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Scar Symmetry - "Holographic Universe" (CD)

Scar Symmetry - "Holographic Universe" CD cover image

"Holographic Universe" track listing:

01. Morphogenesis
02. Timewave Zero
03. Quantumleaper
04. Artificial Sun Projection
05. The Missing Coordinates
06. Ghost Prototype I (Measurement Of Thought)
07. Fear Catalyst
08. Trapezoid
09. Prism And Gate
10. Holographic Universe
11. The Three-Dimensional Shadow
12. Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina)

Reviewed by on July 27, 2008

"A front runner for album of the year, thus far. "

After a busy 2007 that saw them complete two North American tours with the likes of Dark Tranquillity, Katatonia and Insomnium, Sweden's Scar Symmetry has finally released their third album, "Holographic Universe." Hailing from the town of Avesta, Scar Symmetry completed recording of the album in guitarist Jonas Kjellgren's Black Lounge Studio for release through Nuclear Blast in June 2008.

Scar Symmetry established their brand of melodic death metal with their debut record "Symmetric in Design," which incorporated clean and harsh vocals over technical and melodic instrumental work. The band doesn't stray much from that format on this disc, as the opening track, "Morphogenesis," demonstrates vocalist Christian Älvestam's ability to alternate between brutally heavy death metal growling and soaring clean singing. Älvestam is arguably one of the most talented singers in the melodic death metal genre and could easily give the likes of Mikael Stanne a run for their money. "Holographic Universe" features marginally more clean vocals than previous releases, but unlike some other death metal vocalists, Älvestam pulls it off with grace.

The power chord driven opener sets the tempo for the album, which features layers of keyboards, double bass drums, blast beats, guitar harmonies and breakneck solos. Tracks such as "Timewave Zero" and "Quantumleaper" exhibit thrash metal sensibilities combined with an excellent sense of power metal influenced melody and guitar solos that take on a vocal quality of their own. Numerous influences are apparent from "Artificial Sun Projection," which features guitar work reminiscent of John Syke's riffage on Whitesnake's 80's classic "Still of the Night," to the almost industrial styling of "Prism and Gate." The production really highlights Kjellgren and Per Nilsson's flawless guitar work while bassist Kenneth Seil and drummer Henrik Ohlsson hold down the bottom line admirably.

At times it seems as though this album is about to fall off the melodeath wagon into the realms of power metal when Älvestam's vocals hit the upper registers, particularly on the aforementioned "Prism and Gate" and during "Ghost Prototype II." Thankfully, the harsher vocals provide balance and the instrumental focus on melodic guitar wizardry rather than Dragonforce-esque "wankery" keep this album on track. The lyrics are definitely science-fiction-tinged dealing with subject matter such as the cosmos, reality and alternate dimensions with nary a mention of dragons or sorcerers. I wouldn't be surprised if astrophysicists such as Stephen Hawking were thanked in the liner notes. Lyrics aside, this album is as good as any in the genre, particularly on "Ghost Prototype II," which features technical guitar, and a central portion with intensely heavy vocals followed by a notably well-orchestrated interludes.

Overall, Scar Symmetry has managed to create a record that keeps with their style with enough variation to keep it interesting from start to finish and will definitely appeal to a variety of metal fans, particularly fans of Amorphis and even Opeth (the 9-minute title track approaches what one might call "spacey melodic progressive death metal"). "Holographic Universe" is a front runner for album of the year, thus far.

Highs: Drawing from a wide range of metal styles, the band creates a dynamic album from front to back.

Lows: The album tends to get a bit heavy on the strings and quirky synth sounds at times.

Bottom line: Scar Symmetry keeps Swedish melodic death metal alive and well.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)