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Scar Symmetry is a band I became familiar with while I was growing up, around age 14. The infectious melody that was (unbeknownst to me) Christian Alvestam's vocals, was what kept drawing me back to discover more and more new songs by this band, until slowly but surely I became a fan. It took a while before I got used to the growling, but Scar Symmetry was my introduction to metal, and once I got a taste of this album, and the beauty of clean vocals combined with death metal, there was no stopping me, this is what I fell in love with. My first ever song by Scar Symmetry was Mind Machine, so it is fitting I review this album because I have heard it many, many times.
Pitch Black Progress presents us with a uniquely melodic approach to melodeath, similar to Soilwork or Sonic Syndicate. All songs feature both clean, melodic singing, and deep, dark death growling. The band has a "power metal" upbeat vibe to it, straying from the depressing tones of darker metal and instead choosing to enlighten our ear drums with a catchy and harmonious guitar and singing that contrasts perfectly with the opposite end of the coin, death growls and death metal influences. This is something hardly any band can boast, and the degree to which Scar Symmetry have mastered it is frightening. Christians death growls are much deeper than Soilwork's Bjorn Strid, and the contrast between clean vocal harmony and death growl is much more pronounced than any other band in the scene.
On the album itself, we are presented with a variety of tracks, many of them with a catchy chorus and jacked up with an interesting guitar solo. Each song feels like a fun ride, as the cleans and growls flow effortlessly in combination with the music. The musicianship and production is top notch, my only complaint being when Christian Alvestam decides to use his "talking vocals" or non-harmonious cleans, he can really detract from the overall sound of a song. No album is perfect, but Scar Symmetry certainly strives for it, and it is evident in Pitch Black Progress. Unforgettable tracks include Dreaming 24/7, which contains an infectious pop-metal-esque quality that is an infectiously catchy joy ride, Slaves To The Subliminal, which features a chorus of dreams that is reminiscent of power metal and sounds absolutely phenomenal, Deviate From The Form, which features vocals from Christian that alternates between a fearsome growling beast and crisp clean melody, and Carved In Stone which is a mystical song that bombards you with raw vocal talent and an incredibly well done guitar.
What is there to say about Pitch Black Progress? Not perfect, I will never rate any album an 100% unless it truly deserves it, but this is my favorite album by my favorite band, and they get everything right where it counts. Vocals, instrumentals, and overall sound is all nailed with a bullseye. If you don't mind clean vocals in metal, and are looking for a catchy band that will leave you singing along with the chorus and headbanging at the same time, these Swedes will surely give you a run for your money, and Pitch Black Progress deserves a listen.
First off, the music is good. It's mostly very hard-driving, with some good guitar solos. There are some power metal moments too, which is just fine with me. It's nothing particularly unique, but it's very good.
What sets Scar Symmetry apart from the legion of other melodic death metal bands is the combination of death growls and a clean, power metal vocal style. Other bands in the genre (e.g. Soilwork or In Flames) use clean vocals, but not in the power metal vein of things. It's hard to imagine someone could do both styles, but when their vocalist left (after their third album), they decided to replace him with two guys.
What sets Scar Symmetry apart, though, is also their downfall. The death growls are top notch: It's a very rich, thick sound, and he does it in two distinct pitch ranges. The clean vocals, on the other hand, are bad. He can't do it well: It's obvious he's trying to get a bigger sound than he can achieve, when he tries to be soulful it sounds pathetic, and he is often off pitch.
On the more growl-based songs, like the title track and "Calculating the Apocalypse", everything works, and they sound amazing. But on the clean vocal-based songs, like "Mind Machine" and "Dreaming 24/7", they sound disjointed and awkward. The problem is most obvious on "The Kaleidoscopic God". They manage to overcome the problem at times (see "Carved In Stone"), and sometimes he can almost pull it off ("Deviate from the Form"), but they would have been better off going in a different direction.
The Verdict: They could have been a really great melodic death metal band without anything to distinguish them from the crowd besides their talent, but instead they set themselves apart in a bad way. Everything else about it is great, though.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
What's wrong with melody?
