Dallas band Garden of Mary are true 80s goth rockers to the core. Not only is their band name in reference to “Mary’s Garden” by Mary Goes Round, they also sound like they could easily have toured with Sisters of Mercy. No strangers to music, these guys are Ryan on vocals (also in shoegaze band Narrow Head), bassist Noah and drummer Adam (from hardcore band Modern Pain), Thomas on guitar, and Philip on synth/keys. The Agony in Memory LP was released in May of this year on Funeral Party Records, but it was recorded back in 2014.
“The Silent Road” starts out as beautifully melancholy as a Cure song, with deep harmonizing backup vocals. When Ryan’s vocals chime in, they’re very genuine and thankfully not obnoxiously deep (what can I say, so many bands try hard to sound like Fields of the Nephilim, it becomes grating after a while). The mood of the song feels like a sad dream. Toward the end we get a fun guitar effect that sounds like a saxophone. It fades out nicely, and the very tail end of the song bleeds into the second track – I love it when bands take the time to do this, it flows so well!
“Sleepless Nights” starts off with what feels like a swirling echo leftover from the previous track, then the guitar and drums take us into a more uplifting beat. The synths on this song are particularly enchanting. Ryan’s vocals remain morose and perfectly exemplify the feeling of sleepless nights. I imagine the song itself is upbeat to represent the restlessness one usually feels when they can’t fall asleep. The last minute of the song is vocal-less, and just toward the end, the song fades and we get a slightly nightmare-ish sound, as though the narrator is finally falling asleep. Easily my favorite song on the album.
“The Agony in Memory,” for which the album is titled, is surprisingly less than a minute long. It’s a peaceful, atmospheric interlude. This reminds me of how The Birthday Massacre used to construct their albums. I haven’t actually heard an 80s sounding goth rock band incorporate this before now and I think it really completes the album and accomplishes the mood stunningly.
“Graveflower” is another fast-paced track, and the guitar is a bit harder than the rest of the songs. Ryan’s vocals echo a bit more in this one as well. I’d say this is the most dance-y on the album. The mood changes at the two minute mark where the focus is on the guitar and the vocals become spoken word. Then we get some fun harmonizing and synths to finish it out. As the song ends, an ominous sounding noise presents itself from beneath the music (not unlike the ending to “Sleepless Nights”) which bleeds into the last track.
“Departure of Christ” has a similar downtempo feel to the first track. It has a minute-long intro before the vocals start and over all it feels very “classic 80s goth rock.” The lyrics are absolutely poetic and probably my favorite on the album. I believe they’re referencing the Garden of Mary here (as Noah puts it, “it’s a sacred garden enclosing a statue of the Virgin Mary, which used to be often cursed by pagans in the early Catholic days”).