Scar Symmetry Guitarist Per Nilsson Talks Conspiracies, Shadow Governments, Aliens And More
Diving head first into tales of secret governments and even alien intelligences, Swedish metal act Scar Symmetry continues to provide both melody and extreme death metal with the latest conspiracy theory themed album "The Unseen Empire."
Guitarist Per Nilsson recently corresponded with Metalunderground.com to explain the interesting ideas behind the album and discuss where it lands in Scar Symmetry's discography. Speaking on the idea of secret reptilian intelligences and how the band approached the lyrics, Nilsson stated: "We don't tell people the point where fact transcends into fiction, that is for each and everyone to decide for themselves. A lot of people actually believe in the theories of David Icke, and I don't know if that's more absurd than believing in the first book of Moses, or believing that the God Vishnu came riding on the giant snake Ananda with the God of creation, Brahma, emerging from a lotus flower in his belly button!"
Below you can find the complete discussion, which also includes Nilsson covering the band's split with former vocalist Christian Älvestam, the recruitment of two new vocalists, and how the band has evolved over time.
xFiruath: What festival appearances or upcoming tour dates does Scar Symmetry have?
Per: Well, a couple of weeks ago, we had a release party for the new album, in Avesta Sweden which is Jonas' and Kenneth's hometown. We have a strong fanbase there so the venue was packed, the audience was crazy so it was a great way to start off the touring cycle for ”The Unseen Empire.” During the spring and summer, we'll be doing a lot of festivals, the Metal Fests in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, a few big Swedish festivals - Metallsvenskan (a combined soccer and metalfestival!), Rockstad Falun and Getaway Rock festival, the Day of Decay in Denmark, Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic, Germany's Summer Breeze and finally the Swedish metal cruise called Close-Up Båten. We're looking at some offers to tour Europe, North America and possibly for the first time Australia, nothing's confirmed and set in stone yet, but those are the territories we're aiming for to begin with. There are other places we need to go to as well, such as the UK, Japan, and South America but the offers are sadly few and far between. We keep our hopes high though, eventually it will happen.
xFiruath: What specifically is the theme of the new album and what do the lyrics deal with?
Per: The themes for the songs are conspiracy theories to some, and the plain truth to others. The lyrics deal with theories of shadow governments and ancient bloodlines, sometimes even delving into really out-there stuff like metaphysical reptilian-based intelligences controlling our world. Some people consider these theories to be the truth while most listeners might just appreciate the lyrics as pure entertainment. We've touched upon these concepts before, check out songs like ”Hybrid Cult,” ”Mind Machine,” and ”Pitch Black Progress for example.”
xFiruath: You mentioned reptilian-based intelligences. Is this supposed to be a reference to the writings of David Icke, and does the band ascribe to his particular beliefs? As a side note, has the band seen Bill Maher’s interview with Icke on the outtakes of the movie “Religulous?"
Per: Yes, the lyrics sometimes stray into David Icke territory. I wouldn't say that we as a band subscribe to his beliefs, some of us are more interested in that kind of stuff than others in the band. Some of our lyrics are meant to be taken quite literally, while others venture into (for most people) far-fetched stuff like alien abduction - "Abstracted" - and reptilians - "Rise of the Reptilian Regime." We don't tell people the point where fact transcends into fiction, that is for each and everyone to decide for themselves. A lot of people actually believe in the theories of David Icke, and I don't know if that's more absurd than believing in the first book of Moses, or believing that the God Vishnu came riding on the giant snake Ananda with the God of creation, Brahma, emerging from a lotus flower in his belly button! I haven't seen ”Religulous” yet, I've got a whole list of films I wanna watch but haven't gotten around to, and that movie is definitely on that list.
xFiruath: When did Scar Symmetry write the new album and where did the recording take place?
