Scum – ‘Garden of Shadows’ (Album Premiere)
Thinking about all the creative, groundbreaking bands who failed and fizzled during their prime is depressing. Think about how many bands wrote hours and hours of material without ever leaving the practice room. It is a cliche that “the cream always rises to the top,” but some never makes it out of the stable to begin with. Such a tragedy is Finnish underground legends Scum. After two celebrated and ultimately forgotten albums, Mother Nature and Purple Dreams & Magic Poems, Scum’s self-financed and, to be frank, legendary third album somehow slipped through the cracks.
Death metal hasn’t been around long enough to warrant “style archaeology” quite like the lost pieces of early music found by lucky musicologists once in a blue moon, but the twenty years since Garden of Shadows was released makes it a veritable time capsule. Aside from indulging in the nostalgia of listening to classic albums, Scum’s long-lost death metal masterpiece offers a rare backwards glimpse with a new set of eyes. Obvious comparisons can be made to the bands which defined the Scandinavian death metal climate – In Flames’s initial melodic grandeur and ferocity, Amorphis’s progressive, historic pride, and Edge of Sanity’s breadth are all present, but Scum stands alone. The newer school of “epic” sound in death metal concentrates more on technicality and atmosphere, but Scum is a strong reminder that death metal’s formative years were all about songwriting’s melodious, infectious nature. It is a shame to know Garden of Shadows went two full decades shoved to the back of a closet, but brushing the dirt off this could-have-been classic offers a gleam which shines brighter than most new works.
Blood Music will be handling the heavily delayed release of Scum’s Garden of Shadows, closing a decades-old cliffhanger. Head below for an official first glimpse into a neglected piece of history, as well as some enlightening commentary from frontman P.T. Askola.
From P. T. Askola:
I think we started writing Garden of Shadows in the end of 1995.
The first songs were “Black Swan” and “I Am Messiah” because we decided to make more Paradise Lost-style melodic doom metal tracks with hard vocal lines, and in 1995 we were still very into this early 90´s slow death metal style.
We were then living on the eastern side of Finland in the village of Parikkala (4000-5000 people) near the Russian border and everything new was happening in the west/south side of Finland in cities like Helsinki, Tampere, Turku. So we were always about two-three years behind the times.
In 1996, many death metal bands in Finland quit or changed style very radically to gothic or a more poppy and soft style. This put a little bit of pressure on me because I’m not a good enough singer with clean vocals, and in 1995, I was also very into 90s crustpunk-hardcore. I was singing in a crust band called Katastrofialue (Disaster Area) and at the same time, I discovered Hawkwind and other psych/heavy prog-music. So I told the members of Scum that we must to make more progressive death metal songs with digital effects, which resulted in songs like “Golden Seeds,” “On the Altar of the Mystic Centuries,” and “Trilogian Tales”.
Our guitarist became more advanced in 95-96 so we added different riffing styles and mixed them together in the same songs. I loved songs that were more than 10 minutes long, and we tried experimenting with that.
In order to make the songs, Riikonen (guitar) got a 4-track recorder and drum machine. Haakana (guitar) and Riikonen created the riffs. Myself (vocals) and Jaatinen (bass) with Peiju (drums) gave some ideas to them, so we built a lot of melodies and made those songs as demos with the drum machine. I listened to those tapes hundreds of times at my home and made the lyrics using poems that I’d written lots of in 1992-1996. We practiced every week between 16-24 hours and sometimes more, and when we didn’t practice, I made more ideas on paper.
We practiced at an old training facility which was a sauna in olden times – from 1950-70…and I used inspiration from Jodorowsky’s “El Topo,” “Holy Mountain” and “Santa Sangre” and other avant-garde movies, as well as fantasy books like “Dragonlance,” Ursula K. Le Guin’s books and of course the Finnish Kalevala.
The Scum members were also very deep into 80s hard rock and heavy metal around this time. You can hear it in songs like “Mountain of the Hawks” and “Rise Like Morning Star.” The song “Garden of Shadows” is total Maiden worship, and “Rise Like Morning Star” is a lycanthropic werewolf story in the spirit of Danzig.
Before “Garden of Shadows,” signing to Black Mark was a very big deal for me because I was a big Bathory fan. It was 88-89 when I first heard Bathory, and after hearing “Hammerheart” I realized I wanted to make this kind of music. But when we sent the “Garden of Shadows” studio demo to them, everything went wrong. I don’t know the reason and why they never released this album, but there are many reasons like the dying death metal scene and instead black metal was then a very big deal everywhere. Nowadays, I think Garden of Shadows was not only a good album, it also contains very rich riffs and is a very important part of the legacy of Finnish death metal with Slavic melodies and the agony of this northern mentality. I hope some kids and old school metal heads take to “Garden of Shadows” like I took to metal in the 80s 90s and 2000s.
TRACK BY TRACK BREAKDOWN
First, we’d like to thank Blood Music and Ken “The God” Sorceron for everything and for mastering this album. In 1996, we took lots of influences from Anathema’s “Silent Enigma,” Tiamat’s “Wildhoney,” Emperor’s “Nightside” and Bathory’s Viking Metal albums. After remastering, this album sounds like 90’s Finnish Death Metal meets Black Metal; very Deep, Dark, Cold & Warm sounds…
I AM MESSIAH – The introduction of the album, the lyrics are very avant-garde, dealing with the mysticism of nature. Nature is my god and I am the messiah if I respect it. Influences: Paradise Lost meets Tiamat’s “Wildhoney.”
GOLDEN SEEDS – Our heavy prog song with doom metal/rock influences. The lyrics are about a winter-ending sacrifice with northern god worshiping and waiting for the spring and newborn nature. Northern prayers & shamanism.
MOUNTAIN OF THE HAWKS – Here near Parikkala is a place called Mountain Of Hawks in the middle of a forest, and there are lots of hawks (in ancient times Forest fairies) and there’s a mark of the Russo-Swedish war from 1722 because Finland was under the hammer of Russia and Sweden at that time.
RISE LIKE MORNING STAR – Lyrics are a total Samhain/Danzig-like lycanthropy tale, and here near the Russian border are lots of wolves, our Death-Action-Metal rock-song, hah!!!
ON THE ALTAR OF THE MYSTIC CENTURIES (PROLOGUE of Trilogian Tales) – Prologue of Trilogian Tales… I learned to play Jew’s harp, and I found deep in my head some green haze. Influences: Bathory, Anathema, Paradise Lost with psychedelic effects, great one!!!
TRILOGIAN TALES – Our 10min masterpiece!!! When Amorphis changed styles after “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” & “Black Winter Day,” we showed them what is true Finnish death metal with real D.M. vocal style (hah!!! Peace!). Very Amorphis-like riffs with progressive rock & ambient moments.
BLACK SWAN – Melodic but Hard Doomy Ballad. The swan is the holy symbol of ancient Carelian and Sămi people (from Lapland). “Black Swan” was about a love that I lost in the summer of ’96. Black Swan is the symbol of Death from the Land Of Charon…
GARDEN OF SHADOWS (Epilogue) – The circle was closed, we were big Iron Maiden fans in the 80’s, this song is for Iron and all deadly beautiful Maidens.
Lastly, I am very pissed off with myself because I lost those naive lyrics, (hah!)
Since 1998, I can’t remember all the words. Sorry for that but the music still exists and you can take my singing as part of the music and take this album like our LEGACY OF FINNISH DEATH METAL OF 90’s, yes, I miss very much that happy time in 90’s. CHEERS & SKULLS!!!!
Scum does not have a social media presence, but Scum have also technically not existed for two decades.