions in Toronto. The album features Garden of Bedlam's current lineup, including Erik "Buzz" Boissineau on lead vocals, Josh Belleau on guitar, his cousin Evan on bass, and Derek Turner on drums. "Everything Will Die" can be purchased at Garden of Bedlam concerts & at The Rad Zone for $10, and though online purchasing details have yet to be publically revealed, I'd assume that a future iTunes release would be in the cards. Some songs are streaming on Garden of Bedlam pages as well, but definitely support the band and buy the whole thing. With 10 songs clocking in at about 45 minutes in length, let's start the review by talking about the first track, "Against The Grain"! (Updated on September 29th, 2012)
Like at many of their live concerts, "Against The Grain" kicks off this album, and after a slow build with each band member joining in, the song starts with a hard charging riff and some nice melodic heavy singing from Buzz that familiarly reminds me of their concerts! That said, the song does sound a bit deeper in tone than I remember from live performances, though that could just be my wrong perception. The song, which seems to talk of revenge and breaking free to stand against opposition, is definitely catchy with a nice sing along chorus, and Buzz's vocals just soar at points, along with some nice drumming and very heavy riffs, especially during the verses. I'd have liked an added guitar solo, but we'll get plenty of those in future tracks on the CD. As a metal song, this is definitely one of the best on "Everything Will Die", balancing entertaining sounds and a heavy aggression very nicely and setting the tone of the rest of the album for what should be a great collection of modern heavy metal!
Second on the album is "Three Days", the song that Garden of Bedlam wrote about their experiences at the Kiss Battle of the Bands in November/December 2009 where they won the right to open for Kiss at The Essar Center the following August. Starting with a nice bass intro from Evan Belleau, the song launches into a heavy but slightly slower riff that has a definite serious deliberation to it, and the follows with Buzz's singing. The pre-chorus vocals are too reserved, but on the chorus itself, Buzz's soaring vocals are great and very easy to sing along with! On the whole, this song is heavier but not as enthusiastic as "Against The Grain", but I find that the lyrics are a bit stronger, and the members of Garden of Bedlam definitely show their talents throughout. The bridge isn't as strong as the preceding portions of the song, seeming repetitive and not as heavy, but it leads into Josh Belleau's first guitar solo which is facemelting, as you'd assume! While I like "Three Days" a lot, and it definitely has some great lyrical significance, I like the energy and speed of "Against The Grain" a bit more. Still, this is quite a good way to kick off this album!
Third is the album's title track, "Everything Will Die", which seems to allude lyrically to the apocalypse and possibly the images in the album booklet. The song has a low sounding opening that doesn't really hook you into the song, but then it gets incredibly fast and heavy out of nowhere! Easily the heaviest song on the album so far, the singing is very determined and forceful, and the guitar work, though low in tone, is relentless with great bass work behind it! This song is very easy to mosh to, especially during the verses and bridge, Josh's guitar solo completely outshines the one on "Three Days" for speed and technicality, and it's good to see Buzz break out a falsetto scream here, even if it's low in the mix. While it's a heavier track, the spark and energy on "Against The Grain" is missing, and it ends very abruptly, but on a heaviness scale, "Everything Will Die" is a great track that gets the job done, and fans will eat it up! It's followed by the album's newest & shortest track "2012", which is a 68 second instrumental that has a slow and dark feel, almost as if the apocalypse did come as predicted on the previous track. Does "2012" imply the Mayan doomsday prophecy? I don't know, but it's an effective transition, even if it's not a real standalone song.
Fifth on the album is "Torment", and it imemdiately starts with a high tempo heavy section that immediately grabs you and makes you take notice, and I immediately welcome the positive energy that I'd missed from "Against The Grain"! The guys in Garden of Bedlam are relentless here, though the choruses kill some of the momentum. Evan Belleau's bass work really shines, and the song, which seems to talk about the torment caused by a person's inner demons, nicely mixes an up tempo feel and relentless metal to create a standout track on this album! I liked hearing the return of Buzz's screaming too, but like on "Everything Will Die", the song ended too abruptly afterwards, which is unfortunate, but "Torment" still stands as a highlight of this album! If only the chorus wasn't as reserved. Sixth is "With A Spark", which starts with a great drum-powered intro and some very heavy and charging riffs, and later, Buzz offers some of his best singing on the album so far, ranging from aggressive determined verse singing to some nicely varied and rangy singing in the choruses! Lyrically alluding to perseverance and not giving up, I really enjoy this song's intensity and variance, and Josh Belleau's guitar solo compliments everything well, as does some of Derek Turner's best drumming so far! This is another great track that deserves more attention, and hopefully it gains that at future Garden of Bedlam shows!
