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It is a funny thing how so many steadfast Scar Symmetry defenders guide curious ears toward the front half of the band's catalogue. I mean, I totally get that the loss of Älvestam was of grave concern; dude's got a spectacular set of pipes on him. Regardless, after Solution .45 let out the stinker that was For Aeons Past in 2010, it was time to look elsewhere. That elsewhere ended up being Scar Symmetry themselves, who have at the very least been able to hold my fucking attention with Dark Matter Dimensions and The Unseen Empire. Neither album is anything more than a fair listen, but I respect the band for trying to cut and run from under Älvestam's imposing shadow. And then looking at the supposed masterpiece that is Holographic Universe; it only has three truly great songs. Can you believe those are far and away better than anything the band released beforehand? "The Illusionist" comes closest, but Symmetric in Design takes the cake for being the most featureless, stale romp the band has committed to disc to date.
For '05 this can be granted some measure of leniency, as can the fact that it is the band's debut. These exonerations aside, there just isn't a whole lot going on here. Most staggering is the near-complete dearth of inventive and uplifting synth arrangements. Although the band has never forced this facet to the point of active irritation, it has served as a memorable outlier on some of Scar Symmetry's best songs. Save for "The Eleventh Sphere," most of these tracks prefer operating within a flippant melodic death/groove mold that simply deflates on impact. Unless I'm mistaken, most Scar Symmetry fans turn to the band for majestic and nebular leadwork. While this is certainly present on the opener "Chaosweaver," most songs rely on lurching, modern groove intervals alongside Älvestam's tenor to sell the appeal.
While Älvestam can always be relied on for functional grunts, his cleans just aren't that amazing here either. He passes muster on a technical level, but the vocal melodies simply aren't that enterprising or well-integrated to begin with. "Chaosweaver" (incidentally the best track here) features the best vocal patterns, so I find no problem in stating that Symmetric in Design opens nicely. On other outings like "Hybrid Cult" the vocals feel plopped on like a spare tire though, and the higher-pitched shrieking occasionally interspersed within is highly unwelcome and disorienting. He was obviously still coming into his own at this juncture.
The band pulls it together on a few occasions, as "Underneath the Surface" features a solo section laced in synthetic bliss and driven home by the throbbing synth line underneath. The band usually falls flat on their collective face when they try to play up the groove aspect, but "The Obscure Alliance" is really quite smashing. The dual lead that opens up the song is definitely a highlight, and many a neck will get a workout from the main riff. Irrefutably simple, but undeniably more effective than most of what's here. Holographic Universe suffered from the exact same lack of memorability on the waning half, and as such Symmetric in Design portends many of the band's coming deficiencies. I can find a use for two or three of these tracks, and this is coming from someone with a Ph.D in melodic death.
So in an atypical twist, earlier is not better, at least not in Scar Symmetry's case. Despite perking up during a couple of the aforementioned tracks, Symmetric in Design is seriously lacking in glorious earworms like "Morphogenesis" and "The Illusionist," and as such is relegated to a status reserved for the countless capable, yet uninventive acts that have come and gone over the years. As stated earlier, I cut these guys something of a break considering the release date and scene at the time, but even for that this is just mediocre. It hints at some greatness, but we know now that this greatness never fully materialized.
Scar Symmetry are pretty technical when it comes to songwriting. Each of their songs are well thought out with otherworldly guitar solos, soaring vocal melodies and philosophical lyrical themes. While the band expanded these aspects as they progressed into their career, none of the later releases quite matched the genuine passion and honesty of Symmetric In Design, the outstanding debut. And what a debut it is...
Much of the song structure on this release is relatively simple and straightforward, compared to that on 'Holographic Universe' and beyond. This is by all means a good thing, as songs have a beginning, middle and end which makes them generally more solid. The backbone of the album comes with the whole 'dreamlike' feel of the songs. The first track, 'Chaosweaver' has some interesting guitar effects at the start, and verges on power metal in parts. This was set to become a fan favourite with its brutal verses and anthem-like chorus, which is incredibly catchy. Thats where the album gets its power: the songs are basically structured, but more compact and defined. Songs like '2012 - The Demise of the 5th Sun' are catchy, spacey and come as a breath of fresh air in the world of metal. There really aren't any other albums that you could compare this to, which shows that the band have a talent for creating unique music.
