Scar Symmetry
Dark Matter Dimensions

Following the departure of Christian Alvestam, Scar Symmetry were left with some big shoes to fill. So what do they do? The hire not one, but two new vocalists, one specializing in clean vocals and providing back up growls (the relatively unknown Lars Palmqvist), the other handling primary growls and back up cleans (Roberth Karlsson – Facebreaker, Edge of Sanity, Pan.Thy.Monium.). Of course this move is gonna prove to be a polarizing one for fans, as Alvestam’s vocals are more often than not viewed as one of the major components of the bands sound.

The end results of Dark Matter Dimensions, the bands fourth album, while certainly not terrible, are a somewhat mixed bag. One thing that is immediately noticeable is the lack of really strong clean vocal melodies and hooks. It seems apparent that Alvestam wrote the largest portion of them while in the band, and while the efforts made here are solid, just can’t compete with the better moments of Pitchblack Progress or last years phenomenal Holographic Universe. To further cement disappointment in the vocal department, the excellent growls of the well proven Karlsson feel under utilized, leaving the clean vocals to take center stage here, where as the Alvestam fronted efforts held a nice balance of both.

All is not lost though. “The Consciousness Eaters”, lead single/video “Noumenon and Phenomenon”, “Nonhuman Era”, and “A Parenthesis in Eternity” (arguably the two highpoints of the album) all bare strong, catchy vocals hooks and interplay between clean and harsh. “Mechanical Soul Cybernetics” makes for a slightly more interesting listen as Palmqvist trades in most of his clean parts to trade growls with Karlsson, his approach being a little higher pitched and black-ish sounding, and there is a little more of this to be had in the title track.

Musically, things kind of feel like Holographic Universe Part 2, which isn’t necessarily bad. Guitar tones and song structures are all relatively the same, the increased progressive touches of Holographic Universe are still in place along with the amazing guitar acrobatics, both melody and solo wise. Choppy, stuttering verse rhythms segue into smooth, melodic choruses and back again on the three opening tracks (“The Iconoclast”, “The Consciousness Eaters” and “Noumenon and Phenomenon”), while tracks like “Mechanical soul Cybernetics”, the title cut and “A Parenthesis in Eternity” are much more noodle-y, busier and/or faster.

Dark Matter Dimensions is far from being a bad album – actually, it is pretty good, but in comparison to it’s two predecessors, it just doesn’t seem quite up to par. Maybe it’s just the Alvestam fan in me. Unless you’re like me and sorely miss the vocals contributions of Mr. Alvestam, I’m pretty sure prior fans of the band will easily eat this up.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Larry "Staylow" Owens
November 2nd, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    spot-on review, couldn’t have said it better myself – sadly this will be the first Scar Symmetry that I don’t pick up – too much other good stuff these days that doesn’t sound like a lesser rehash of older, better material


  2. Commented by: AARONIUS

    There is too much other good stuff to listen to these days? Please tell me what those albums are cause the musical landscape seems pretty barren these days to me. Granted, I don’t want to hear Scar Symmetry repeat themselves over and over again, but is there a melo-progressive-death band out there now that is doing something that blows SS away?

    I was actually hoping that the new vocalists would bring a different vibe to the band but it sounds like it might not be that much of a change.


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    too much good stuff in metal overall, not just melodeath – 2009 has been an incredible year so far if you knew where to look.

    far as melodic progressive death, Scar Symmetry are still tops but I still found this a big step down from the first three.


  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    btw “if you knew where to look” does not mean you in particular, AARONIUS


  5. Commented by: Staylow

    I completely agree with Gaba – there’s been entirely too much good metal this year to pay much attention to this.

    As far as progressive melodeath goes, I’d suggest checking out Be’lakor – not quite the same, and they don’t use any clean vocals, but I’d say they fit the bill. A little doom mixed in there too. There’s more than that, but they’re the first to spring to mind.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Skyfire too


  7. Commented by: mike

    The Arcane Order are a great progressive melodeath band if you like the modern leanings of the genre (even if which you don’t, you may still like their style).

    As for this album, probably no one would agree, but I think it is the bands strongest work to date in all areas – even the clean vocals. Much more focused than the bloated Holographic Universe, and better songwriting than Pitch Black Progress.


  8. Commented by: mike

    Oh yeah…and Mercenary are the kings of progressive melodeath/power metal.


  9. Commented by: Apollyon

    Actually I think Scar Symmetry shares a similar fate with Mecenary; after awesome few albums they got somewhat stale and uninspired.


  10. Commented by: ceno

    I like the new album and think it’s as strong as HU. And mind, I’m a huge fan of Mr. Alvestam. The clean parts aren’t the same of course, but are still very good and catchy. Yet what makes this album at least as good as its predescessor is the sharp and spectacular contrasts between the beautiful and aggressive. Excellent work!


  11. Commented by: AARONIUS

    I didn’t take your comments personally as any kind of downtalking Gaba so that’s cool. It’s interesting that someone mentioned Mercenary because I do kind of see Scar Symmetry in the same light as Mercenary, but I have to be honest Mercenary’s last album was really boring to me.

    All of that said I may still check out the SS cause the band is just plain great anyway.


  12. Commented by: gabaghoul

    well check back in and let us know what you think – I am a big SS fan too, ever since the first one (see my review for Holographic Universe last year) but this did not click with me.

    that and the fact that they were pretty bad when I saw them live last year w/ Insomnium, Katatonia and Swallow the Sun


  13. Commented by: AARONIUS

    They did a show with Insomnium, Katatonia, and Swallow the Sun?

    Do you think your disappointment with them might have been that they were at the wrong show? I mean I like Swallow the Sun and Katatonia a lot (I’ve never heard Insomnium but I’m guessing from the name they’re probably really depressing and doomy?)but that just seems like an odd mix.

    I sampled the SS on itunes, and the vocals sounded a little different but I can’t really tell anything from a crappy 20 second stream so I’ll have to listen to the album as a whole before I give my thoughts on it.


  14. Commented by: gabaghoul

    actually it was an amazing lineup because I really like all those bands – and Finnish death/doom is generally more melodic than your average doom metal so I guess there’s a bit of a link there to Scar. Kinda.

    but anyway Christian was just really oversinging at the show and a lot of the songs sounded really muddy but that’s more the sound than their playing. Katatonia was worse though, which was REALLY depressing, ’cause I’ve seen Opeth like 10 times and they always sound flawless, expected Katatonia to sound just as good. then again it was a tiny venue.

    anyway you should really check out Insomnium, they’re fantastic. I like their 2nd, Since the Day It All Came Down, the best, but they’re all excellent – maybe start with the new one, Across the Dark. Check out my review from a few months ago.


  15. Commented by: AARONIUS

    Will do. I’ve got the Scar Symmetry on order, so we’ll see how it sounds pretty soon I hope.


  16. Commented by: Lanky

    The clean vocals on holographic universe were infuriating. I’m glad the growls are back in balance.


  17. Commented by: AARONIUS

    Well the Scar Symmetry finally showed up at my house.

    I have to say I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I am.

    The guitar playing has always been great but some of the stuff on the new disc is ridiculous.

    Maybe my expectations were so very low that I couldn’t help but be impressed but whatever it is I am really digging “Dark Matter D”.

    As for the vocals, really they aren’t terribly different. In fact the cleans are almost identical to Christian’s. This album does seem heavier overall though.

    Does anyone else hear a Meshuggah influence in some of the songs? It seems like in general there are a lot more weird time signatures in the songs.

    I gotta say it’s a solid 8 out of 10 for me.


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