When Andres Fridén (IN FLAMES) unveiled an especially melodic side to his otherwise aggressive tendencies on the PASSENGER project, the experiment was a smashing success (at least in my opinion). Consequently, I was not taken aback at the thought of guitarist Jonas Kjellgren (CARNAL FORGE, CENTINEX, WORLD BELOW) joining Henrick Ohlsson (THEORY IN PRACTICE, MUTANT, ALTERED AEON), Per Nilsson (ALTERED AEON), Christian Alvestam (UNMOORED, INCAPACITY, TORCHBEARER), and Kenneth Siel in injecting his death metal with a similar pop sensibility. Granted, PASSENGER is not the same kind of band (for one thing, they left out the death metal elements) but the end result is similar in at least one respect: The bond between the tuneful and the heavy sticks.
Incorporating sweeping synthesizer parts, often prog-like guitar solos, and candy-coated clean vocals with death growls (the Swedish melodic death metal kind) and heavy death metal riffing/rhythms, the seemingly incongruous formula works fairly well. As a minor point of criticism, the album as a whole can sometimes sound a little too formulaic. The death-pop mix follows the blueprint to the letter. Regardless, there's something to be said about writing an album in which almost every song boasts a big, fat hook. Album-opener "Chaosweaver" is the best of the bunch, the growling lead and vocal harmonies on the chorus a prime example of the album's central idea. Tracks like "Underneath the Surface", "Hybrid Cult", and "2012 – The Demise of the 5th Sun" add some black metal-like shrieks to the mix. "Underneath the Surface" also features a nice synth-driven, main melody line. Additionally, there is a traditional rock riff/rhythm on "Obscure Alliance" that was different enough from the rest of the album to get my attention.
I'm not sure if "Symmetric in Design" will capture that ever-elusive cross section of metal fans, but those with an appreciation for catchy songwriting and brutal music should find something to like here. I'm somewhere in the middle, probably because I got tired of the formula about three-fourths of the way through. It'll be good for an occasional listen nonetheless.