Each week, CMN’s Kevin Ashley delves into the vast expanse of metal and electronic music, bringing recommendations, reviews, and news. Do not expect to find safe, chart-topping music here. Welcome to Headbanging on the Dance Floor.
This week is going to be another album review, Scar Symmetry’s Holographic Universe. I know that they are one of the most well known bands in the melodic death metal and groove metal genres, but never got around to hearing any of their work. Holographic Universe is their third album, and features one of their most well-known songs, “Morphogenesis”. Opinions of the album among the metal community are sharply divided, with some thinking it’s too melodic or uses too many keyboards.
Scar Symmetry is from Avesta, Sweden, and was formed 2004. On Holographic Universe, the lineup consists of Christian Älvestam (vocals, both harsh and clean), Per Nilsson (guitars), Jonas Kjellgren (guitars), Kenneth Seil (bass), and Henrik Ohlsson (drums). But enough talk, how’s the album?
First up is the popular “Morphogenesis”. Opening with a sharp guitar riff, keyboard pattern, and double bass, this is off to an energetic start. Älvestam’s growls are first up, and they have a good midrange sound, relatively understandable. His cleans are next, and are very melodic. So far, they remind me of Before the Dawn, another melodic death metal band. The chorus is extremely catchy, and there is a nice guitar solo right after the second one. An aggressive section is immediately next, with Älvestam barking out the growls in rapid succession. The chorus closes out the song. Even though this is the band’s most popular song, it is extremely good.
Next is “Timewave Zero”. Opening with a heavy headbanging riff, it quickly moves into a slow drum beat and acoustic guitar while Älvestam’s cleans are upfront. The chorus isn’t as catchy in this one, but the rest of the song is very good and groovy. The combination of harsh vocals and chopping riff works out very well, and there’s a rapid synth solo straight out of Star One at 3:17.
“Quantumleaper” starts off with a synth riff and fast double bass, upping the energy. The guitar riff in this one is reminiscent of Battlelore’s “Green Dragon”, and to my surprise there are some deeper growl vocals interspersed. There’s another Star One-esque synth solo in this one, but on the slower side. This is another super good song.
“Artificial Sun Projection” opens with some violin, and some background guitar riffs that come into the forefront shortly. This one has proggy vibes, and Älvestam almost sounds like a different singer at 1:04. Great song.
“The Missing Coordinates” has a very technical beginning, with a pseudo thrash riff and breakdown, very impressive. This song is the most aggressive one so far, featuring Älvestam’s growls in the verses, and cleans in the chorus. Lots of double bass, this song is one big headbang-fest, until an acoustic guitar break shortly after the middle.
“Ghost Prototype I – Measurement Of Thought” leans very heavily on the power and groove metal sound. Amazingly there isn’t any harsh vocals until the middle of the song, and even then for a brief moment. An interesting break from the past few songs.
“Fear Catalyst” follows a more pure melodic death and metalcore sound, featuring harsh vocals during the verses and cleans in the chorus. There’s lots of groovy and temolo riffs throughout.
“Trapezoid” is similar vocally and musically to “Ghost Prototype I – Measurement Of Thought”, with the cleans up front and foremost, and groovy riffs.
“Prism And Gate” is pretty interesting.. There’s really aggressive sections, highly melodic sections, and very technical sections. If there’s any song on the album that displays the variety of styles, it’s this one.
“Holographic Universe” opens with some space-y sounding keyboards, before the double bass and heavy riffs kick in. At nine minutes long, it’s an epic display of technicality and aggression. It even features some sweep-picking, typical in technical death metal bands like Origin or Brain Drill.
“The Three – Dimensional Shadow” falls a little flat for me, but is still a decent song. There just isn’t really interesting aspects to mention.
“Ghost Prototype II – Deus Ex Machina” opens rather calmly, and has a cool guitar line during the chorus. Definitely one of the more melodic songs on the album (all of them are pretty melodic, but this one is more so).
I really liked Holographic Universe. There is a lot of elements and influences weaving in and out, creating a listen that stays gripping all of the way through. The riffs are heavy, ranging from rhythmic to aggressive. The drumming and synths are excellent, the vocals awesome. It’s a good introduction to the genre and starting point in the band’s discography.
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