For the astute metalhead, it’s no small secret that the death metal scene has experienced little innovation during the past few years — unless that scene is Gothenburg’s. Claiming At the Gates, Dissection and In Flames as its favorite sons, the Swedish ‘burg has stood as the pinnacle of death metal for the latter half of the ’90s, with the city’s signature sound juggling melody and melancholy, dynamics and devilishness, progression and aggression.
Which brings us to fellow statesman Gardenian and their second album, Soulburner . To say the album is accessible is an understatement; to say it’s a “sell-out” because of this fact is just plain ignorance. Concurrent In Flames guitarist Nikklas Engelin’s riffs are as crunching as they are agile, killer hooks hanging on every his phrase, fully guiding Gardenian’s dynamic construct of death ‘n’ roll. And roll Gardenian does, relying more on punchy mid-tempos than breathless 4/4s; but when utilizing the latter, drummer Thim Blom peppers them with acute syncopation.
Nevertheless, the overt theme on Soulburner is accessibility. In a time when most death metal bands won’t touch any sort of conventional song structure with a 10-foot pole, Gardenian deserves much praise for sticking their necks out in such a manner and subsequently brewing up a batch of Molotov cocktails that seethe with power. Hell, with the proper logistical tinkering, emotive scorcher “If Tomorrow’s Gone” could yet become a hard rock radio hit.
Nuclear Blast America, P.O. Box 43618, Philadelphia, PA 19106; http://www.nuclearblast-usa.com