Scar Symmetry might be one of those bands to follow in the footsteps of Soilwork, At The Gates and In Flames but at least they do it well. Their brand of Melodic Death Metal is exactly what I look for when referring to the term "Melodic". Christian Älvestam's clean vocals are simply amazing; there's no denying that at all. His growls, however awesome as well, don't quite fit in the song structures. His other bands, like Miseration and Quest of Aidance, are good places to utilize those nasty growls but not here in Scar Symmetry where they rely on so much melody.
A lot of people say this band is not original and cliche and while that may be true, their brand of it is still catchy and easy to follow. Unlike Soilwork, where their later material progressively got softer and more simple, Scar Symmetry's song writing is still heavy and very much Death Metal.
The guitar work is very solid. The utilization of harmonies throughout the album are very appreciated and well done. The production of the album is perfect for what Scar Symmetry does. There's nothing taken away from it. Overall, this album should not get the crap that it does from elitist Metalheads just because the guy sings a lot and Scar Symmetry likes to write melodic choruses.
Favorite songs on Pitch Black Progress.: Calculate The Apocalypse, Dreaming 24/7, Slaves To The Subliminal and Deviate From The Form
Much can be said in the cases for and against melodic death metal, and for a great number of metalheads the latter case is the one that holds sway over their beer-befuddled consciousness. This is understandable, not least to the dedicated old schoolers among us who believe that death metal is the mortal foe of all melody: The words simply do not fit together in a sentence. At the same time, it is always worth bearing in mind that no form of music is worthless – rather it is in the implementation of the music where the perceived ‘suckage’ can be generated – for every sublime Dark Tranquillity or Arch Enemy, we have a dozen Soilwork and All Shall Perish-type groups clogging up the golden pipeline with shit.
So, where does Scar Symmetry stand? Up amongst the few who have made a worthy stand for melodeath, or down amongst those who further defecate on the already suspiciously viewed genre?
Well, if ‘Pitch Black Progress’ is anything to go by, then here is a band clawing viciously at the heels of the greats, inches away from joining them in glory.
This is an album that bears all the hallmarks of melodic death – a fat, crunching, over-distorted guitar sound with the bass largely obscured throughout, crashing drums never too overplayed or too flashy, plentiful synth use underscoring everything and the obligatory frontman capable of low-end growl and soaring harmony. With usual ingredients all present and correct as we have seen them countless times, it falls upon the band to provide the extra spice. Thankfully, this they do in abundance.
The structure of the average modern melodeath song is generally what leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for most listeners, with the majority of bands opting to bolt a poorly written melodic chorus onto a ‘brutal’ framework of double bass and doubly boring guitar. ‘Pitch Black Progress’ differs in that rather than throw the elements clumsily together, they are properly blended into a far more seamless work – songs such as ‘The Illusionist’ and ‘Mind Machine’ are a mere two examples of coruscating heaviness and rising melody meeting together effectively, assisted no end by a sharp production free of any of the mud that might drag the epic nature of the material down.
‘The Illusionist’ is particularly worth a mention; a track that epitomises Scar Symmetry’s fantastic combination of uncomplicated musicianship (the riffs throughout are superb despite their relative lack of technical oodling) and fantastically balanced and well measured songcraft (the chorus here will stick in the brain for weeks on end). Other standout tracks include the death-and-death-only title track, and twin epics ‘Dreaming 24/7’ and ‘The Kaleidoscopic God’, both featuring some of the best melodic lead work you’ve heard in recent times. Certainly, the sound peddled by Scar Symmetry is not a new one, but it is carried off with such confidence it is hard to care.
As musicians, Scar Symmetry will divide opinion, vocalist Christian Alvestam key among them. His growl is satisfyingly deep-throated and meaty, though the clean vocals are unlikely to endear him to many metal fans due to his tendency to go somewhat melodramatic in the delivery.
The remainder of the band excel more in confidence than technical ability – the drum work is enjoyable if unremarkable throughout, though drummer Henrik Ohlsson clearly knows how to put a double bass pedal to good use and is no stranger to high velocities. Bassist Kenneth Seil is easily the weak link in the chain, largely because the poor bastard’s instrument is buried beneath the guitars of Per Nilsson and Jonas Kjellgren, who actually make up for this unfortunate fault with the highly memorable lead work that punctuates the album at every turn.
This in short, is Scar Symmetry. A band that will not provide anything to change your life but will carry off a much-derided formula with such panache that they make it their own. An album of epic highs and equally enjoyable downtuned lows, ‘Pitch Black Progress’ is an album that proves that modern melodic death metal still has some vibrant life in its festering carcass yet.