Per: We wrote most of the songs in October-November last year and tracked drums the week before going on the U.S. tour with Epica. We tracked most of the album in Jonas' Black Lounge studio. We managed to record a few tracks of guitar on the Epica tour, in the tour bus, and I did all my solos and keyboards at my studio. Basically the same way we've recorded all of our albums.
xFiruath: How does the new album sound different from earlier material?
Per: Every album is in a way a reaction to it's previous album. When we recorded our debut ”Symmetric in Design,” it was an experiment because we didn't know each other very well and the result was an album with great songs, but somewhat lacking performance and production-wise. So we were much more of perfectionists when we did ”Pitch Black Progress,” and with ”Holographic Universe” we took the super-produced and cleanly sung concept as far as we could, with a larger-than-life vocal production. Christian himself admitted after recording the album that there was no way he would be able to reproduce most of the songs live, because too much of it was out of his natural range. I think that was the main reason why he started refusing doing tours. He had painted himself into a corner, recording songs he couldn't sing live. So that, among many other reasons, became the catalyst to our decision to kick him out of the band.
With ”Dark Matter Dimensions,” we strived for a rougher sound, being somewhat tired of the over-the-top polished sound of ”Holographic Universe.” Recording DMD was also a bit of an experiment, though even if we knew Roberth's and Lars' voices from touring with them, we didn't know how they would hold up in a studio situation. So the result was - just as with our debut album - an album full of great songs, with some of the performances and production a little bit rough around the edges.
I think that with ”The Unseen Empire,” we've found a nice balance between the rough and the polished, and our vocalist duo have once and for all stepped out of the shadow of our former frontman. They've proven their worth on the road times and again and now you can finally hear their peak performances on our new album.
xFiruath: On a larger scale than just the album, how has the band evolved and grown since its creation and where do you see Scar Symmetry fitting in the metal scene?
Per: The first years of Scar Symmetry weren't always very pleasant, we were fighting a lot with our former vocalist over just about any issue you could imagine. Firing him and having to go through the line-up change made us realize how much we appreciate being in this band together and how much we want to continue making this kind of music. All the touring we've done since the singer crisis has really glued us together, so I'm happy to say that I can see us continue doing this for a long, long time. We will evolve in a way we see fit, I don't think we'll ever care much about current trends as far as our music go, but we will keep on exploring the vast realms of modern progressive melodic death metal, or whatever our genre of music is called. I don't know where Scar Symmetry's fitting in the metal scene, I don't think about it that way. We do what we do best, and I think that's the only way to go.
xFiruath: How is the band faring with the new vocalists and what do you think of the feedback about the new vocal style?
Per: While some people at first seemed skeptical about the new guys, I think we did surprise a lot of people with ”Dark Matter Dimensions,” and most if not all seem to agree that it's a pretty solid album.
With the new album, I feel like most fans have embraced the new lineup and they recognize how much Roberth and Lars have grown as vocalists and frontmen in the few years they've been with us. I'm glad that we trusted our gut feeling and didn't listen to the naysayers, we gave Roberth and Lars the time needed to evolve and progress, and now we've got the most powerful vocalist duo in metal fronting our band.
xFiruath: Does the band get to play home town shows very often, and how is your local metal scene these days?
Per: It happens every now and then, though all of us live in different cities. The Getaway Rock festival is held in my hometown Gävle, I'm definitely looking forward to playing at a festival and be able to sleep in my own bed! A lot of my friends at home are metal musicians, though not all of them are releasing albums and touring. Some bands to look out for are epic doomsters Isole and aggro/groove combo Propane Headrush.
xFiruath: Have you been to any great concerts lately or seen anything crazy at a show?
Per: I saw my friends band that I mentioned, Propane Headrush, at a local show recently, and that was a jaw-dropping experience.
xFiruath: What albums are in your own personal rotation lately?
Per: Propane Headrush's yet-to-be-released debut album, The Haunted's "Unseen,” and "Timewarp," the solo album from Obscura guitarist Christian Muenzner.
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