Scar Symmetry
Holographic Universe

Anders Friden should be feeling pretty sheepish right about now. Sure, In Flames is probably selling tons of copies of A Sense of Purpose, but I think they had to cheapen and compromise their sound to do it. Scar Symmetry, on the other hand, took the initial seed planted by In Flames and Soilwork – namely, adding clean, poppy choruses into melodic death – and has creatively left both bands far, far behind. In fact, I’d venture that there are a number of progressive metal bands who should also be wary of Scar Symmetry‘s meteoric rise, since their sound plays more heavily than ever into that genre as well.

Since their first disc, Scar Symmetry has clearly been unafraid of clean vocals and huge melodies, but here, they take that half of their identity to soaring new heights. Every chorus on Holographic Universe features confident harmonies with big, big hooks, like the kind of late 70’s AOR you’d expect from Styx or Journey. Christian Alvestam’s vocals have never sounded stronger, either. Though the majority of Pitch Black Progress was triumphant, there were moments where his clean vocals strained against their limits and turned shrill. None of that here – he’s as finely tuned and precise as the guitarwork he’s trading off with, and Scar Symmetry has used that confidence in each and every track here. A few times, the clean vocals do stray into happy territory – you half expect the first clean break on “Fear Catalyst” or some of the balladry on “Ghost Prototype II” to be followed up by one of Paula Abdul’s banal platitudes – but if you’re not allergic to melody, you’ll find it all catchy and enjoyable.

Now, all of this talk about great clean vocals doesn’t mean that the band has toned down the other half of their sound – I absolutely love Christian’s death vocals here, which range from low, burbled grunts to a harsher, raspy roar. I think the guy’s skill and versatility has finally put him up with Mikael Akerfeldt and Dan Swano. And when this dual vocal attack is mashed up against their pummeling machine-gun riffs, technical, laser-precise solos and dynamic, progressive compositions, it’s a unique and striking package.

“The Missing Coordinates” starts with a squiggly explosion of solos that explodes into an all-out thrasher that will instantly have you cranking the volume as high as it goes. “Artificial Sun Projection” sounds like someone locked Pretty Maids, Symphony X and Glen Benton in a room together and wouldn’t let them out until they’d produced a song. And the 9-minute title track starts off with an enormous jackhammer battery that goes on and on and on, like that first reveal of the Star Destroyer at the beginning of Star Wars. Seriously, the combination of blazing, glorious melody, expert playing and progressive extravagance throughout Holographic Universe makes recent Soilwork sound like Darkthrone. And like a lot of progressive metal, there’s a lot to take in and you’re consistently rewarded with repeated listens – which will come easily and often.

If there’s one complaint I have (and I’ve groused about this before), it’s that I think it’s time for this band to start working with an orchestra. The sci-fi fantasy synthwork on some tracks is fine – I love the sweeping strings that come in on “The Missing Coordinates” – but it’s frequently more B-movie than bombastic. Given how massive the production is here, the synths don’t quite measure up, but none of this derails the experience.

So yeah, I liked this a lot and continue to play the crap out of it when I just want a massive dose of melodic pleasure and speaker-shaking brutality. I suspect Scar Symmetry‘s unabashed willingness to embrace both power-metal bravado and relentless, intricate melodic death will create polarizing reactions from both camps of purists, but given that many of us have a wide range of tastes, there’s something here for everyone.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 22nd, 2008


  1. Commented by: stilllife666

    One of the best albums to come out this year, and to be frank a serious contender for album of the year. Pitch Black was great, this makes that album look amateur. I hope this band gets the attention they deserve. Incredible musicianship and hooks like nobody’s business.

  2. Commented by: swampthang

    to bad to many deathcore discs come out the day this does cuz then i would buy it but i soo want to have that breakdown overload tuesday yummy

  3. Commented by: Fred Phillips

    Loved the last record. I’ll definitely have to check this one out.

  4. Commented by: SludgeHammer

    Great review mate, keep up the good work.

  5. Commented by: Marcos Rodrigues

    This album is nothing less than HUGE, in all aspects. The best of 2008 until this day.

  6. Commented by: lasciv

    sounds like steve perry got rejuvenated at nuclear blast hospital!!!FOREVER ON MY HEAVY ROTATION!!!

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