There are times when you start listening to a song and you immediately feel skeptical and know you’re going to have to wait a bit for it to really hit you, if it’s going to at all. Sometimes you have to listen to the entire album, often even multiple times before you finally start to “get it.” Alternately, sometimes all you need is the first thirty seconds of the first song to know you’re probably going to like the entirety of what is to follow. This is precisely what happened to me with Garden of Mary’s four-track demo, The Agony in Memory, released around this time last year on Funeral Party Records.
“The Silent Road” kicks the tape off with dreamy guitars being picked as intermittent harmonics highlight parts of it, followed by the crack of a snare bringing percussion and synths that nearly sound like backup vocals in the mix. The synths here strangely and most notably remind me of something off of Ulver’s Bergtatt, which is absolutely a positive association and adds to the depth and my appreciation of the song. Within this brief period of time where all of these elements have accumulated, the anticipation builds as the only real remaining step is the introduction of the vocals, which are essentially the make-or-break factor—one I always hope will give me a reason to like a release so I can have something worthwhile to throw into the mix of the limited amount of material I genuinely appreciate and listen to regularly. Fortunately, in this instance, my hopes were not crushed. While generally unadventurous with scale and inflection, the morosely detached yet rich baritone vocals were a delightfully pleasant discovery and are without a doubt perfect for this music.
Garden of Mary have effectively tapped into the soul of post-punk in a way that is rare for most contemporary bands attempting this sound. All of their songs are strongly and synonymously written, with each possessing fairly consistent tempos with enough nuance to keep them interesting. Any potential for monotony is always broken up by catchy guitar leads or embellishments, such as those found in “Sleepless Nights” and “Graveflower.” Moreover, the synth work found in each track is gloriously diverse while simultaneously maintaining the very specific sensation of longing evoked by the title in addition to enhancing the melancholy felt in listening to these gloomy and delicately catchy compositions.
The Agony in Memory is a solid sixteen minutes of demo material—a demo which fulfills its purpose quite well. It provides the essential and necessary glimpse into what this band is doing and what they’re capable of, while essentially showing us that post-punk and goth rock, or even music in general, doesn’t have to be ostentatious in order to still be interesting. I will absolutely be keeping an eye out for more from this band and will be returning to The Agony in Memory until their next release is hopefully and presumably produced.
01) The Silent Road
02) Sleepless Nights
03) The Agony in Memory
05) Departure of Christ