It’s 2007. Countless bands have popped out of the ground to hitchhike with the success of bands such as In Flames or Soilwork. Some bands put it out rather good, such as Insomnium and Skyfire. Others, however, aren’t able to put out quality songs, such as Blood Stain Child or Callenish Circle. All these bands, however, have one thing in common: none of them put out something extraordinary new. This is not bad, though, but sometimes that thing can kill a single album. Pitch Black Progress, Scar Symmetry’s new album, has a sound distinctive of Soilwork. Afraid to use melodies in verses, and to balance it out, an overload of melodies in the choruses.
Scar Symmetry’s sound is nothing new, but that doesn’t take away the talent they have. Again, their talent is remarkable of that from Soilwork. A strong drummer, nonexistent bass, two fairly fine guitarists and a decent vocalist. Of the latter one, I want to set a few words straight. His growl is immensely low. Low as in; low like the ex-bassist from Nile, maybe even lower. His clean vocals, on the other hand, are high, light and very dramatic. Almost like the standard power metal band. On most of the songs he uses the standard formula: growling at verses and singing at choruses. The exceptions are Mind Machine and Dreaming 24/7, which uses mostly clean vocals and Pitch Black Progress, where the lack of clean vocals gets an unexpectedly but warm applause. Mainly because of the fact that most of the songs uses the standard formula this band falls in the heavy-verse/light-chorus trap. The only song which avoids it with great success is the shining star of the album: Calculate the Apocalypse. A song on which I will get back on later.
The main goal, however, for melodic death metal band is to create the most beautiful or menacing melodies. Again, this band takes Soilwork as an influence. The verses barely have melodies in it. Add to that the growling vocals, and you have a rather monotone and unmemorable riff. The choruses are, on the other hand, quite melodic. This is however mainly because of the clean vocal technique of the vocalist. The guitarists still refrain to put out some real melodies, and mainly stick to power chords. Sometimes a keyboard-pad is set in the background to strengthen the melody, which is a good sign (hint towards the band: add a keyboardist to your band). It’s not that there are no melodies, however. In fact, if looked more subtle, there are quite a few of them. Slaves to the Subliminal features a beautiful lead riff in the chorus, and Calculate the Apocalypse has the good melodies all over the place. There are also a lot of solo’s on this album. Most of them are very enjoyable and really add to the songs. Fast and melodic. Exactly what these songs needed.
I have mainly talked negative about the songs, but it’s not all bad. What this album saves are three incredible songs. The first two are already the first two of the album. The Illusionist and Slaves to the Subliminal have from all the standard tracks the best melodic choruses and the most brutal verses. They are the best of the standard tracks. Only the standard tracks though, because the jewel of the album is track number 5: Calculate the Apocalypse. The different riffs on this song flow into each other like it’s nothing. The verses are as brutal as it can get. This is however not the high point of this song, of the album. There are two types of choruses. The first is a decent one, sung but without the melodies from guitars. The second, however, is the other way around, and much better. While the vocalist growls and grunts, the two guitars create one of the most subtle, beautiful yet brutal melodies, added with the perfect power chords. Fast, unstoppable but also hopeful and powerful. This is melodic death metal at it’s best.
Scar Symmetry’s main fault lies in it’s cliché songwriting. The talent is present, the band has proven to write some outstanding songs and the production is quite clear. If this band would experiment more instead of lending the idea’s from their idols, there could come some really good work out. They have the potential, they only need to learn to use it.
Top 3 tracks:
1. Calculate the Apocalypse
2. The Illusionist
3. Slaves of the Subliminal
Jonas Kjellgren - Guitar
Per Nilsson - Guitar
Kenneth Seil - Bass
Henrik Ohlsson - Drums
Christian Alvestam - Vocals
This review was originially written on www.sputnikmusic.com under the name TheHambugerman
If you ask a metal fan which melodic death metal bands they know, they will answer In Flames for sure. If they're very good, they'll also add At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity. They might even add Arch Enemy. But do you see a problem here? ALL OF THESE BANDS ARE OLD! It's that simple. All of these bands have been around for a while and their best stuff has already been released. The only thing they can continue to release is decent music. Scar Symmetry is different. THEY ARE NEW! And with Pitch Black Progress, they refresh modern melodic death metal.
