Garden Of Souls – Anam Cara

Garden Of Souls – Anam Cara
No Dust Records
Release Date: 08/03/24
Running Time: 40:36
Review by Dark Juan

Greetings, my friends from around the world! As we spin around a star at a dizzying speed, each of us with the weight of several elephants (American measurement. They will do anything to avoid metric) pressing down on us due to gravity, it comes to the mind of Dark Juan that he is a truly insignificant collection of atoms, screaming into an uncaring, freezing black universe, where stars die and remain unlamented by anyone or anything, where nature takes its course whether it is by accident or design, and Dark Juan’s thoughts are drawn to Fermi’s paradox, among other things. 

Is intelligence in a single human a blessing or a curse? Does the knowledge that we are a thinking animal harm rather than help us? Are language and science going to be the downfall of man? Are the writings, the histories, the scarring of the planet with religions and explosive weapons all meaningless because once humanity becomes extinct, who will read or understand them?

Do the thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of words I have committed actually MEAN anything in the grand scheme of things? Is all that I do just some kind of sop to my own psyche in a blind groping for some kind of meaning to everything? We are all so small, so infinitesimally tiny, as individuals on a cosmic scale, hurtling around the cosmos on our generational arkship made out of a blue and grey oblate spheroid…

Where the fuck is everyone and everything else out there? We should have come across evidence of extraterrestrial life by accident by now, statistically speaking…

Yeah, that wasn’t fucking amusing at all. Dark Juan has returned from his young person wrangling in a weird mood and is questioning the point of his existence, or even if there is one. This line of thinking is dangerous so Dark Juan has decided to not think about it anymore and mainline lots of coffee, simultaneously activating the Platter Of Splatter™, which has the latest offering upon it from Netherlands-based Garden Of Souls, being a project from prolific Dutch guitarist Noud Smeets. This is a musical journey based on, “My deeply personal and transformative musical journey that delves into the raw emotions of betrayal, particularly when it comes from those we hold closest to our hearts. This album is an honest and introspective reflection on the profound impact that betrayal can have on our lives, as well as the strength and resilience that can emerge from such experiences. Each track on this album is a poignant testament to the complexities of human relationships and the profound sense of loss and disillusionment. Drawing inspiration from a letter that I wrote in 2014 but that was never sent, these songs serve as a cathartic outlet for my journey through a world turned upside down. ‘Anam Cara’ serves as a reminder that even in the darkest moments, we have the capacity to emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient.”

Fucking hell, my computer isn’t working properly now. Frustration is building…

In short, we are listening to a Technical Prog Metal journey into someone else’s despair and recovery, primarily instrumental with more guitar solos than an Enormo-Dome filled with wildly flailing Zakk Wylde clones, although there are vocals on ‘In Disguise’, this song sounding like Jeff Scott Soto kicked Yngwie in the pants and decided to sing on an album that isn’t stuck rigidly in the late 1980s, with the vocal delivery being very traditional over some slamming guitar work and gutturals as backing vocals. ‘Masterplan’ is very different from the previous track insofar as it manages to reference the old and the new of Metal insofar as the guitar soloing echoes the chromatics of Kerry King (never have I suffered so much meh as I did when I heard his solo song, which is the personification of dull, and the retired Slayer magically apparently reform for gigs when a wad of dollars was waved at them), the irrepressible, avant-garde and inventive nature of EVH and the neo-classical arpeggios of the poodle-haired prancemeister and Ferrari and girly tantrum enthusiast, Yngwie Malmsteen.

‘Geography Of Your Destiny’ strongly reminds your faithful (and rapidly recovering from his bout of introspectiveness now the fucking coffee is hitting) correspondent of ‘I Dream In Infra-Red’ and ‘Gonna Get Close To You’ by Queensryche with its unusual riff structure and electronic backing and meandering nature. These represent the highlights of the album, which Dark Juan has to be honest about because he’s a fucking critic, has left him a bit cold. 

Without wishing to be undiplomatic, because Noud Smeets has more talent and ability in his PISS than Dark Juan does in his entire body, and is a fucking amazing technical guitarist, but there’s no real soul to the music on “Anam Cara” to the ear of this correspondent. Sure, it’s heavy as fuck, there’s some jaw-dropping technical prowess on display and it is intelligently written and performed, but the music feels somehow empty. There’s no meaning, no solid core, no emoting in the music. It’s just Metal. Just Metal but without the rage and rebellion of Metal. It is so difficult to describe that je ne sais quoi, but I can’t help feeling like if the likes of Galvornhathol played this record then it would have a soul instead of this endless barrage of fast, wailing guitar and extreme arrangements. Garden Of Souls are so much better when there are words and narrative and stray away from the constant artillery bombardment of rapid guitar solos, blastbeats and occasional singing.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Het gepatenteerde Dark Juan-bloedspetterbeoordelingssysteem, voor mijn Nederlandse legers! Erg blij om je aan boord te hebben!) is finding this record very difficult to score, because it is technically superb, well written, ably performed and heavy and interesting, but at the same time it doesn’t feel like it is anything of substance, much like the letter the record was conceptually based on. The letter that was never sent. It feels like art for art’s sake, but because it serves the need of the artist more than it is for display. 

A most confusing album and one that is scored 7/10 because it is good, it might just be Dark Juan’s interpretation of it that is wrong, but I have to go with my gut instinct here and it is not doing much for me.

I like it. I don’t love it.


01. Anam Cara
02. Synchronic Mindless
03. The Victim Control Dynamic

Garden Of Souls:
04. pt1. In The Garden Of Souls
05. pt2. In Disguise
06. Carnegie’s Strategy
07. Pseudomnesia
08. Masterplan

Echoes Of Enstrangement
09. pt1. Geography Of Your Destiny
10. pt2. The Silence Is Talking
11. Perfume Of The Soul


Noud Smeets – Guitars but with many guest musicians


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.