Garden Wall — The Seduction of Madness
(Music Is Intelligence WMMS 080, 1995, CD)
One might ask how Garden Wall could possibly top their previous album, Path of Dreams from 1994. This writer was initially skeptical about that possibility, but after a few listens to this latest disc, all doubts were quickly put to rest. Whereas the previous disc was just vocalist/guitarist Alessandro Seravalle and keyboardist/flautist Mauro Olivo, with a guest drummer, this current edition of the band seems to be a working four-piece, the two aforementioned augmented by a regular bassist and drummer. Their style has come forward to meet a more hard-edged and complexity-laden rock, each song an evolving odyssey of continually changing ideas. Some may take exception to Seravalle's voice, his throaty over-the-edge Hammill-esque vocal contortions permeating all but three of the album's ten tracks. Yet it's a voice that one can certainly learn to live with, especially given the level of the compositions and musicianship displayed herein, and the fact that the musicians are given plenty of room to stretch out. "Le Chateau Fou" pulls out some tasty folk influences, while the protracted intro on "The Doll" sets the stage for some tasty and engaging hard rock that often hints of an earlier era. But the album's confirmed smoker has to be "W8less," a fast and furious over-the-top blitzkrieg of unrepentant driving prog. Even the three instrumentals "Pornopazzia," "All the Best Years," and "Blurp," while not as lengthy, merit mention as well. No filler here, not an ounce of fat anywhere on the album. Because of this, it may take a few listens to get comfortable with, but then again isn't that the case with most great records. Highly recommended.
by Peter Thelen,
Now here's a band who has made some serious progress. From listening to Principium
or Path of Dreams
, there's no way of telling that they would have made this much of a step up. Yes, Garden Wall have arrived in a big way; this is not only WMMS's best new release probably ever, but it's also one of the finest new Italian releases in the last 10 years, rating up with Ezra Winston or Deus Ex Machina. This is an interesting one from my critical standpoint as its so overwhelmingly high quality that even characteristics that would bury many other tone-similar albums can be overlooked. For instance, I don't think I can get used to the vocals — the Peter Hammill/Fish sound with the Italian accent is just a bit too "neo-prog" sounding for my tastes. Nevertheless, the balance between vocals and instrumentals is much in the favor of the latter so it's not often that the hysterics get in the way. Also the heavy metal tones on the guitar and drums (lots of double bass) usually would bother me as they're quite cliché, yet they're so expertly played its almost irrelevant. The constant creativity throughout this is astonishing at times and most importantly they keep the excitement level way up. Progressive rock albums like this are unfortunately too few and far in between. They show that creativity is far more important than tones, digital or analog, as long as there is some research involved.
by Mike McLatchey,
When I first heard the name "Garden Wall," I thought, "This band must be another one of those Genesis influenced bands." Well, after listening to the CD, I wonder if they've ever even heard of Genesis! Garden Wall hurls music at you with a powerful sound that more closely resembles Dream Theater, King Crimson, and Happy Family than anything else — plus Genesis would never start off an album with a primal scream. The vocal sections of the album are broken up nicely with several long instrumental passages, most of which are in odd meter. The hectic, frantic, frenzied pace of some of these instrumental sections is the basis for the Happy Family comparison. The heavy guitar, mostly at full volume run through a harmonizer stomp box, and solo keys give some tunes that Dream Theater flavor. The abundance of the tritones and polyrhythms, many of which are way cool, bring King Crimson to mind. All the musicians display more than adequate chops, but the drumming is the most interesting aspect musically. The shrieking vocals can be a bit over the top in places, but the instrumental parts make up for that. Although not credited on the album, I suspect that the infamous Big Gulp is the featured guest howler on the grungiest outcries... or maybe it's Lemmy?
by Mike Grimes,
I'm not certain if this band is named from the lyric of Genesis' "I Know What I Like," but that could begin to explain the myriad of styles the band employs. Garden Wall has a metalish rhythm section and mentality: lots of syncopated rhythms where bass, guitars, and drums are pummeling a rhythm to death, then throw in some quick switchovers to another time signature. Not the best organized songs I've heard, but then that's not the complete story either. Vocalist Allesandro Seravalle is borderline annoying at times — he seems to be trying too hard to draw attention to himself. He uses an operatic style, with mock British quirkiness which gets to be irritable very quickly. But there are some good things to speak up for as well: Mauro Olivo renders some very tasty keyboards: there is a lot more upfront, piano and synths than your average progressive metal group. The song arrangements are good too in particular all the instrumental tracks are the best ones to check out ("W8less," parts of "The Doll"). This disc is a grab bag of styles, and attitude: like pureeing Dream Theater with some fusion and old 70s progressive peculiarities. Pouring the sludge out and slurping it up, I noticed that the songs with vocals seem to be missing some heart and depth, although they are technically played well. The title track is a bit too grandiose for me, but does have some good head-banging rhythms for those of you with strong necks! In live performance, it would be very hard to imagine if the band would be a bit over the top in their execution (i.e. Kalaban ) or if some restraint could add poise to a potentially exciting show. It does grow on you though!
by Jeff Melton,
Filed under: New releases, Issue 10, 1995 releases
Related artist(s): Garden Wall