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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.