The guitars are very impressive, with face-melting solos in most of the songs. 'Detach From The Outcome' has some nice shredding, and is probably the albums heaviest track with its guttural growls and hard-hitting opening riff. Christian Alvestam's vocals are incredible as always, and he hits notes high and low like it's nothing. In 'Dominion' he really shows us his range, and his talent for growling as well. This is the albums strongest song mainly because of the majestic and melancholic main melody. The chorus has some lyrics that are rich with heartfelt emotion, and stands as (in my opinion) the bands finest song. This song sums up the album - unique, passionate and with a mature sound that is inspiring to listen to. This is proof that a band can be intensely heavy, but also create beautiful melodies that flow nicely with these parts. For this reason listeners of all kinds can get into them too, and will find much pleasure in experiencing this album. There are elements of all kinds of metal here, from the aforementioned power metal segments of the guitars, to the death metal growls and riffs and even the orchestral elements.
Symmetric In Design is an outstanding work of metal and one of the most impressive debuts to come along in ages. While it may lack the dizzying technicality of later albums, it still amazes with it's both melodic and brutal aspects that intertwine perfectly. This is truly an album from another world that will blow your mind no matter how many times you listen to it.
An essential purchase.
A lot of critics will say that this album is a watered down Soilwork ripoff. Are they right? While I can't make that decision for you, I can certainly tell you mine - hell no. This album is the first of five from the mighty melodic death metal band Scar Symmetry, and this album certainly doesn't fail to interest newcomers and veteran fans alike.
Excellent guitar from Per Nilsson can be heard throughout the album and is very consistent with catchy, heavy, and melodic riffs. From the chugs of "Hybrid Cult" to the amazing leads in "Detach from the Outcome", anyone expecting Per to seem inexperienced compared to his more recent work are sorely mistaken.
Keyboards are a major powerhouse on this album with tracks like the very catchy and addicting "Dominion" and the beautiful and almost breathtaking "Orchestrate the Infinite"
The drums throughout this album are insane. No, really. Insanity really would be the word for just how technical and heavy-hitting Henrik Ohlsson can be in tracks like "Seeds of Rebellion" and "Underneath the Surface". Ohlsson also writes the majority of the lyrics throughout Scar Symmetry and this record is no exception. Very complex are the "space-like" lyrics that also make you think deeper, almost on a "spiritual" level:
"The silent scheming as night turns dark
Altering what's real
Awake they're dreaming
The lucid nightmares opening their gates
A light is gleaming
The blackened rain summoned forth this night by the hybrid cult"
You can't tell me that these lyrics aren't powerful.
And last but certainly not least, we have the King of Cleans (Pun on King of Queens) himself, Christian Alvestam. His growls are very deep and have a lot of power in them. They're not as vibrant as some of his later material, but it gets the job done. It's as simple as that. But wait a minute. What about his cleans? Don't a lot of bands (like Soilwork) start off with mostly growls with minimal to no cleans? Will this album be a major disappointment for fans of Alvestam's cleans on albums like "Holographic Universe" or Solution .45's "For Aeons Past"? Do you really have to ask that?
Alvestam delivers some of the best cleans in his career on this album. On tracks like "Chaosweaver" and "Dominion" he relies less on doing over the top vibrant singing and instead does simple, yet effective cleans that make these songs become instant favorites.
Then you have songs where he shows his talent even more with moments like the ungodly and damn near unbeatable chorus of "Hybrid Cult" and the touching cleans in both the chorus and bridge of "Orchestrate the Infinite".
All in all, this album really is one of a kind. Not my favorite Scar Symmetry release, but it's pretty damn good. Even the album art is great (though I personally prefer the alternate Japanese cover). It gives you that "god-like" feeling. Kind of like you're learning and understanding the secrets of reality. Yeah, I'm not kidding.
Favorite tracks (If you're interested): Chaosweaver, Dominion, Reborn, Hybrid Cult, and Orchestrate the Infinite
I recommend this album to fans of Soilwork-ish style melodeath, works of Christian Alvestam, and early Scar Symmetry (especially if you liked "Pitch Black Progress").
