's blend of death and melodic metal is hardly that original in the post Fear Factory
and In Flames
world. But what truly makes the Swedish group stand out is their prowess over it. Their heavier moments are tempered with a dynamic and highly-memorable sense of melody. Simply put, a lot of their peers might use a similar formula but they don't do the catchier side of the music as well. Scar Symmetry
's 2008 "Holographic Universe
" album was a revelation. Critics across the metal community showered it with praise and it found an audience with fans across numerous scene factions.
The band is about to release "Dark Matter Dimensions
," their 4th full-length album and to say that anticipation for the collection is high would be an understatement. After their fan beloved vocalist, Christian lvestam
, left the fold earlier this year, the new album features the debut of Lars Palmqvist
(clean vocals) and Roberth Karlsson
(growl vocals) co-fronting the band. Ultimate-Guitar caught up with founding guitarist Jonas Kjellgren
to talk about the album and his various influences.
UG: Scar Symmetry play a unique hybrid of death metal, prog and arena rock so I wanted to ask you who your early guitar heroes were.
My uncle and grandfather played guitar so it's because of them I started. I worshipped Michael Schenker cause he was on TV when I was 7 years old and I thought he was so damn cool with that black and white V-guitar which I still think (laughter)! I also loved Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Vinnie Vincent, and Mathias Jabs. Later on I fell for Dimebag Darrell, and those other early 90s killer shredders
Were you the kind of guy who spent hours working on scales and watching instructional tapes?
To answer that question honestly, no. I learnt a few scales, but mostly I recorded some rhythm-guitars onto my cassette recorder and jammed leads over that. Another thing I did was play along to other albums trying to figure out what was happening. Come to think of it, I still do that (laughter)!
At what point did you start writing your own songs? How do they hold up now when you hear them?
"I wrote my first thrash/death song when I was 10."
Well, I started making my own songs as soon as I learned how to strum a few chords when I was like 7 years old. I wrote my first thrash/death song when I was 10. It was called Hell is Near You and I still remember the main-riff. It obviously sucked bad.
Sweden, and the rest of Europe for that matter, seems more open-minded about metal than they are in the States. Was it OK within your group of friends to dig melodic bands and hard rock along with the heavier stuff?
Eehhh..not really. I guess it's more of an age thing. When I was 15 years old I hated everything but thrash and death metal but when it came down to it, I was still listening to Scorpions and Whitesnake in the secrecy of my bedroom (laughter). Now I don't care much about what other people think is cool or not. But maybe you are right, I don't know though. Over here it's not weird to worship Cannibal Corpse and Dokken at the same time.
You played guitar in Centinex who had a great reputation in the Swedish death metal underground. Your country was pumping out a lot of groups back then so was there a lot of competition between everyone?
Yeah, there was some competition back then. Everyone and his brother had a death-metal band during that time period but it was great for the most part. People would help each other land gigs and all of that when it came down to it.
You also dropped the guitar and just sang in the band Carnal Forge. Did you take on that roll out of necessity because you couldn't find a vocalist?
Yep, I thought I was going to play guitar, but they already had 2 guitarists so I took the microphone instead (laughter). It was fun but singing doesn't do anything for me anymore. It was good though because it made me love the guitar even more. I missed holding a guitar while I was up on stage rocking out.
Like we mentioned before, Scar Symmetry has a very distinct sound. When you guys initially formed, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted the sound to like or did it just happen organically?
No, we didn't have a set plan when we started. I just did 7 songs in different styles that I thought were great. Per then did 5 songs of his own after hearing the ones I had put together. We then realized that both sets of songs where somewhat the same style. Those first 12 songs we ever wrote became our debut-album Symmetric in Design.'
Holographic Universe' was a real breakthrough for the band. Did you know you had something special when you finished tracking the record?
No because that album was a bit chaotic to make and I don't really think it's that special. For me it's a bit too polished sounding. Well, wait a minute. What do I know? I only work here (laughter).
Everything seemed to be going great for the band when all of a sudden your singer Christian lvestam quit the band. One of the band's biggest strengths were the vocals and melodies so did you feel intimidated by the loss?
Yeah a bit, but we knew we were going to continue with 2 singers. This was decided even before Christian left. We actually knew straight after the recording of Holographic Universe' that this line-up was on its last verse.
You obviously bounced back because Dark Matter Dimensions' sounds focused and doesn't stray too far from the direction you were already heading in. How do you and Per (Nillson) handle the writing?
We make really bad-sounding pre-production-demos that we send to each other. We then talk back and forth about which songs are the best and which have to go. Everyone in the band is doing this to make sure all the members of the can stand behind the music and perform the songs with feeling.
What kind of guitars did you use to track the album?
We used Dean Razorback 7 and Ibanez Xiphos 7 for rhythm guitars and on one song (Mechanical Soulcybernetics) we used an 8 string Ibanez. I used my Razorback for leads and Per used either his Ibanez Universe or his Jem for his leads.
What kind of rigs did you have in the studio?
"For this album we wanted a classic metal-sound with a twist."
All of the rhythm guitars went thru a TC-electronic boost-pedal then into an Marshall JCM 900 at almost full blast (mod. by Moose amps Sweden) Angled JCM900cab, Shure SM 57 straight into the cone) into an Amek Pure Path mic-pre then into an Distressor comp. Then via the 96i interface straight into Protools. Turned out great, sounds like a weird combination but we tried Engl, Peavey, Krank, and Randall but they did not sound as cool as the Marshall. For this album we wanted a classic metal-sound with a twist. The Moose Amp 900 gave us this.
My lead-sound is a Marshall JCM 800 (Moose amp as well) and Per's sound is an Egnater TOL50 head thru a Marshall cab.
The nature of the band's songwriting calls for really tight and precise musicianship. As Scar Symmetry's producer as well as guitarist, how hard are you on the guys during the recording process?
I'm nice as hell, but if it's not tight or doesn't have enough feeling then it has to be redone until I say it's good enough for rock n' roll. Usually it doesn't take many takes. Everyone in the band is a great player so I'm lucky.
What newer bands have sparked your interest lately? Are there any younger guitarists that Ultimate-Guitar readers should check out?
Well I don't know (laughter). I like a lot of players out there but I'm not very good with checking out new stuff. The guitar-player from a Belarus band called Noctiferia does some really killer leads on their new album. The guys from The Absence do some really awesome shredding too. I love DragonForce's 2 guitar players because they make everything sound so damn crazy and cool!
In terms of metal guitar work, which bands and/or albums should everyone have in their personal collections?
Judas Priest Painkiller'
Megadeth Rust In Peace'
Iron Maiden Powerslave'
and hmm....all Scar Symmetry albums (laughter)
Thanks for the interview!
Interview by Carlos Ramirez