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The Unseen Empire

Scar Symmetry

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Album Review

Scar Symmetry's fifth album, the second since replacing original vocalist Christian Älvestam with two other guys (Robert Karlsson growling and Lars Palmqvist singing), throws a lot of ideas at the listener. Sometimes, like on album-opener "The Anomaly," they're an AOR-prog rock band like Asia, with occasional guttural roars. But on the very next song ("Illuminoid Dream Sequence"), they're doing a semi-industrial thing, with keyboards slathered all over everything, at least until the squealing guitar solo, or another growled verse from Karlsson, comes in. "Seers of the Eschaton," meanwhile, is almost pure death metal, with a few keyboards here and there. The biggest problem the band has is vocalist Palmqvist; he sounds like Simon Le Bon on a latter-day Duran Duran album. Try imagining a Swedish melodic death metal act (Soilwork, for example) covering "Ordinary World"; that's what Palmqvist sounds like atop the music. And when you're writing a concept album about the reptilian overlords secretly ruling humanity (which is what The Unseen Empire is; it's straight from the writings of David Icke), you're gonna want to be as credible as possible. Scar Symmetry can write a melodic hook, and they can write a crunching death metal riff; they just need to choose which one they prefer to focus on, as they're frequently working against themselves here.

Customer Reviews

Melodic Death Metal at It's Finest

This genre, started by bands like At the Gates, In Flames and Dark Tranquility and later expanded upon by bands like Scar Symmetry, Disarmonia Mundi, Mos Principum Est, and somewhat retooled by American bands like Bleeding Through and more recently Mutiny Within, has admittedly been done to death in the last 10-20 years. That said, when the mood strikes for some melodic death metal with brutal screaming, clean vocals that cut through you like a hot knife through butter, keyboard atmospherics, chunky down-tuned riffs, adventurous dueling riffs, pummeling double bass, blast beats, breakdowns that hit more than one note, and lots of solos -- nobody does it better than these guys. Not only are they masters at their instruments, but they have a very firm grasp of songwriting and how to include all their favorite elements without cluttering the soundscape or sounding too busy.

As any fan of Scar Symmetry will tell you, the clean-vocal choruses are the best in metal, better even IMO than Howard Jones from Killswitch Engage, and that goes for the band's old singer and the new one featured on this album and their last. The screaming is pretty much standard issue for the genre (this is a genre where if you can't scream, the band will find someone who can) but definitely gets the job done, and the clean-sung melodies are catchy as hell, the highlight being the chorus of Alpha and Omega which has been stuck in my head since I first heard it.

The best riff on the album and probably my favorite moment is at 00:48 in Illuminoid Dream Sequence. It bridges the intro into the first verse and comes back later sprinkled throughout. It's a really bouncy and kind of techno-ish riff, kind of a sped up groove metal if I had to put my finger on it, like a Devildriver or a Lamb of God rave remix.

To say that this music is a shallow exercise in showcasing the technical musicianship of the band or that exists purely to pander to the headbanging masses, is both obvious and irrelevant. Scar Symmetry fans aren't looking for subtlety, nuance or texture. We are looking for music that would be suitable as the soundtrack to a first-person shooter game on XBOX.

If Scar Symmetry had experimented, they would be criticized, so likewise they will surely be criticized for sounding the same (perhaps a bit more pop) as ever. I am loving the new sound that has been on the rise with bands like Periphery and Tesseract but I think there's room for different approaches to metal, and Scar Symmetry remains the best at what they do, so why break the formula?

I say it's their best album to date

I would describe this album as a perfect balance between melody and brutality. There are times in the album where the guitars sound like their straight out of Holograpic Universe. At some points I find the vocal melodies to be very Ozzy-esque, which is not a bad thing. I don't really have much else to say. I think the music speaks for itself.

I think Scar Symmetry has gotten immensly better since Christian left. Not that he was bad, but the music feels more confident now, and the freedom they have with two vocalists is amazing.

As good as their music with Christian

Seriously, they've improved miles since DMD. This is good stuff! It's great to hear my favorite melodeath band back in action. The best two songs are Extinction Mantra and Draconian Arrvial.

Biography

Formed: 2004 in Sweden

Genre: Metal

Years Active: '00s

Sweden's Scar Symmetry was founded in 2004 by vocalist Christian Älvestam, guitarists Jonas Kjellgren and Per Nilsson, bassist Kenneth Seil, and drummer Henrik Ohlsson — all of them veterans of numerous prior heavy metal bands (Carnal Forge, Centinex, Altered Aeon, Incapacity, etc.) — whose diverse gamut of styles ultimately influenced the new project's own eclectic sound. Presented to the masses via 2005's Symmetric in Design debut album, Scar Symmetry's material combines...
Full Bio
The Unseen Empire, Scar Symmetry
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