Gardenjia is a newer face emerging from the blooming Italian metal underground. Through a unique progressive approach and a committed drive, they have been pushing their music since 2011. First off with the self-produced EP “IEVADS” and again with the release of the album “EPO” in 2012. That album was then released a second time via Memorial Records in May of this year. While listening, it’s evident these musicians are looking to push conventional boundaries in what they do. And they succeed in a number of ways.
Every once and awhile an album will come out with the ability to create a world of it’s own in the mind of the listener (depending on the listener, mind you). Not individual ideas spinning off track by track, but a thematically unified world of music and soundscapes. Similar genre examples would be Meshuggah’s “obZen”, Uneven Structure’s “Februus”, Animals As Leaders “Weightless”, and another Italian album I’ve been listening to this week – Human Improvement Process – “Deafening Dissonant Millennium” (okay, that’s death metal but I wanted to include it). I would put Gardenjia in this category as well. As soon as you click play, the atmosphere reaches out and fills your world with another. It may strike you as a cold, darkened, dystopian realm where buildings have crumbled and ancient magic roams or some such province.
Musically, this album is very well conceived. The instrumental corps know their strong points and they execute them well. Essentially, the musical elements are derivative but the band manages to make them their own in a very unique, out of the box kinda way. Certain moments may be lackluster, but “EPO” packs it’s fair sure of “holy shit!” moments. These musicians will surprise you with the sheer amount of creative force they can pull at times.
Vocally, I have to say the delivery on this album is sub-par. The singing is very one-dimensional, bringing a tired vocal effect with mounted pitch correction track after track. No real technical ability is shown as the clean vocals sound mostly synthetic, even annoying at times. Only the softly sung vocals on this album sound okay. The harsh, screamed vocals are a redeeming factor. While not the greatest, they provide an interesting, somewhat off-kiltered hardcore vibe. Interestingly enough, the singer Raffaele Galasso also covers guitars, bass, synths, mixing and mastering. All of those things he does well.
As an overall package, the album gets by as a good record. “EPO” delivers several noteworthy tracks in it’s arsenal. Stand outs include “In Dusk” (Awesome sax solo and some. Don’t think I mentioned this band brings the sax \m/), “Shapes of Greys”, the title track “EPO”, and the newly added “Epica” and “Ascension” (a welcome sign of the band’s progression).
In case if you haven’t noticed, a few flaws do plague this otherwise good album. First and foremost, as I mentioned, the vocals need fixed one way or another. Next up, the production is good in that it succeeds on delivering the overall sound, but could use a facelift on some fronts. And lastly, the instruments feel too synthetic at times (albeit the drums actually are). I could easily see myself giving this album anywhere from an 8 to a 9 out of 10 if these flaws were fixed. As it is, I was very close to giving a 7 out of 10 before my last listen but couldn’t justify it with the vocals.
When you add up all the factors, I do see a lot of potential here. That’s why I opted to do this review in the first place. As a musical unit, every member of Gardenjia brings something special to the table and it shows. They just need to mature and learn to capitalize on it. It’s quite possible we’ll end up seeing this band doing some really impressive and creative things in the future. I believe in these guys. But for now, consider “EPO” the appetizer to future greatness. Eat up!