You know, if you're gonna embrace a style of music, why half-ass it? Once you've gone the "clean vocals" route, Internet trolls are going to call you names anyway, so why not make those clean vocals as utterly smooth and slick as possible? Hell, add some of those over-emoting end-of-the-song ooh's and yeah's that all the hair metal bands used to do, when they pretended they were more influenced by Robert Plant than Vince Neil. Do it in your first song, too — don't fuck around.
SCAR SYMMETRY is not a half-assed band. When they're gonna sing, they SING, dammit, and it's flat-out pretty at points. Luckily, Christian Älvestam has some guttural death vox to break out, too, dropping practically into DYING FETUS territory at one point during the title track. How he switches from one to the other in a live setting, particularly in stop-on-a-dime songs like "Retaliator", is anyone's guess — but it works to great effect here.
The rest of the band seems to enjoy the same degree of schizophrenia — wide-open chords and big washes of keyboards one minute, crushing downtuned riffing the next. There's some pretty impressive soloing here too, more old-school shred than "mimic the vocal hook with guitar for sixteen measures," made all the more incongruous when it immediately follows a crushing death metal part.
The one common denominator? Catchiness — it's impossible not to rock out to these tunes, whether Älvestam is doing his best "Speed" Strid croon, or the rhythm abruptly changes up into a quirky, off-time beat with precision propelled by FEAR FACTORY-esque machine-tooled drumming, or if we're back into a prog-metal wet dream of a guitar solo over friendly, accessible rhythm guitar chords. And if all that happens in the span of two minutes in "Calculate the Apocalypse"? So much the better.
It'd be easy, upon a cursory listen, to dismiss SCAR SYMMETRY as a knockoff of their more successful countrymen. And to an extent, the accusation wouldn't be off-base. This melting pot of ideological chaos is what's forged this new kind of music, the polished and studio-pristine melodic beast built on extreme metal's foundations. IN FLAMES and SOILWORK ply the same trade SCAR SYMMETRY does — hell, so do about 500 American bands, in varying degrees.
But SCAR SYMMETRY's trick is to take each of these disparate elements further than anyone in recent memory has had the balls to attempt. You want the poppy side? "Dreaming 24/7" and "Oscillation Point" are pure saccharine bliss, songs a PRETTY MAIDS fan could love, each spiked with jagged bits of grimacing death. You want thrash? "Calculate the Apocalypse" is your jam, though it's interlaced with blunt-edge-softening keyboards and a clean chorus. It's all in here, in a delirious mash-up so thorough, no purist from any camp will be able to pull out one song without having to digest some other kind of metal in the process.
SCAR SYMMETRY are the next logical evolutionary step of what is, for lack of a better term, tagged as "Swedish metal." It's hard to tell if their "like everyone else, only way more so" approach will put them on top, or just end up alienating everyone — but those who appreciate a little diversity and a lot of pop tendencies in their metal should check these guys out immediately.