Holographic Universe review by Scar Symmetry

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  • Released: Jun 20, 2008
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.5 (75 votes)
Scar Symmetry: Holographic Universe
7

Sound — 9
While the idea of having clean vocals thrown into Death Metal songs is far from an original idea in 2008, there are few bands that truly pull it off in an effective, let alone, interesting way. Outside of bands like In Flames, Fear Factory, and Opeth, you would be hard pressed to find an argument for the formula. Luckily, I've known to be wrong from time to time because the folks at Nuclear Blast Records just sent me the new album from Scar Symmetry and I've been rendered breathless by a case of complete shock! Where has this band been my whole life? Their new album, Holographic Universe, is packed to the rafters with an endless array of delicious twin-guitar melodies and the kind of rhythmic precision found in the catalogs of tech-heavy greats like Spiral Architect and Meshuggah. Henrik Ohlsson's drum work is a force to be reckon with on it's own with some of the flashiest footwork this side of Dream Theater's Mike Portnoy. The winning combination of Ohlsson and bassist, Kenneth Seil is a rhythm section most guitarists would give their left foot for! You can go on and on about the air-tight musical exactness in the band's performances but that wouldn't even be half of the story here. There are complete label rosters (Inside-Out Records, Shrapnel Records) with bands that play the hell out of their instruments but it's few and far between where you find a band of this caliber wrapping their technical muscle with such high-level songwriting. Riff refrains that Queensryche would have written at their prime, verses worthy of At The Gates-like worship, and the type of choruses that were made for stadium crowds to sing along to and this is just a description of the first song, Morphogenesis people! I know, you just read At The Gates and you're worried Scar Symmetry is just another clone band trying to ride their coattails, but you would be missing the mark completely! Sure these Swedes showcase their influences but they inject their material with so much personality and skill, you cannot deny their musical prowess.

Lyrics — 9
As out-of-control great as Scar Symmetry's songwriting and musicianship proves to be on Holographic Universe, the jewel in their crown is without question, vocalist, Christian Alvestam. His Death Metal vocal attack isn't to be ignored with it's deep tonality and razorblade-kissed harshness that drives the heavier sections with might force. But what really makes Alvestam's appearance a revelation are his cleaner vocals. It's the kind of powerhouse voice that is usually reserved for AOR bands like Survivor, Foreigner, and Journey; not in a Swedish Death Metal band. It definitely doesn't sound like a great idea in writing but when you hear the mixture of his melodic crooning and piercing guitars coming out of your speakers, you're doubts swiftly fall by the wayside. On Ghost Prototype II (Deus Ex Machina) and Artificial Sun Projection he shows off a more soulful side to his timbre reminiscent of Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen, Talisman) and Graham Bonnet (Rainbow). His higher pitched stuff can be found on scorchers like Timewave Zero and Fear Catalyst. Alvestam's performance on the album is nothing less than a tour-de-force that should get praise from both the Heavy Metal and more mainstream Hard Rock communities.

Overall Impression — 9
Just when you start giving up on a certain type of Metal, an album like Holographic Universe appears from out of nowhere to remind you how momentous it can truly be. All the hallmarks of a classic album are abundant here. The guitar assault team of Per Nilsson and Jonas Kjellgren's whip up some devastating fret board workouts throughout the record. Their commanding melodies should be observed by young guitarists looking to improve their playing chops. The tornado swirl solos on the title track, and really, most of the songs, demand multiple listens with their rich character and memorable melodic themes. Just like Alvestam's hooky chorus runs, the guitar parts will be bouncing around inside your head for days! Kjellgren produced the collection and he selflessly lets the songs, instead of the flashy guitars, be the primary focus here. He understands how to frame the material and gives the performances enough lift to take them that extra notch above where they already were. All in all, Holographic Universe shows us that Scar Symmetry stands above most of the bands combining the guttural and clean vocals but even that is an understatement. It's the world-class songwriting and Alvestam's career-making vocal performance that makes everything here unquestionably unforgettable.

