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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.