May 19, 2008

CD Review: Gardenian - Sindustries

In 1997 Gardenian made their debut with Two Feet Stand. Unhappy with the label, Listenable Records, the band left and found interest from Nuclear Blast. Nuclear Blast would go on to release 1999's Soulburner, followed by their final album, Sindustries, in 2000. The former was a good example of the Gothenburg Sound, pioneered by acts such as In Flames, while the latter proved to be a more straightforward metal release with a touch of industrial creeping in. This album was produced by Peter Tagtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain), where Soulburner had been produced by Gardenian, themselves. His influence gave this release a much crisper sound than Soulburner, although it is overall a bit less distinctive.

Having experienced both Soulburner and Sindustries, I find that I like Sindustries a little bit more than Soulburner. It is odd as I feel this album gets away from the bands melodic death metal sound, and they are robbed of the elements that helped them stand out. Now, before you fans get all up in arms, I still think their best songs are on Soulburner. Weird, don't you think? There is a certain consistency in their sound here that did not exist on the prior release, and I am attracted to the production values and crispness of execution found here.

Unlike Soulburner, Sindustries finds vocalist Jim Kjell providing all of the clean vocals as well as his trademark growls. You see, the former featured Artch vocalist Eric Hawk supplying his considerable pipes to the cause, delivering the clean portions that Kjell did not feel he could pull off. I sort of wish that Hawk had returned to clean vocal duties, as Kjell does not quite have the vocal abilities to supply great clean sections. Still, his attempt is admirable and does add a quality that sets it apart. He is not bad by any stretch, and they do some interesting layered vocals using both clean and growled styles on songs such as "Doom & Gloom," providing another layer of interest.

The more I listen to Sindustries, I feel that the sound change is more than the just a change of producer. I do feel that Peter Tagtgren had a big influence on the outcome of the album; it is still the same band writing the songs. While there is still a lot of melody and little brutality in the mix, it appears that Gardenian was heading in a new direction. They seemed to be moving away from the Gothenburg Sound. Where they were heading is anyone's guess, as this proved to be their final album. Still, the evidence is here. I wonder if the apparent directional shift had anything to do with their decision to call it quits? The world may never now.

When it comes to the tunes here, there a few that definitely stand out. They do not wait long to provide a strong example of the new sound as they kick off with the excellent "Selfproclaimed Messiah." Also of note are "Heartless" and "Scissorfight." All three of these songs feature a nice blend of growled and clean vocals, as well as strong riffs, melodies, and leads from Jim Kjell and Niklas Engelin. Then there is "Sonic Death Monkey," how can you go wrong with a song that has the words "death" and "monkey" in the title?

The album comes to a close with a complete departure from anything on the two albums I have heard from Gardenian. The song is called "Funeral," it starts with a two minute acoustic guitar intro by guest musician Lars Szoke before breaking into what amounts to a death ballad. It is slow and ballad-like in nature, but there is also a dark, dirge-like quality to it. It is a good song, just very different.

Bottomline. This is a good album, I may like it better than Soulburner, but in the end they are pretty even as the earlier album has some of the better overall songs, while Sindustries is a better album when taken as a whole. If I am going to reach for a Gardenian album to listen to, it is going to be Sindustries, but if I am going to toss a few tracks onto my iPod, I will be looking to Soulburner.

This album was recently reissued by Metal Mind Productions as part of a two disk set with Soulburner.


Track list:
1. Selfproclaimed Messiah
2. Doom & Gloom
3. Long Snap To Zero
4. Courageous
5. The Heartless
6. The Suffering
7. Scissorfight
8. Sonic Death Monkey
9. Sindustries
10. Funeral


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