The Unseen Empire review by Scar Symmetry

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Released: Apr 18, 2011
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.8 (32 votes)
Scar Symmetry: The Unseen Empire
3

Sound — 9
SS are probably the biggest Marmite band in the Swedish metal scene at the moment, their melodic death/power/progressive metal hybrid sound being one of constant change and scrutiny. Christian Alvestams leaving was indeed a new turning point for the band, dropping some of the accessibility of their previous albums in exchange for a more fitting power/death metal style vocal section. A lot of people didn't like DMD, although I myself fail to see why.. But what is The Unseen Empire like? Well first song off the bat 'The Anomaly' is most definitely a track they could have written during the 'Pitch Black Progress' days and immediately tears into a speedy gothenburg fist-in-the-air track, having a very typical Scar Symmetry sound to it, so far so good. Song 2, 'Illuminoid Dream Sequence' is a wonderfully composed showcase of Per Nilsson's fantastic guitar work, containing many of the 'cosmic' melodies that SS just love to use. 'Extinction Mantra' is a fairly original track for SS, alternating between extreme fist pounding slowness and catchy leads and using a middle-eastern influenced intro. And it does keep getting better. Henrik Ohlsson has never sounded tighter on this album and keeps the imagination flowing throughout with the amount of different rhythms the band can come up with. As always with the Nilsson/Kjellgren duo, there is some simply sublime guitar work. Although there's always the 'wanking off' stigma that comes with SS, all the leads are tasteful (for Scar Symmetry at least) and as I keep saying, highly imaginative, especially Nilssons ambient-ish bridge solo and Kjellgrens 80's funky thrash solo in 'Seers of the Eschaton' (Wah wah ftw).

Lyrics — 9
The 'new' vocalists of SS have always been scrutinised for not being as 'good' as Christian Alvestam, well obviously there's no question that Christian had more talent and could actually sing the material live, but everyone overlooks the fact that SS a more than just a melodic death metal band. Lars Palmqvist, like him or not, is one hell of a vocalist. If not quite having the clarity of Alvestam, he has a more dynamic power metal edge to it and fits SS more as a band because of their obvious melodic content and often break-neck speed. On the other end of the vocals is Roberth Karlsson. Keeping in line with the uber-low death growls and occasional black metal scream, he too has only improved since DMD. Dark Matter Dimensions had some fairly good interplay between the two vocalists but was often overshadowed by segments dedicated to guitars. Now though, both vocalists have ample room to perform and impress, the shoot-out style vocal exchange is sort of a new quality they've brought out in the last two albums. I wouldn't go so far to say Henrik Ohlsson is a philosophical genius (or he might be.. that's hard to decide) but he does indeed know how to write. The lyrics on The Unseen Empire are based around the ideas of the Illuminati, a race of lizard people who secretly control the world, dystopian society, a little bit of the apocalypse and (naturally) a dash of typical SS cosmicy spaceness. Always very interesting material and rather thought-provoking and always always well delivered (though you might want to skim through the lyrics booklet a few times).

Overall Impression — 9
Essentially, everything on The Unseen Empire is a refreshed and updated version of DMD, combined with many of the trademark sounds from Alvestam era SS and basically making the best sound they've had in years. Instead of trying the art of compromise (which is what most bands do to 'evolve' or 'mature') SS have instead added and built upon what they had before and made a new yard stick for themselves. Of course, its still very Marmite-y... Songs to look out for: 'The Anomaly', 'Illuminoid Dream Sequence', 'Extinction Mantra', 'Seers of the Eschaton' (perhaps the heaviest song on this album, progheads rejoice), 'Astronomicon', 'Rise of the Reptilian regime', 'The Draconian Arrival', 'Alpha and Omega'.

