Review Summary: Melodeath: The Generic Way
The more things change, the more they stay the same. This may seem very paradoxical, but in some cases, the saying really applies. Sometimes a change in a band lineup induces a change in musical style, but sometimes nothing at all happens. This is the case on Scar Symmetry's new record Dark Matter Dimensions as well. They kicked out iconic vocalist Christian Alvestam, and got two new singers in his place (one for growls, one for clean vocals). And guess what; nothing changed very much.
Scar Symmetry still sound like their previous records. Even the vocals haven't changed that much. Robban Karlsson has a meaty growl that's comparable to his predecessor. Lars Palmqvist has clean vocals that sound like Christian's too, just slightly less bluesy. It's like out of all the people that auditioned, they chose the two vocalists that sound like carbon copies of the previous. The only different thing is that what Palmqvist is singing, vocal-line wise, is cheesy and miserably poppy. Scar Symmetry were never a really full out death metal band anyway, and they always had catchy leads and sing-along choruses, but this guy sounds like he could sing for a pop band. There are still vocal lines that induce sugar poisoning all over the album, next to the more brutal growls and the aggressive yet slightly melodic guitarwork. In fact, their new singer is reminiscent of Sonic Syndicate.
Instrumentally the whole record gets a gold star. Jonas Kjellgren's riffs aren't virtuosic but they work in context of every song. His leads are stellar and you can clearly tell the guitar players have perfected their playing and work in perfect tandem to create those thundering riffs and harmonised lead guitar solos. The band still draws from Iron Maiden and co. as much as they do from modern Swedish metal acts (this would not be out of place between the new In Flames and the new Soilwork). There exists bass work, and it's not really relevant because it all works in context but it's not flashy and in your face. There is double bass drumming and a variety of good fills and grooves. None of it is exciting enough to get a drum nerd salivating, but it's all very well composed and arranged and every little musical ditty fits the songs to a T. It's just that this album feels like a case of "we've heard it all before".
That may be the biggest drawback with this record. It feels stale and unoriginal. Yes, it's a batch of new songs, but it's just old songs in a modern coat. There are no stylistical differences between this and the previous three records (not even the liberal amount of keys and synth work changes this because this too was prevalent on the previous records). The only difference is that this time around, their clean singer is more annoying because he sounds extremely saccharine (Alvestam's clean vocals were squeaky clean too, but they just straddled the line between annoying and awesome). Other than that, nothing has changed in Swedish Death Metal Land (It's like La-La Land, but the inhabitants say let's do a sideproject sometime of let's do lunch sometime). Popsicles and a warm summer's day. Beer and crisps on a night out. Scar Symmetry and soft-spectrum melodic death metal. I guess they didn't surprise us with banjo metal or anything...
Popsicles on a warm Swedish metal festival out of 10.