Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ü2K6: Mutilated Geometry

(First off: yes, that is a metal band above us. I realize and fully support you in any endeavours dedicated to getting the second guy from the left a better haircut.)

Let's cut right to the chase, shall we? This is one of the top 10's non-Pitchfork, metal, Scandinavian bands.

9. Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress

Yes, yes, the cover is scary. It also perfectly fits the lyrical content of this album, railing against the unmoving, hopeless cycle of life (a far cry from "Hakuna Matata"). Scar Symmetry are a sort of saviour: in a time when Swedish death metal is being pillaged and distorted by all sorts of other bands (let's just start and end the list for brevity at Lamb of God), they're a true-blue Swedish melodic death metal band that play melodeath the way it should be played: heavy, with vicious melodies stacked one on top of each other, from a blistering guitar duo.

Right from the get-go ("The Illusionist") Pitch Black Progress is confident, self-assured, and full of perfection, from sing-along choruses... Wait. Singalong choruses? On a melodic death metal album that wasn't penned by Dark Tranquillity? Yes. You see, to keep the Gothenburg formula fresh (instead of falling into the circa-2004 trap of "we strip mined At The Gates too hard, In Flames we seduced, guess we're ripping off Dark Tranquillity next"), Scar Symmetry injects good old heavy metal into the procedure, letting frontman Christian Alvestam trade off between a thick to raspy growl and the sort of soaring clean vocals you normally hear on power metal albums these days (comparisons can also be made to last year's good Mercenary album). Ultimately, this results in another great melodeath album with just an edge of the older stuff (like in "Mind Machine"). Unlike on last year's Symmetric In Design, the older touches are never over the top here (I direct you to that album's opener, "Chaosweaver", which sounded like a perfect soundtrack to a Transformers episode).

In all that talk splitting hairs about heavy vs. melodic death, I neglected to mention: this is their second album. We haven't heard something this good in straight-up melodic death on a second album (at least in my recollection) since Dark Tranquillity's The Gallery. This is definitely a band to keep your ears open for, as they can only go up. (They've already gained an impressive amount of side projects, like Christian Alvestam's participation in Torchbearer and Angel Blake [whom we will hear from after Christmas].)

Finally, way back at #16, I mentioned that "just doing your chosen genre perfect" wasn't good enough this year. From the outside, Scar Symmetry look a bit shaky on these grounds: this isn't that groundbreaking. However, to have another band doing melodic death well in 2006 that isn't Dark Tranquillity (spot the fangirlism) and that is Swedish means a lot more than just another shoegaze band. Sorry, Asobi Seksu, but you lost out on this one. (Besides, from a personal taste perspective, Scar Symmetry hit a better aural orgasm level than Asobi Seksu.)

Sample mp3: "The Illusionist"
Sample mp3 (from last year's album, Symmetric In Design): "Reborn"
Buy it here.

Next: The year's harshest post-metal juggernaut band.

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