I picked up Scar Symmetry among a friends request. He said they are awesome modern melodic death metal. And after my first listen, I have to say this: I'm going to this guy for all musical suggestions now.
The music is very satisfying. The guitars are heavy and very thick. A lot of traditional death metal palm mutes. The drums sound awesome. They were recorded flawlessly. They are very crisp. Instruments aside, the songs are arranged very nicely. The verses are very heavy while the choruses are very melodic. And it isn't your basic cheesy melodic choruses like you see in many modern bands; it actually flows as one cohesive piece. And the solos! This is where you can tell this isn't another In Flames rip off band that tries to be exactly like OLD melodic death metal. The solos are insane. They have a Trey Azagthoth feel and make the songs complete. The musical aspect is obviously influenced by old melodic death metal but added with a ton of new influence ranging from old school death metal to even metalcore.
The vocals are very diverse. Unlike most melodic death metal bands, Scar Symmetry use DEATH vocals. Most melodic death bands use hardcore screams with a bit of death touch like that of Anders Freiden. The death vocals here are reminiscent of David Vincent. However, if you love melodic death metal and hate death metal vocals; fear not because there are clean vocals as well. And it isn't your typical Atreyu or Trivium scene where the clean vocals are only used in the chorus; clean vocals are used as much as Death vocals. Very diverse and just proves that this is new melodic death metal and it's here to stay. The lyrics are very cool. Swedish bands have always had the best lyrics, and Scar Symmetry doesn't break the trend. Focused around sci-fi and personal struggles, lyrical content is very advanced and very much in the gray area. You really have to read between the lines and kind of have an out of body experience to fully understand them.
It's safe to say, these guys are a very good. They're very original in melodic death metal. Their lyrics are awesome. Their music is complex. If you're tired of old melodic death metal and want something to get excited about again, listen to these guys. Just don't piss your pants to hard.
Songs to check out: The Illusionist, Calculate the Apocalypse, and Abstracted.
I had a hard time getting into Scar Symmetry’s ‘Symmetric In Design’ when I first blasted it through my stereo speakers. I’m glad I got into that album enough to buy this, their second offering. The best way for me to describe ‘Pitch Black Progress’ is dynamic, catchy, powerful, and perfect for any fan of the melodic death metal genre. The album has great consistency, atmosphere, and is fueled with beautiful melodies mixed with scorching brutality.
Musically, Scar Symmetry’s sound is very straightforward. The guitars are usually mid to moderately fast in pace and follow standard riffs backed by a sweeping guitar solo or two in almost every song. The keyboard helps give the guitars a balanced since of melody with brutality. The bass gives each song a strong, consistent atmosphere throughout and is actually audible (rare for a lot of typical death metal bands). The drums also have a solid consistency and help maintain the album’s solid flow. The vocals are the real standout though, since the vocalist can reach both gut churning death grunts to scorching screeches and beautiful mellow singing to powerful clean vocals.
The only downsides I could find on this album are two things. 1) Almost every song follows a very typical song structure that can seem repetitive at times; and 2) The vocalist tends to go over the top with his singing sometimes which can get very annoying (specifically on the song Calculate The Apocalypse).
Although it was a really difficult task, I managed to choose the four best tracks on the album. The first track, The Illusionist, being a perfect example of guitar and keyboard melody, both brutal and clean vocals, and an excellent track to set the standards for most of the album. Mind Machine is another major standout track, being the most melodic (almost all clean singing) and possibly one of the most catchiest songs on the album. Dreaming 24/7 really shows the guitarist’s skills and speed, but also has a great, slow paced, atmospheric melody that is the most dominate on the album. The last track that stands higher then the others is Oscillation Point, which has amazing melodies and crushing heaviness and also an abnormal song structure that separates it from most other tracks.
Overall, the album is a solid, underrated release that will not fail to entertain and will surely leave an impact on it’s listener after only the first listen. For fans of: Opeth, (old) In Flames, Soilwork, Dark Tranquillity, and (Empiricism-era) Borknagar.
Being your typical narrow minded black metal fanatic, I would normally make a point of avoiding such words as "melodic" with regards to the records I buy. This album could be described as MELODIC death metal. A genre I would usually avoid like the plague since making the mistake of buying an In Flames album years ago and being sickened at how something so downright gay could even be assosciated with death metal. Yet this album has its merits which shouldn't go un-noted.