The latest batch of In Flames and Soilwork material wasn't sitting too well with fans, and as a result the world is facing a critical shortage of Gothenburg metal. Somebody at Nuclear Blast records must have been thinking something along those lines, because the timing of new Melo-Death outfit Scar Symmetry is a little too perfect.
But whether these guys assembled out of their own volition or not, I have to give them credit for not just sounding like a clone of either of the aforementioned bands. Rather, their sound can pretty much be summed up as "What Opeth would sound like if they weren't progressive."
And it's not all bad either. "Chaosweaver" kicks things off with some blazing double bass work (although the group tends to favor bass-snare patterns, not blast beats) and guitars that keep up with it (with plenty of soloing too). The keyboards provide an extra sense of depth and atmosphere without overpowering the guitars, and the vocals sound like standard death metal one minute, and a pop crooner the next. This pattern, and the momentum, last for about five tracks into the album, and it all sounds really, really good. In fact, had they chopped it off right there and released an EP with just those five songs, we'd have a 90-95% rating on our hands.
Unfortunately, that's about where it falls off. Sure, late album tracks like "Detach from the Outcome" and "The Eleventh Sphere" aren't bad, but I still can't listen through the whole thing without getting bored. It just gets to a point where everything feels uninspired. The instrumentation is still fast and all, but at the same time it's still flat and lacking in energy. The cleanly sung choruses often sound like they're there just to be there; "Orchestrate the Infinite" in particular has a painfully forced acoustic section.
"Symmetric in Design" gets 40% for having five near-perfect tracks, with an extra 20% for their overall sound. I really don't have any problem with it in general, but they just don't seem able to pull it off most of the time. Those who are really looking for a Gothenburg fix, though, might still get a kick out of it.
Scar Symmetry are a hidden gem within the Swedish elite. This all-star band of former members of Diabolical and Carnal Forge make a brand of metal which could be considered melodic death, but there's more to it than that. These screams are not high pitched a la In Flames and generate much more power than the regular Gothenburg style band. Christian Alvestam is a real death metal vocalist, with pipes resembling those of one Mikael Akerfeldt. Many mention a resemblance to Soilwork, and that is only because the clean vocals resemble Speed's, but that is not a bad thing.
The songwriting here is alll over the place. Some songs have a more traditional Gothenburg feel whereas other infuse many neoclassical elements as well as some cock rock and even a bit of sludge for good measure. The keyboards are used effectively and do not overshadow the guitar or the vocals. Speaking of which, the guitar and drums have a great relationship in this band. Triplets are executed so tightly it hurts and the resulting sound is a very heavy one.
Hilights include the opener "Chaosweaver" which has a great mix of harsh and clean vocals and decieves the listenr into thinking at first that it's power metal, until an imposing death groove is put forth. The follow-up "2012: The Demise of the 5th Sun" has a catchy chorus and some kickass drumming. However my favorite has to be "Obscure Alliance" which has a very american vibe in its riffs and an absolutely fierce and commanding vocal performance from Alvestam.
There is definitely fun for all here...
It's not often you find an album in which there is not a single bad to be found. Symmetric In Design has sparodic groundbreakers in the mist of acutely inferior songs, and hence hence one such album.
The sound is distinctly fimiliar to that of Soliwork, with two prominant styles; a melodeath growls and clean vocals akin to metalcore paragons. Chaos Weaver and Seeds of Rebellion are two particularily apt examples, which blend the styles with efficiency and ferver. My particular favourite is "Veil of Illusions", in which the two are layered beautifully, and the clean vocals reach their optimum. The uplifting nature of Melodeath is highly apprant throughout, with blazing riffs and transendant juxtaposition of sweet and sour.
The actuall lyrics do also vary, and unlike traditional death, do not preach violence and nihilism, but rather attack more serious and prominant life issues. The heartfelt vocal preformance of Christian Älvestam never fails to deliver these issues with profound beleivability.
In terms of talent, Scar Symmetry don't particularily stand out from other Gothenburg bands, but do convey raw emotion more maturely, and have a exeptionally subtle yet energetic aura. They are an aquired taste, and so would understandably repel opposite poles of the metallic spectrum.
