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Gardenian - Soulburner - 90%

Orbitball, August 28th, 2010

This melodic death metal quartet was formed in Sweden back in 1996. It features Jim Kjell on guitars/vocals, Niclas Engelin on guitars, Thim Blom on drums, and Hakan Skoger on bass. Additional guest musicians were done by Erik Hawk on clean vocals, female vocals by Sabrina Khilstrand and keyboards by Thomas Fredriksson. A strong release by the band and a good follow-up from their debut entitled "Two Feet Stand."

Gardenian's distorted guitar tuning was in C, which made the sound really heavy and thick. However, they do utilize clean riffs on "If Tomorrow's Gone" and some acoustic melodies on "Tell the World I'm Sorry." These are just a few examples of songs that were played in this fashion. There were more songs on this release that utilized variations like the tracks that I just mentioned.

The bass guitar was prominent on the song entitled "Powertool", but was just for the introductory riff. The rest of that song was accompanied by those heavy guitars. For most of the tracks on here, they were very catchy and original. The song "Small Electric Space" has clean vocals throughout the entire composition. It begins with keyboards, which segues into heavy guitars, then also has some clean tone measures.

The overall production was really well mixed and engineered. All of the vocal outputs, guitar riffs and drums were totally in sync. The guitars were the most appealing here, as well as the clean vocals by the guest musicians. In terms of the vocal arrangements, these were done by Patrik Jerksten. I would have to say he did a great job utilizing the heavy throat and mixing it with clean one. Both styles were well done and orchestrated. Lyrical themes deal with life, humanity and personal thoughts.

In conclusion, I would have to say that this album was very unique and intriguing to listen to. It's a release that you can play repeatedly and never get sick of. It would be because there's so much variation here. Every instrument and vocal output was in order with one another. The arrangements by the band et al were also very well thought out. An album that every person who values melodic death metal should own. If you're not convinced, then check out the songs that I mentioned already first and foremost.

A lost gem - 95%

midgardmetal, September 5th, 2007

I have first heard Gardenian's "Soulburner" shortly after discovering the Gothenburg sound that we all know and love to this day, and to this day, the album is one of my favorite moments from the sub-genre. Having never gotten the attention it deserved, it is truly a pity, because it still sounds fresh even in 2007, when many of the more unique elements of "Soulburner" found its way into the sound of much lesser bands.

Let's start with the basics. If you have to have your melodic death metal more on a death metal side of things, and clean vocals are an abomination to your nekro kvlt grim aesthetic, there is very little for you here, and you might be served better by one of the lesser Dissection or Naglfar imitators out there. Gardenian, while always reasonably heavy, were never the most extreme of the extreme bands. What has always set them apart was the strong sense of songwriting, and "Soulburner" possesses that in abundance.

While "As A True King" is a pretty standard heavy melodic death number opening things up, by the time "Powertool" comes about first hints that this band is up to something different begin to surface. Female vocals in melodic death metal are nothing new - but combined with a rhythm pattern almost associated with more commercial styles of metal without sounding like the song is at any risk to be played on your local corporate rock radio station shows that Gardenian is not afraid to experiment. But the biggest surprise of the album is yet to come.

Semi-melodic clean vocals are also nothing new in melodic death metal, going back to the originators of the genre. The vocals that borrow more from Bruce Dickinson than James Hetfield are, however, are another thing. And in blistering, almost power metal-ish "Deserted", this is exactly what we get, thanks to the guest contributions of ex-Artch vocalist Erik Hawk. It is strange to hear "Deserted" in 2007, considering that the idea of combining melodic clean vocal choruses with harsh vocals on the verses appears to be all the rage now with a thousand lesser bands. If there was any justice in the world, Gardenian would be getting big fat royalty checks from those lesser bands.

Erik Hawk makes an appearance on numerous other tracks - in fact, he provides clean vocals on the remainder of the album sans the strange interlude of "Loss" and death metal vocal-only "Ecstasy Of Life", and takes spotlight as the sole vocalist on slow, dark "Small Electric Space". It should be mentioned that the music on the remaining tracks runs the gamut from heavy thrash to hard rock and who knows what else (industrial touches on "Loss", and for some reason the beginning of "Tell The World I'm Sorry" has a distinctive late 90s hard rock feel to it), held together by excellent songwriting. The members of Gardenian really know how to put a song together, resulting in a very enjoyable listening experience.

All in all, "Soulburner" and its follow-up "Sindustries" are two of the better albums to have emerged from the Gothenburg sound. The worst irony of it all is, the sound developed thereon would have fit right at home with the modern wave of bands influenced by melodic death metal. Ah, the dubious trials of being long before one's time... If you have any interest at all in melodic death metal, both the original sound and its modern mutation, you owe it to yourself to track down Gardenian albums. They are well worth it.