65 comments sorted by best / new / date

    ordinary_story
    This is an amazing album....i didnt think much of it at first but it grew on me...and it IS AWESOME!! very solid album!
    Megahertzz
    Bands like this is the reason why Metallica never will see the same success they had in the 80's and 90's. There are so many bands out there doing what they did, only faster, harder and better!
    Megahertzz
    Bands like this is the reason why Metallica never will see the same success they had in the 80's and 90's. There are so many bands out there doing what they did, only faster, harder and better!
    +}-136-{+
    undeaded wrote: Burning_Angel wrote: Watershed beats it by a lot. Hardly by much.
    While this is a pretty solid album, calling it contender for one of the top 10 metal albums of the year might be a bit stretching it. Though a consistent album for sure, it's still pretty straightforward, even with the keyboard flourishes and whatnot. 'Watershed' was a daringly experimental and original album but none of the song quality was sacrificed. 'Holographic Universe' delivers the good, but it doesn't explore into new territory. 'Watershed' did both. That's what seperates a good album from a great one, and what makes 'Watershed' a stronger album than 'Holographic Universe'
    undeaded
    To be honest, Watershed's new territory wasn't that original. They were revisiting the groundwork laid down by Damnation albeit in a slightly long way. I still think Holographic Universe is only just beaten by Watershed.
    TheEndOfDaze
    This album doesn't really explore any new ground, but it does continue to build on their originality and the melodic death genre. Their definitely one of the front runners in that genre, IMO. And as for 'Watershed', that album is pretty amazing, but I'd rather listen to Scar, b/c IMO their songs flow a little bit better. And as for it being one of the best metal albums of the year, it's really just a matter of opinion. But this album does deliver pretty well. It doesn't really disappoint me much.
    Magero
    undeaded wrote: To be honest, Watershed's new territory wasn't that original. They were revisiting the groundwork laid down by Damnation albeit in a slightly long way. I still think Holographic Universe is only just beaten by Watershed.
    Took the words right out of my mouth.
    Burning_Angel
    undeaded wrote: To be honest, Watershed's new territory wasn't that original. They were revisiting the groundwork laid down by Damnation albeit in a slightly long way. I still think Holographic Universe is only just beaten by Watershed.
    Hmm, I'd say so far that's about right. Although, Keep of Kalessin - Kolossus is really creeping up, and same for Mirrorthrone - Gangrene.
    +}-136-{+
    All good points. I haven't really listened to 'Damnation' many times so I might have to look at that a bit more. I'm hoping that Nachtymystium's 'Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1' will satisfy me. I'm awaiting great things from that album, after the review I read on Revolver. Nothing else since I don't really check out new albums often.
    synths
    I recieve multiple orgasms while listening to this cd. There isn't a single weak song on this album!
    Connah
    just got this album. these guys are really good. fresh sound and really good writing and instrument work. 10/10!!
    Kikuta
    demonsheep wrote: Scar Symmetry Ftw, but could someone please tab PBP?! D:
    Started a few days ago. Starting with all the drumming first, will take a while.
    lostinflames
    Im on Artificial Sun Project right now...and its great so far. One thing no one has commented on yet is the album artwork, it phenomenal. Best that ive seen in a while
    Regression
    Have heard a bit of Pitch Black Progress and really liked it, so I will definately give this a try.
    lostinflames
    yes this band is amazing, got all 3 cds one thing no one has commented on yet is the album art. The art is heads above anything else that ive seen in a long time, i want to blow it up and frame it in my house \m/
    Ichimaru
    I'm not a fan of Death vocals, so I really didn't like this album at first, but after listening to it a couple of times, its really grown on me and now I can't stop listening to it.
    shredtildeath
    kennyvspenny wrote: their name is really emo. wow.
    There are a lot of tards on this site wow.
    hamsterman64
    Burning_Angel wrote: Ghost Prototype I and II are amazing.
    All the way. I still have a hard time calling them my favorites just because the entire album is so great though! I listen to it more than any other I have.
    kman505z
    at 2:40 into The Missing Coordinates there is a great example of Scar Symmetry's ability to create a simple clean melody, as well as their heavy mind exploding stuff lol
    KsE3234
    when my friend got this album i didn't really think anything about getting them...big mistake...holy crap, they're now probably one of my favorite bands after listening to both of their albums in one night
    crasherdgrate
    This is one GREAT album i've recently got my hands on!!! AWESOME!!!!! Top songs for me are 1.Morphogenesis 2.Timewave zero 3.The Three Dimensional Shadow Not exactly in this order!!
    blistered earth
    this was an amazing album too bad the singer for this one left theyve got two guys singin now one for clean one for screams/growls
    Severhead
    a7xsoad wrote: kennyvspenny wrote: their name is really emo. wow. Yeah, what about the album name????? It sounds pretty ****ing proggy to me \m/ Despite the fact that Scar Symmetry are fairly straight-forward melodic death.
    The album content and title was based on the book The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot...which i ironically finished reading shortly before picking this record up..which the coincidence kinda reflects the theme behind the book...but anyways.... It's a genius theme behind an album and has such a deeper meaning to it after reading the book. Great band and definitely one of my favorite albums to date. Too bad Christian has moved on from SS....but I look forward to his material with Solution .45 and future material from SS. \m/
    ICØNØCLAST
    You all need to hear, Christian's new band, Solution .45. For Aeons Past, is by far one of the best albums I've ever heard by a long shot.
    LeetSawse
    When I first gave this album a listen it sounded like an exact copy of their last 2 albums, it really took me a few listens to really get into this album.
    undeaded
    Wasn't as good as Pitch Black Progress. But still an awesome album. Artificial Sun Projection is the best song imo.
    WhiskeyGuitar
    I just got it and Im not really into death (though this is not a pure death record I know haha) but this record is awesome!!!
    MrGuitar123
    I liked it, I liked Morphogenesis the best off the album. Not entirely sure if I liked it better than Pitch Black Progress, I have to listen to it some more.
    tbarrettl
    undeaded wrote: Wasn't as good as Pitch Black Progress. But still an awesome album. Artificial Sun Projection is the best song imo.
    I am thinking the same thing though time will tell and even if this is so it is no failure by Scar Symmetry to be as consistent as they are.
    Burning_Angel
    troyponce wrote: Those of you waiting for it... it's already leaked. Check torrent sites. If you want to support the band then buy it when it's available but you don't have to deprive yourself now. It's a fantastic album, best metal release of the year so far.
    Watershed beats it by a lot.