Review Summary: Could have just as easily been called “Déjà vu”
Scar Symmetry is a band that doesn’t seem very concerned with experimentation or progression. Other than the dominant vocal style and overall tone, little made their first three albums sound all that different from each other. And as you might have guessed, even with two new vocalists replacing Christian Alvestam, the sound on the band’s latest effort, “Dark Matter Dimensions,” is still fundamentally indistinguishable. The big difference here, however, is that the familiar path traveled is beginning to feel like a sleepless road trip.
This time around, Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist provide the vocal work for “Dark Matter Dimensions” and they manage to make the album still sound like Scar Symmetry at-heart. Essentially, this means we still have alternating harsh and clean vocals with plenty of sing-along choruses. This also means that the themes present are still in the same “other world” vein, except this time it seems to have been taken even further. The idea of “astro metal” might sound neat, but if this album is any indication we might be better off without a new version of hair metal (completely silly and shameless). Looking at the lyrics, it’s tough to wonder if the band really took these ideas seriously or if they bothered to look over them and ask each other, “does this sound even the least bit outrageous?”
Perhaps the biggest problem Scar Symmetry have run into on this album is its pointlessness. Just about every thing heard here has been done before and what’s worse is that the songs are all completely derivative. “The Iconoclast” has a nice intro and outro but little else makes it interesting (less can be said for almost all of the other tracks). The first half of “Sculptor Void” hints at a potentially solid track but finds itself without a proper transition from that point. “A Parenthesis in Eternity” is the only song which stands out well enough to be worth returning to, but the intro is quite similar to “Come Clarity” by In Flames (and call me crazy, but I keep hearing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” throughout the first half as well).
Stylistically, this album is almost the same as last year’s “Holographic Universe.” While more harsh vocals have found their way into certain songs, there are some which still have far more of one style compared to the other. What’s odd about this is that we seldom, if ever see the potential of having two separate vocalists truly utilized. Another peculiarity is that even together, Karlsson and Palmqvist don’t match up to what Alvestam could accomplish. This isn’t to say they’re drastically inferior, but it’s tough to not feel disappointed with how the two new frontmen are underutilized.
On the flip side, the less prominent vocals have allowed guitarists Per Nilsson and Jonas Kjellgren to shine more. Both the guitar and drum work is far easier to hear and appreciate which means we get instrumental intros and outros that feel more pronounced. Having guitar solos which ooze more energy is appreciated too. Once again, however, the bass is essentially nonexistent to the ear. Fortunately, the exchange of stronger vocals for a more balanced mixing of each role at least gives this album one aspect over its predecessors.
“Dark Matter Dimensions” feels less like a full release with new content and more like a collection of material we’ve already heard before with a new name slapped on. While fans of the band or genre (such as myself) might enjoy the new material, it stands as a merely fair album at-best. Truth be told, it would have been better to release a small compilation of previous material redone with the new vocalists and then adding two or three songs from this at the end. In the long run, this is little more than a forgettable album with one or two shining moments. It’s fun and catchy, yet concurrently shameless and unnecessary.