A band at the top of their game
Back in the day I borrowed a shitload of heavy metal tapes from the local library. If it had angular logos, beasts, skulls or dragons on the cover, I had to have them. I heard many classics this way, some stuck and some sucked, but one I wore out the tape on was Yngwie Malmsteen's Trilogy. It had great songs, soaring vocals and awesome leads and above all Yngwie fire blasting a three headed dragon with his Fender on the cover! Priceless. What has this got to do with Scar Symmetry you ask? Absolutely everything!
In the ultra melodic death metal genre that Soilwork are (or were as of now) sitting atop of, the clean vocal facet of the style has taken a big step up since Speed started working with Devin Townsend on the last few albums. Scar Symmetry have now upped the ante in a big, big way on Holographic Universe, particularly in overall production and most definitely in the vocal production. Vocalist Christian Alvestam has a truly amazing voice and, not unlike lead guitarist Per Nilsson, is one of the best in the game. His performance takes this album through the roof, bypassing formulaic death growl verse/clean chorus trade offs for a perfect balance of the classic melodic Euro metal vocals of the 80's/90's and a beastly death growl.
Armed with infectious melodies, earth splitting heaviness, stellar musicianship and sci-fi themes, Scar Symmetry have followed up Pitch Black Progress by working all the elements they are known for into seamlessly flowing offerings. Everything seems ramped up - the vocals weren't weak before, but now they are a cut above - the lead work was awesome before, but it just seems to wail even harder now. Highlight tracks Morphogenesis, Timewave Zero, Artifical Sun Project, The Missing Coordinates, Holographic Universe and Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina) all kick much ass for various reasons, but I recommend listening to the album as a whole. The spread of melody, aggression and pacing displays a real connection with the tracks, all well written and probably often re-worked until they officially 'smoked', something I haven't often come across in the genre outside of Darkane's consistently great output.
Love 'melodic death metal' or not, a few listens to Holographic Universe and you'll soon realise that this album is something special. While some tend to be blatantly heavy in one track and strategically mellow in the next, Scar Symmetry maintain a consistent blend throughout each track. Though completely modern and brutal (with a fantastic production courtesy of Black Lounge Studio), they have encompassed the majesty and heights of the big vocal metal greats of yesteryear (hence the Yngwie story earlier) and dragged it screaming into the present.
There aren't many who could, but I wanna hear these guys do a cover of Boston's More Than a Feeling ... they could nail that sucker!
(Nuclear Blast Records/Riot! Entertainment)