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Less potent this time - 67%

colin040, March 25th, 2020

Having released an EP one year before that showed a lot of promise, you’d expect Horrified to release another incredible masterwork that only the Greeks were capable of during this time, but unfortunately that's not exactly the case here. By no means is In the Garden of the Unearthly Delights a Greek tragedy, but it’s already a step down in terms of quality, even if it still features moments of greatness and overall remains a unique piece of effort.

The first three tracks are all superb and that including the intro. Seriously, ‘’The Awakening’’ has to one of the best introduction tracks I’ve ever stumbled upon – a grandiose one minute and a half segment of glorious soundscapes that welcomes the listener into the ancient world Horrified resided in. ‘’Epitaph’’ continues where The Ancient Whisper of Wisdom left off; a majestic slab of elegant brutality that only the Greeks were capable of and with a strong sense of royalty, the track shows a lot of promise. ‘’Early Dawn Enraged’’ starts off in a similar fashion, but quickly picks up the pacing - this time sacrificing a sense of royalty the previous track possessed for a more down-to-earth approach in the riffing department. For a while Garden of the Unearthly Delights seems like a great successor to The Ancient Whisper of Wisdom.

Unfortunately it really isn’t. By no means is In the Garden of the Unearthly Delights a bad album, but there are some issues I just can’t get around. In terms of songwriting, this album doesn’t come close to the brilliance of aforementioned EP. Horrified still uses the same ingredients here: a fair mixture of angelic soars, gurgling growls, folk-y guitar noodling and unique, melodic riffing but results are of mixed quality this time. ''Down at the Valley of the Great Encounter’’ is anything but a great encounter and more so a mess of ideas. Fruity folk melodies reminiscent more of Tales from the Thousand Lakes than The Karelian Isthmus twist around melodic death riffing – the latter being introduced far too late this time, not to mention the guitar tone doesn’t do the segment justice - which brings me to the next issue: the production.

For this kind of style, I get that Horrified wanted to stick out sound-wise, too. This was already clear on The Ancient Whisper of Wisdom where the band refrained from any grittier production to camouflage their instruments, but I’m afraid the production is too clean at this point. Guitars sound even more feather light, if slinky wonky and there are times the keyboards get surprisingly loud, such as in ‘’Dying Forest’’. Now I like my keyboards in metal, but there’s no excuse for them sounding this prominent in the mix.

The second half of In the Garden of the Unearthly Delights shares its similar ups and downs, even if it remains interesting so to speak. ‘’Poetry of War’’ even recalls Tiamat’s The Astral Sleep thanks to the captivating and versatile riffing, minus the present gothic atmosphere, yet the riffs don’t match the quality of the earlier tunes presented here (or that of The Astral Sleep for that matter). Fortunately ‘’Unbridled God’’ sees Horrified finding their stride again: pounding, yet melancholic the song resolves around an emotional chorus where the guitars battle against one another: one relies on a chugging rhythm and the other plays a hymn of a lead with great effects.

While In the Garden of the Unearthly Delights is a sufficient work of Greek death metal, it’s just doesn’t leave that much of an impression behind unlike albums such as The Whisper of Ancient Wisdom, Mystic Places of Dawn and Orama. You could discover worse albums than this one (such as the album Horrified would release after!), but an essential album this is not.