Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress - Nuclear Blast 2006
Running Time: 48:26
Scar Symmetry is from Sweden, a country that clandestinely supports itself with royalty payments from most of the metalcore bands currently polluting America. Still, when I heard that SS was unleashing their sophomore album (having not heard the debut), I wasn't horribly enthused. Like I or the world needed what was likely some hack job taking the best parts of Sentenced, Amon Amarth, and Dismember, tossing them into a toilet-shaped blender, and flushing out another turd of an album. The Play button on the stereo was halfheartedly pressed, and then...
Scar Symmetry manage to reference a more bottom-heavy Sentenced, Therion without the symphonic wankery, and the gravelled bark of Fear Factory's Burton C. Bell all within the first thirty seconds, effectively causing the mad case of slackjaw I kept with me through the rest of the album. Melodic vocals intertwine with ferociously syncopated beats, astounding vocals (all, I found later, flawlessly performed by one Christian Alvestam) thankfully using melody as something besides "The part where we whine about our ex-girlfriends". Worry not for the Fear Factory comparison, kids. Scar Symmetry isn't some cheesed-out take on industro-metal hopelessly recycling old Skrew riffs. The guitarwork of SS lies closer to the classic melodic dark metal of The Black League or Poison Black (yes, both projects of ex-Sentenced members), but is far from mimicry. Shades of Metallica harmonies pop up in the chorus, but more in the phrasing than the notes themselves, adding yet another layer. "Mind Machine" brings triphammer drums, the pendulemic riff swaying with the beat, Alvestam's clear vocals exuding class and professionalism in a genre where both are rare. The music of Scar Symmetry makes it apparent that thought and planning has gone into the arrangement of the songs, lending itself to a blissful yet dangerous cohesion within the band. For the title track, snarling, vehement ranting hurls itself across the burled up proto-metal stomp of Kjellgren and Nilsson all the way into a chorus careening into musical insanity. Listening to SS, you get the impression that these songs could really go anywhere at any time and still turn out golden. Rapid-fire rhythms and off-kilter riffs fold in on each other for "Calculate The Apocalypse", then burst out the other side all teeth and robotic claw. The precision here is almost inhuman, but the skillful arrangement keeps and earthbound tone, wisely preventing things from veering too far into Cyborg Nation. At times Alvestam's vox take on a Queensrychian slant, as in the chorus of "Dreaming 24/7", the musicians fostering almost an AOR sound likened to Shakra. Almost. I wasn't too thrilled with the solo on this song, though. It wasn't "bad" by any stretch, mind. It just sounded a bit "off", which could've been intentional just to keep us on our toes. "Abstracted" is a dead on Strapping Young Lad in parts, in others a musical vision of what happens when Meshuggah occasionally stops beating us over the head with their technical prowess and concentrates on the song itself. Sometimes Scar Symmetry even kicks it out oldschool with choppy chords and racing leads ("The Kaleidescopic God"), but isn't shy about releasing their inner classic rock fans either, with "Retaliator" showing off the remarkable talents in the rhythm section of Seil and Ohlsson. Staccato, surgically clean riffs and non-abrasive death vocals wind things up with "The Path Of Least Resistance", the music being pure enough to admit both styles with equally good result. The beauty of Scar Symmetry, the uncanny knack for a hook, and a penchant for crafting excellent metal, adjective prefixes be damned will doubtless skyrocket Pitch Black Progress to the top of many year-end lists...mine possibly included.