This music presents me with a great problem as I find it hard to hate, no matter how hard I try. The band seemed to be mixing mediocre (yet fairly convincing) death metal with all the accessible sensibilities of mallcore trash. Whilst this isn't mallcore as the band show just enough musical ability (both lyrical and instrumental) to distance themselves from this label, it is something that will lurk at the back of your mind as you listen to this music.
The vocals are the high point of this album as the frontman has a great power metal-esque voice that helps further distance them from any comparisons to soilwork and their other Swedish peers. He also exhibits a knack for the good ol' guttural death metal growl which other "melodic death" acts I have been unfortunate enough to hear usually choose to leave out. Unfortunately this is both the only outstanding quality on this album and the thing that causes me the most grief.
All the clean vocals no-matter how polished and emotional (In a non-sucky emo' way) seem forced just to make you pay attention to the songs which would otherwise be forgettable. Sure there are decent guitar solos and precise drumming all wrapped in a very polished package but there are very very few memorable riffs and certainly nothing you couldn't hear anywhere else.
Lets make one thing clear, this is not a bad album by any means. There are a few songs worthy of mention such as the Kaleidoscopic God which get the balance between power and death metal I feel the band were trying to achieve. The tradional metal style riffs before the solo in this song are what make all the clean vocals less forced in amongst the growls here.
To sum up, if you prefer straight death metal or power metal then this record is not really worth a purchase as it does neither genre much justice and will do little to impress any fans of either. However if you have heard any of the songs off of this album and you were captivated by the hooky mix of styles (as I was) then you could do much worse than buying this album.
Highlights: The Illusionist, Dreaming 24/7 and The Kaleidoscopic God.
With their second offering "Pitch Black Progress", Scar Symmetry have not done much to change their sound, except maybe for a little bit more clean vocals added here and there. However the saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it" applies here. The first record kicked ass and so does this one.
The riffs are still there, Alvestam's fantastic vocal work is still everpresent in the band's sound. The drums are very tight and the songwriting is maybe a little more complex on this record.
The two best tracks here are "Mind Machinery" and "Complex Kaleidoscope". The first has a dreamy and memorable chorus which is sung clean and just sticks in your head forever. The riffs and solos are fantastic and the overall delivery is just there. "Complex Kaleidoscope" is the epic track of the album. There is a lot going on here. A higher pitch vocal delivery is used during the verses and Alvestam's variety is showcased tenfold on this track. The chorus is epic as hell, and is once again catchy and almost theatrical in its scape. The instrumental sections are where the band shines; the solos go from a very old school alsmost Motley Crue-esque rythm section to a full out neoclassical explosion only to blast back to another cool bridge and a final chorus. This is easily the best song on the album, clocking in at over seven minutes.
If you're into melodic death, but are looking for something maybe a little heavier and more complex in its structure, you should definitely check this out.
After doing a somewhat slagging review of Scar Symmetry's debut I decided to take on their second album "Pitch Black Progress" with an open mind. I've never had a doubt that this band contains some very capable musicians. Guitars and especially drums are played with great precision.
The problem is that most of the songs are once again total "Natural Born Chaos"-era Soilwork. "Mind Machine" sounds like a carbon imitation of their formula. This band just doesn't have much creativity or vitality to offer beyond being another At The Gates-derivative and polished swedish group.
Vocally, we once again have a mix between a pretty good growl and some almost Power Metal-like clean vocals. While they're okay on its own, it fails to form an entity. Many times the shifts between growl and clean seem awkward and out of place rather than intertwined. Credits to the growling for often being Death Metal instead of screeching or belting though.
A question that often rises is, "do we really need more groups like this?". The quantity of groovy, pleasant and slick bands like this tend to surface by the minute. Now I know I enjoy somewhat aimless classic Death Metal bands like Kaamos and Abysmal Dawn, so I don't know if that stops me from using that card here.
Anyways, the grand total of this is a CD a bit better than the average Swedish melo stuff. It's not really a pain to listen to, it's just streamlined. Most of the melodies are infectious and accessible but not very interesting or engaging. They've lost some mallcore chugging and added a less Gothenburg production, making it marginally better than the debut.