Let’s face it: the Gothenburg brand of melodic death metal has been around long enough for it to be overplayed. There are so many bands out there who try and capitalize on the sound which such esteemed acts as In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, and At The Gates have made famous. You could look at a list of all the metal bands in Sweden, close your eyes, point at one and say with near certainty that they were influenced in some way or another by the Gothenburg scene. Most of the time you would be correct, but to say that every band that plays Gothenburg metal plays it correctly and interestingly is an outright lie. The country or the world even, is awash with bands who try so desperately to get the recognition of those founding bands but achieve nothing more than mediocre semi-success. You could certainly say this of Swedish melodic death metal band Scar Symmetry, you could assume that they are nothing more than a tadpole in an ocean of much bigger fish, and you could assume that their music is of no concern to such a veteran metalhead like yourself, but you would be wrong. All of this assuming leads to a completely distorted and unfair picture of what Scar Symmetry is capable of doing, especially in their latest effort Holographic Universe
Their sound isn’t so much advanced as it is refined. The guitar leads and solos are smoother and tighter, the vocal transitions much more frequent and also better placed, and the whole feel of the album includes a growing sense of maturity from a band which is still attempting to rise above that surface of Gothenburg melo-death wanna be’s. This isn’t the album to turn haters of the band into fans of them, but it is an album to make fans of the band more excited by the subtle changes which Scar Symmetry have introduced to their sound. The violin at the beginning of “Artificial Sun Projection”, the clean-death vocal transitions in the chorus to “Morphogenesis”, the electronic effects on the guitar during “The Missing Coordinates”, the absolutely insane nine minute title track, all of it adds to the band’s established sound.
Their established sound is still quite intact, however, starting with vocalist Christian Alvestam’s excellent vocals. His growls are deep and ferocious, very violent in nature, while his clean singing is completely the opposite. It is very smooth and easy to listen to, often directing the melodies and tempo of the song. However, something which has changed since Symmetric In Design
and Pitch Black Progress
is the fact that it no longer seems like the music was written around what the vocals are doing, something which bugged many listeners before and seemed like a big negative to what the band was playing. That, for the most part, is fixed, with the guitar leads taking the reigns and the vocals following along until it is their turn to take the stage.
The atmosphere of the album still revolves very much around futuristic-type themes, with lots of electronic effects and lyrics and track titles which sound like they are out of a sci-fi movie. However, this is nothing new to Scar Symmetry since Pitch Black Progress
reflected much of the same. You have the epic title track which is quite unlike anything this band has done before, stretching itself out into a nine minute monster and immediately posting itself on the highlight list with it’s intense drumming and unrelenting heaviness, coupled with the multiple guitar solos inserted into the middle. Actually, this whole profile can go for the whole album, with lots of heavy riffing and frantic soloing which just hits you in the right place. It kicks off with a bang with one of the band’s best songs to date, “Morphogenesis” and ends it with the perfect farewell of sorrowful guitars and melancholic clean vocals (not to mention a helping of death metal) with “Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina)”. The album as a whole is long, 12 tracks is a bit much considering the similarity of some of the tracks, but in between some similar sounding songs and typical Scar Symmetry musicianship we have a fair-sized handful of some truly astounding tracks which make Scar Symmetry so much more interesting than on their previous effort, the interestingly dull Pitch Black Progress
, and brings them somewhere back into the realm of their ear-catching debut Symmetric In Design
If you love Scar Symmetry, there should really be no excuse to miss this album, since it is everything and more that fans were hoping for. If you love melodic death metal but haven’t heard this band, this is well worth a listen. If you didn’t like Scar Symmetry before, then I suggest you listen to tracks like “Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina)”, “Morphogenesis”, “Artificial Sun Projection”, and “Holographic Universe” to sample some of their new sounds. There really isn’t anything to complain about here except maybe a lack of variety in some of the songs toward the end. The production is wonderful, the vocals are top-notch for this genre, and the guitars are both heavy and melodic. Whether Scar Symmetry chooses to advance their sound away from the tried and true formula which they play now is solely up to the band members, but for now all I can tell you is that Holographic Universe
was an extremely pleasant surprise and an album I will most certainly be listening to a lot. Well done, Scar Symmetry.
Artificial Sun Projection
Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina)
Ghost Prototype I (Measurement of Thought)