By most accounts, Gardenian’s second album, last year’s Soulburner, rung ears as a fine piece of metallic art, but some doubts lingered over bandleader/guitarist Niclas Engelin’s on/off involvement with close neighbors In Flames, as in how much he might/might not have sponged off them. Well, those doubts are doubly destroyed by Gardenian’s newest Sindustries platter, for not only is the album an arresting display of searing songcraft and hook-laden heaviness, it also displays Gardenian as Sweden’s new contenders in the accessible (and smartly so) death n’ roll race, or at least a potent bunch of heavies with a more-discernible identity.
Amply kicking things off with the epic, wrenching Tool-meets-Gothenburg metal of “Selfproclaimed Messiah,” Sindustries certainly kicks in and kicks around, delivering blow after crunchy blow of bricklaying abuse, the kind of which adheres to easily observable song structures yet never manages to succumb to pandering-to-the-masses predictability. Much like Carcass’ criminally underrated Swansong, Gardenian nixes the (at times) nerve-shattering complexity of their previous long-player in favor of shade, texture, and nuance, all of which set to more-digestible tempos and dynamics, all of which painstakingly brewed by über producer/Hypocrisy leader Peter Tägtgren (shame he couldn’t have written a batch of tunes this tight for Into The Abyss). Unlike Swansong, however, Gardenian eschew the sucked-sour social worldview of that album — and, by mild extension, their previous one — for a vaguely U2, alternatingly hopeful/hopelessness that fits the content better than latex (respectively, see the spiritually cleansing “The Heartless” and the four-on-the-four title track). Close kin the two albums may be, but Gardenian’s schematic tinkering, not to mention their acute use of space, points to grander ambitions and grander things to come for the still-young quartet.
But if there was one element where the band’s identity has forcibly come to the fore, it would be frontman/guitarist Jim Kjell, who shared half of Soulburner‘s vocal duties with Artch’s clean-tenored Eric Hawk. This time around, Kjell tastefully varies his vocal delivery, moving with ease from the standard-issue (but no less hair-raising) Swedish growl to a drifting yet direct howl: definitely dynamic, but not too far removed from each other as to warrant raised-eyebrow investigation — credit Tägtgren with setting the controls just right for the latter approach. And if there was one qualm you could have with the album, it’s that nearly every song is more than six minutes long, probably a bit exhausting for some considering the simpler structures utilized here. However, these song lengths are deliberate and, most of all, integral to Sindustries‘ overall texture: loping, lumbering, absorbing, and, especially with Kjell’s clean tone in tow, either ascending to the heavens or plummeting to the abyss, either way indicating movement to someplace soul-stirring. In two words, nearly flawless.
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