Digital Dimension Records, 1999
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/30/1999
I've been listening to death metal in some way, shape or form for some time now, and I was all set to make the generic commentary about the genre: death metal is death metal is death metal. As long as you have screaming guitars, unintelligable vocals and a beat that sounds like a hummingbird on speed -- along with various anti-religious comments thrown in for good measure -- you've got your formula for death metal.
Leave it to Sweden's Gooseflesh to throw my definition of the genre off in many regards. On their album Chemical Garden, not only does this four-piece break the above rules, but lays out a style that could well shape the darker side of metal in the future. It's an interesting journey, and one that should be taken at least once.
First, though, let's get the one major complaint out of the way: don't bother trying to follow the track listing on the CD, 'cause it's all scrambled. "The Syndicate" and "Controller" are reversed on the CD; same goes with "Voices" and "Sore Throat". And the "lead" track, "Wraith," doesn't actually appear on Chemical Garden until track five. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
Other than that, the band -- vocalist/guitarist Kristian Lampila, guitarist Tommy Scalisi Svensson, bassist/backing vocalist Robert Hakemo and drummer Lars Berger -- surprise in many ways. First, they dare to tone down the sonic attack of their music and throw the occasional melody into the mix. Imagine -- melodies? In death metal? Add into this the fact that you can understand what Lampila is singing - yes, singing - about, and you have quite possibly the birth cry of a whole new genre.
But what about the songwriting, you ask? Fear not, as Chemical Garden boasts a nice variety of metal to hammer the senses into submission. Tracks like "Burning Soul," "Cut That Never Heals," "Wraith," "Denial" and "Art Of Treachery" are actually kind of fun to listen to. Even if you wouldn't consider yourself a fan of death metal per se, Gooseflesh actually sound more like Pantera or a similar group, though they don't sacrifice their musical integrity. ( Relax, Pantera fans -- just drawing a comparison to the sound.)
And while some of the religious commentary might still offend, Chemical Garden is, by the genre's standards, relatively tame. Still, you might want to give the lyric sheet a quick once-over before Junior plays this one for Grandma.
If Chemical Garden is a sign of things to come from Gooseflesh, they could well be one of the bands leading metal to its resurgence in the next year or so. Even if they were to self-implode, they would have left the scene with one killer album. Here's hoping that someone at the label can re-arrange the track listing on the packaging so that it reads in the correct order.