Sympathy for the scene - 89%

PazuzuZlave, April 14th, 2006

Swedish act Gardenian was quite unfamiliar to me before I got my grasp around this album. This was way before the supposed makeover of the Gothenburg scene & before the majority started hating it. The first time I heard it, I heard nothing special. Now, five years later, I picked it up again… and I declare it a classic! Gardenian consisted of an enormously talented group of guys. When thinking back, I never comprehended the full work behind “Soulburner”.

The opener “As a true king” exists now in my head as one of the greatest songs in Swedish musical history. There’s fury written all over it, and it hooks you up faultlessly for the rest of the songs. The lyrics on this one are cunningly written as well, and the arrangement in both vocals and the music part are incredible. It all moves on with “Powertool”. Being much slower and much more delicate, it still captures the feel of the individual standout it craves to be. Here we’re introduced to female vocals as well. Although it may not work in its best way, it offers a diverse discontinued harshness from the otherwise unsympathetic music. As “Deserted” and the title-track quickly pass by, we’re offered a slow but convincing work of genius. “If Tomorrow’s Gone” is lead by Eric Hawk, the guest vocalist who contributes with his Maiden-like clean singing. If you like this sort of stuff otherwise, be sure to check this particular song as anything else would be a definite overlook.

Hawk’s vocals fit into Gardenian’s expressionism very well. “Small Electric Space” starts slowly, but builds up to quality fast. Being related to the previous song in structure, it’s more testy and needs to be listened to quite a few times before one really begins to appreciate it. You might be excused for thinking that Red Hot Chilli Peppers open the track “Ecstasy of Life”. There’s just something reminding me of them in that opening. At this point, it’s a tad more difficult to let the songs sink in, since they do it in such quickness. You think it’s all over by the time you reach “Lost”, but yet another fine piece is offered after that one. “Black Days” end the album in a glorious way and shows us they aren’t finished in the business by a long shot. The slow build-up to the climax of the verse is astounding, and needs a certain mood to be fully appreciated. Simply put, you have to know it’s good while listening to it. Tricky, I know, but that’s just the way it is. The harmonics used on the guitars on the last song are rather mind-capturing.

One ideal arrangement after another makes this an absolute must-buy. The riffs throughout the album scream of complication and unbreakable dedication. Jim Kjell, who still was the vocalist back in those days delivers a perfect performance both from his throat and fingers (he was a guitarist as well), and it’s a embarrassment they let him go. Today the band has broken up and Gardenian is nothing but a recollection anymore. Still, they showed us an attentive vision when it comes to certain genres; it’s not always about who did it first, but who did it best. Forget about In Flames and Soilwork as absolute establishers of this once thriving genre. This is where the credit should be given.

Great, a break from GothenBORED - 94%

Znarglaxe, October 5th, 2003

When i first heard this album, i didn't know if i liked it very much, but my opinion soon changed. I didn't particularly like the very first track "As a True King" for the simple fact that it sounded like every other Gothenburg band ever. But "Powertool", one of the gems of the album, shows not only how GOOD female vocals with the harshness of the DM vocals, can create a contrast that sounds divine, but also a very pleasing contrast between brutality and the sounds of harmony. Most of the songs on this album show that contrast, which quite frankly, I find badass.

Now, granted, the music on this album is not exactly what one would call the peak of skill, but it gets the job done, and well.The interweaving melodies of songs such as "Deserted" and "Small Electric Space" leave the listener with a feeling of satisfaction at having heard something different for a change.

I will recommend this album to all those who enjoy good MDM but want something a little different.

2 1/2 good songs - 54%

BaronVonK, April 17th, 2003

This album starts off with a good start, As True As A King is a fairly catchy and enjoyable aggressive Gothenburg song along the lines of something earlier In Flames might have written. There is a weird guitar effect that almost sounds like an accordion.

The next song Powertool is alright, apparently it's about a vibrator, whatever, I don't think it's particularly funny. The song it's self sounds about the same as As True As A King, same drumbeat, same style of riffing, same tempo, but has a few female vocals sprinkled throughout.

The next couple of songs are pretty unremarkable and sound relatively similar to the last two.

The next two songs however, are where this album actually shines and makes listening to it somewhat worthwhile. The first of the two gems is If Tomorrow's Gone. This one takes a break from the drumming pattern and tempo of the previous songs and slows it down a little bit, starts off with a nice clean chord intro and then kicks in with some great harmonic riffs, slows back down and then the song goes into a mix of clean and rough vocals. Part of the greatness of the song is the dynamic between the clean singer and the rough singer. This song also feels like it has more emotion than the previous songs on the album.

The next great song is Small Electric Space. It starts off with an almost lounge piano intro, but quickly proves that it is in fact metal. This one is purely clean vocals (Eric Hawk of {\link Artch}) and again refrains from the drum pattern and riffing style of the previous songs, but goes for a more restrained style. This one also has some great harmonized guitar leads.

After those two songs, the album prettymuch continues down the path that it seemed headed down from the first four songs. This album is a great example of how a lot of Gothenburg styled bands would improve drastically if they got a permanent clean lead singer and focused more on songwriting and less on being aggressive.