Scar Symmetry - Holographic Universe
Record Label: Metal Blade
Release Date: June 24, 2008
Melodic death/Gothenburg is one of my favorite metal sub-genres but let's face it, it's been played out a bit over the years. I listen to the pioneers of the genre (Dark Tranquillity, At The Gates) pretty frequently as well as other bands like Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy, who are great as well, but great modern melo-death is a bit hard to come by these days. However, there are bands like Sweden's Scar Symmetry that keep hope alive. One might assume that Scar Symmetry are just a small tadpole in an ocean with bigger fish, but the band proves to be much more than that with their latest outing, Holographic Universe, which may restore hope in the Gothenburg scene.
The guitar-work and the vocals as they are both the strongest points of this album. Christian Alvestram has one of the best vocal ranges I have ever heard. His growls are deep, violent, and ferocious, while his clean singing is smooth and very melodic. The best part is that he manages to balance and contrast the two styles of singing nearly perfectly in each song. Most notable is "Fear Catalyst" in which he contrasts the two styles in the chorus of the song. The vocal transitions are very frequent and they are well placed. The guitar-work is also superb. There are crazy guitar solos in almost every song and excellent melodies in the verses. Per Nissolin and Jonas Kjellgren make a great duo with how they trade off lead and rhythm guitar duties. Their solos and lead melodies sound very tight and make the album's overall sound very refined.
The album's atmosphere and lyrics still revolve around futuristic type themes. The electronic elements and song titles help create that theme. The album kicks off with a bang with "Morphogenesis," which introduces you to the band's sound and then some. The nine-minute title track is all around heavy and epic. Great riffs, cool electronic effects, intense drumming, and multiple guitar solos make it the best song on the album. The album comes to a close after "Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina)," which ends the album with sort of a sorrowful tone and Avlestram shows off his range even more with falsetto singing. The whole album is a giant highlight reel that'll keep you listening from beginning to end.
Definitely give this album a listen if you're a fan of melodic death metal, it's a must-hear for sure, even if you think that the genre's been played out. This may restore faith in Gothenburg Metal and win over new fans. The whole album is almost like a showcase of ferocity, violence and sorrow. It's one of the biggest surprises of the year for me and probably for many others as well.