Scar Symmetry: The unseen empire
19/07/11 || Altmer
I’m going to keep this review relatively short. Not stubs-short, but relatively short anyway. The reason is the following: there’s really nothing about this album that you haven’t seen these guys do before, for better or worse. It’s a Scar Symmetry album and that’s pretty much all you need to know from the get-go: if you’ve heard any of the previous albums, this one is no different in terms of style and it’s slightly modified in execution.
See, what has been going on is that Älvestam left. Ok, Älvestam was a fantastic vocalist, so you’d expect it to be a big loss. But they brought in Roberth Karlsson (growls, good move) and Lars Palmqvist (cleans, slightly less good move). The thing is that this is basically like the original Scar Symmetry, just with more pop influences and for some strange reason, Dream Theater-esque parts (“Images” era that is). The growls sound almost indistinguishable from before, and Lars does a good job of being Christian’s clean vocal imitator, with just a tad more cheese. So it didn’t matter that Älvestam left. Scar Symmetry got decent replacements, went on their merry way and thought “we’re still good songwriters, our current vocal tandem is quality”.
They left it at that. It’s an album that hankers more after their later material, though; there’s less speed and more melodies, but the signature crunchy riffs are still all over the album. The death metal that was maybe present in little parts during the first two albums has been replaced by more groovy riffs and melodies. Even melodeath is probably being kind and stretching the term a mile or two. There are many parts where I am even doubting it’s metal at all, just some form of rock. Pop metal with a nice aggressive edge would probably be the best terminology, and that’s the most accurate one anyhow.
Not that that is bad – it isn’t. It’s accessible and quality and the band clearly know where they want to go with this one. The occasional more “brutal” or should I just say parts with heavy groove contrast nicely with the softer material and give the rollercoaster ride effect Scar Symmetry have always been known for. But it’s not as good as what they’ve been doing before this, simply. There are no bona fide hits like “Pitch Black Progress” had in spades. I can’t fault the execution or the ideas, but some of it just doesn’t speak to me on the same level that the first two did (“Holographic Universe” is pretty mediocre and let’s not talk about “Dark Matter Dimensions” either).
This album is a clear step in the right direction, but I don’t think they will ever recreate the same magic that they produced on the first two albums. They do their thing really well and will continue to do so and appeal to their solid fanbase and continue their signature sound and I will continue to more or less appreciate what they do if they keep to this path, but I will not bang my head the same way I did to the first two records.
- Released: 2011
- Label: Nuclear Blast
- Website: www.scarsymmetry.com
- Roberth Karlsson: growls, backing cleans
- Lars Palmqvist: clean vocals, backing growls
- Jonas Kjellgren: guitars, keyboards
- Per Nilsson: guitars
- Kenneth Seil: bass
- Henrik Ohlsson: drums
- 01. The Anomaly
- 02. Illuminoid Dream Sequence
- 03. Extinction Mantra
- 04. Seers of the Eschaton
- 05. Domination Agenda
- 06. Astronomicon
- 07. Rise of the Reptilian Regime
- 08. The Draconian Arrival
- 09. Alpha and Omega