31 comments sorted by best / new / date

    mysticguitar77
    Much much better than Dark Matter Dimensions, but still isn't quite the same as Scar Symmetry with Christian Alvestam. But, that's why we have Solution .45 now! Anyways, good to see Scar Symmetry back in form again, great album.
    Guttersniper
    Big improvement over DMD, I think the 2 new singers did a much better job this time around. I just wish there were more than 9 songs
    nihilisticchuck
    just to say, when i listened to Illuminoid Dream Sequence, it was like hearing to SS with Ozzy Osbourne. IMO, The anomaly would have been a better release than the other one. And yep, they have improved a lot, i think that is one of the best, after HU too.
    AceTrooper
    Finally!We've been waiting for this album!It's so great!A fantastic combination of progressive,death and melodic metal.Their best after Holographic Universe for me...!
    ordinary_story
    This album is most similar to Symmetric In Design i feel..its new, fresh and kinda raw and different to regular Scar Symmetry (PBP, HU)
    Jon777
    Fantastic review; I think I'd have to agree with most of what you said. Lars and Roberth finally feel like they're a true part of SS, and they've improved so much that I almost don't miss Christian anymore (notice the "almost" I'll take Christian any day). I'm glad that SS, for the most part, returned to their pre-DMD sound. While this record retains a bit of the DMD feel, at least it's the stuff that I liked off of DMD. The only real problem I have with The Unseen Empire is the overall album length. I want MOAR.
    Jfischl
    EpiExplorer wrote: Jotun7129 wrote: I have yet to really listen to the album in depth, seeing as it just came out, but I definitely like it a lot better than DMD. My only complaint is that it could benefit from some longer, more progressive songs like the Ghost Prototypes from Holographic Universe or the title track from that album - that was their masterpiece and one of the best metal albums of the last decade. I agree, for all their epicness, the 'new' SS makes things too short.
    Yeah, I agree there. The lyrics don't have as profound of an effect on me as they did with Holographic Universe either(maybe I just don't find the theme as interesting this time around), but the music is absolutely incredible, and the vocals sound great (Holy shit Lars is great on Domination Agenda).This has already turned into damn near my favorite metal album of all time. Really nice review as well.
    thrashmonkey
    This sounds great. I actually really liked Dark Matter Demensions so I'm probably gonna love this.
    Spoony_Bard
    jetfuel495 wrote: Whaaaaat. I had no idea this was coming out. Gonna get this soon.
    Same! Best news all week!
    EpiExplorer
    Jotun7129 wrote: I have yet to really listen to the album in depth, seeing as it just came out, but I definitely like it a lot better than DMD. My only complaint is that it could benefit from some longer, more progressive songs like the Ghost Prototypes from Holographic Universe or the title track from that album - that was their masterpiece and one of the best metal albums of the last decade.
    I agree, for all their epicness, the 'new' SS makes things too short.
    Jotun7129
    I have yet to really listen to the album in depth, seeing as it just came out, but I definitely like it a lot better than DMD. My only complaint is that it could benefit from some longer, more progressive songs like the Ghost Prototypes from Holographic Universe or the title track from that album - that was their masterpiece and one of the best metal albums of the last decade.
    ProgJazzMath
    Really, really don't care for the new vocalists clean parts. I can dig the screaming etc. but the thing i liked about Christian, was his vocals were very accessible while this new singer has too much of a power metal vibe. Still a great band though. Very talented musicians.
    TheAmenCorner89
    I listened to DMD, and whilst it's not a bad album it's not something I would take time to listen to again. I enjoy Solution .45, but I miss Alvestam's vocals with SS's more technical riffing/leads.
    whaitschnoik
    This album was pretty lame when I listened to it... seriously it is great music but nothing new, nothing catchy, nothing fancy... Solution .45 are the better Scar Symmetry nowadays!
    DistantUtopia
    I definitely can't respect a band who uses so much digital editing to make their vocalists sound good. If they can't do it live, they shouldn't be singing at all.
    Noverion
    I thought DMD was great, didn't realise there was any hate for it at all!
    CapnKickass
    EpiExplorer wrote: Lion_Slicer wrote: Marmite is the name given to two similar food spreads: the original British version, first produced in the United Kingdom and later South Africa, and a version produced in New Zealand. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. I have no idea how this relates to melodic death metal. Maybe it's because I'm American, but what you are trying to convey with this reference went way over my head. Marmites slogan is 'love it or hate it' (or something like that), its got a very polarised view to those who eat it, either its horrible or delicious. You can see why I used it because Scar Symmetry is one of those love/hate bands.
    I only kinda like this band.
    colm c
    this review is spot on. Great album from a great band, but they definitely are a love/hate thing!
    Eigels
    I guess Ill have to pick this album up, even though ive been skeptical of the band since Christian left
    EpiExplorer
    Lion_Slicer wrote: Marmite is the name given to two similar food spreads: the original British version, first produced in the United Kingdom and later South Africa, and a version produced in New Zealand. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. I have no idea how this relates to melodic death metal. Maybe it's because I'm American, but what you are trying to convey with this reference went way over my head.
    Marmites slogan is 'love it or hate it' (or something like that), its got a very polarised view to those who eat it, either its horrible or delicious. You can see why I used it because Scar Symmetry is one of those love/hate bands.
    Lion_Slicer
    Marmite is the name given to two similar food spreads: the original British version, first produced in the United Kingdom and later South Africa, and a version produced in New Zealand. Marmite is made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing.
    I have no idea how this relates to melodic death metal. Maybe it's because I'm American, but what you are trying to convey with this reference went way over my head.
    ordinary_story
    Good review but I gotta disagree about the guitar "wanking"...this album does not meet my Per Nilsson quota of awesomeness.. although Kjellgren really rips on this one!
    krvolok
    How can you fight the Reptiles? They shall win,the prophet Lovecraft himself had foreseen this.Anyway that Illuminoid Dream Sequence song is very epic.And no Domination Agenda in recommendations?