I would highly reccomend the album to any fans of Thrash, Death, and Atmospheric Grunge in general, due to the stlye diversity. Though some songs are hard to distinguish at first, these are regular symptoms of the Melodeath style in particular. Once you've allowed all the songs to sink in, you'll learn to appreciate them even more. It's especialy a case of 'the more you hear, the more you like'; which is a far better proposition offered by shallow offerings which wear down the more they are exposed. I particularly advise "Veil of Illusions", "Chaos Weaver", "Seeds of Rebellion", and "Dominion".
Okay, so here's another one of those Gothenburg acts popping out of Sweden in an unstoppable pace. I checked out Scar Symmetry since I'm supposed to see them in concert shortly. Since Jonas Kjellgren was on the band on guitar I had some hope that they could bring something nice despite being in a shit genre.
Listening to the songs there is no doubt that these guys have a lot of talent musically. The problem is basically that, despite the fact that they don't need to, they encorporate a lot of dumb -core riffing and such into their sound, they do.. When flashes of decency come in form of stuff that sounds like "Chainheart"-era Soilwork (the most tolerable Gothenburg) and suddenly ends with a clean vocal/keyboard "Reroute"-era In Flames break it surely makes you wonder what the fuck this band is after. One second they have an okay rhythm going and the next I'm listening to "Cloud Connected". Just, what the fuck? Decide whether you're going for accessibility or musical amazingness first, write songs after.
The vocalist is actually pretty good though. What we have displayed is real growls, rather than the unguttural hardcore barks these kind of bands usually have. Clean vocals are also pretty good, at least way better than their competitions. The problem is that they don't really blend well into the songs. It feels totally copy and paste and it takes away all coherency. You lose track of where the song is going and it becomes elevator noise rather than something that grabs ones attention.
My initial impression is that these guys are playing something best described as a mix of old tolerable Soilwork and the newer mallcore infused crap. While there is some good riffing incorporated at times, and the solos on the album are pretty damn nice, it still becomes dominated by the shitty parts. The best songs are of course those that have most of the "Chainheart Machine" splashes, "Underneath The Surface" comes to mind. A definite stinker of a riff that's in need to be mentioned is the "Veil of Illusions" intro. That one is total Construcdead. "Detach From The Outcome" is another one suffering from mallcore syndrome.
So, what we have here is quite a mediocre record. It's not as bad as, say "Stabbing The Drama" or "Soundtrack To Your Escape", it's just too Gothenburg and too friendly for it's own good. While there are some very rare flashes of greatness they are just not there often enough to gain my interest.
Here we have Scary Symmetry, a modern melodic death/gothenburg band in the vein of Natural Born Chaos era Soilwork, so expect a lot of catchy choruses in contrast to brutal verses. Unlike Soilwork however, Scar Symmetry has more "metal" qualities in their music, which doesn't make it necessarily better or worse mind you.
During the verses, the vocals are sung deep and gutteral in true Death Metal style. None of those faux Death vocals that the average Gothenburg band does. The clean vocals however, are in huge contrast, and are somthing you'd hear in a prog-rock band somewhere, but are done very well and fit the music splendidly.
All the songs here are backed by keyboards, most of the by time low-key atmosphere, but in other songs (Diminion, Chaosweaver, Reborn) the keys touch mid period Soilwork in that they reach for melody over atmosphere.
The musicianship is tight and well played, great guitarwork and drumming. Speaking of drumming, the double bass is constantly pounding here, I love it personally. In terms of solo's, this band has it down, these solo's sound inspiried, none of that "solo just because we can/have to" that so many bands do.
Production wise, it's above average but not much. I say this because, it's clean and sounds great, but is practically devoid of bass, when in a good system, you get a tiny thump, but not what you'd want. Could be better, could be worse.
In conclusion, I would highly recomend Scar Symmetry to you, on paper they sound like the 34938347th gothenburg band, but these guys are original and they do rule. Debuts are usually hit or miss with me, but this is a big hit. Listen to it, and don't let their lead singers uncanny resemblence to Speed of Soilwork turn you off, this band rules.