That's followed by the CD's longest and softest track, "Around The Bend", which seems to be about saying goodbye to a loved one, and the related pain and feelings surrounding that. Buzz's singing here is really good, and I remember wanting him to sing like this more on their 2009 EP. This proves he can handle softer singing really well, and you can feel the emotion in his voice early on! The choruses are a bit heavier, but for the first 3/4ths of the song, it follows along the same path of soft ballad-like material. I like that they inject some heavier riffs in so it doesn't get too light, but after a while, it did seem to get repetitive, despite the affecting lyrics. After 4:30, a bass solo starts before the song radically changes, getting very heavy to end the last two minutes in grand fashion! We get heavy riffs, a nice guitar solo, and some good energy, with more emotional lyrics, which isn't a bad contrast on the whole. Very nice and well written track, but my metalhead nature does prefer some earlier tracks to this one.
Eighth on "Everything Will Die" is the shortest real "song" on the album, "Your Disgrace", and it's another good & energetic metal number! The intro breaks down into some great chaotic metal, and there's some clear anger in the lyrics from Buzz's early shouting to the content, which relates to anger towards the words that someone said about them. The song has a nice catchy chorus, and a good audience participation quality, but I do find that the lyrics aren't very strong. They're very repetitive late in the song, and I missed more of the anger in the vocals later on. The band are on top form here (missing guitar solo aside), and Evan's bass work shines here, but it's not one of the best or most varied songs on the CD, though I do enjoy it! It's followed by the second to last song on the album, "New Rain", and it's long been one of my personal favourites of Garden of Bedlam's, but how does it sound in studio? Awesome, though a bit deeper than I remember it live. Buzz's singing is at it's best for range and ability here, I find, and it's a great song to sing along with thanks to the soaring catchy verses and memorable choruses! Lyrically alluding to living for reality and not your dreams (I think), the rest of the song lives up to the hype, with heavy guitar work and nicely paced drumming, though the bridge before the guitar solo should only stretch that long live, it's just filler here. This is easily the catchiest song in my opinion on "Everything Will Die", and though there's heavier songs on the disc, this remains on of my personal favourites!
The album closes with "Emptiness Without A Name", which launches with a very fast and heavy intro and building vocals, and it's relentless untilt he chorus, which calms down a bit though remains very heavy. The breakdown midway through feels forced when they were already keeping things brutal early on, and the chorus repeats too much late, which dampens a very heavy and listenable track, but it's a quality closer to "Everything Will Die" that ends everything on a brutal note!
So how do I grade Garden of Bedlam's first full length album? Well, I can say without reservation that it's much better and sounds much heavier than their debut EP, and it's probably the best sounding new local metal album of 2011! They pooled together a ton of well written heavy modern sounding material into this CD and it came out very nicely! The production's better, there's more substance, it's as good of a step up as you'd expect! Buzz's singing shined on almost every track, and his range just gets better, while Josh Belleau's guitar work was awesome with tons of heavy riffs and many great and varied guitar solos! Evan Belleau's bass work was solid as well, and it was a clear and steady presence on each song, as was Derek Turner's proficient and relentless drumming. No song on this album is bad, and I personally enjoyed the heavier and more energetic songs like "Against The Grain", "New Rain", and "With A Spark" the most of the included material, but there's not a dull moment to be had overall. And yes, kudos to the band for including lyrics in the booklet, that's always a plus in my eyes!
For criticisms, I'll say that the mix on some songs could have been better to accentuate the singing, a few songs sound deeper in studio than they do live, a few songs could have used a guitar solo (or a longer one), and a couple tracks needed more energy or a non-abrupt ending, but on the whole, this is a great CD from one of Sault Ontario's most talented metal bands, and hopefully Garden of Bedlam build on this to reach even bigger success in the short & long run! Definitely pick this album up if you get a chance for a great slice of modern heavy metal!
I hope you guys liked this month's CD review and last post of 2011! So, which CD review will kick off 2012 at The Sault Metal Scene? Barring a release delay or another notable local metal CD review to complicate choosing, I hope to review local solo hard rock artist Mike Haggith's new CD "Neighbourhood Watch", which is slated for release on January 25th. If all goes according to plan, it'll be the second straight year where we're reviewing a solo album of his first to kick off the year, so this should be interesting! For reference sake, if it's delayed or a new album release muddies things, and no other new CDs come out, I'll say that we will not review a Sykotyk Rampage album or (if I had it) Amethyst's debut cassette, as it's too soon since we last reviewed albums of theirs, but I tentatively have plans to review a Sykotyk Rampage review next month if nothing new is released. Also, while I know there'll be sentiment for a review of "Woods V: Grey Skies & Electric Light" next , it's honestly too soon from our last review of a Woods of Ypres CD & from David Gold's passing to provide an objective review, but I have "W5" pencilled in for early March, mark my words! So whether our next review is of Mike's new album, another new release, or something from the archives, look out for our next CD review in late January!
That's all for this year, but in case you're not around for tomorrow's 2012 preview post, I'll wish you guys a Happy New Year, and stay tuned for much more news, previews, reviews, features, and more in the coming year! Thanks everyone!