Scar Symmetry

Pitch Black Progress

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After leading the charge of heavy metal's creative thrust throughout most of the 1990s (thanks to class acts like In Flames, At the Gates, and Dark Tranquility, to name but three), Scandinavian death metal began fading in strength as the 2000s approached, and eventually gave way to its heir apparent: melodic deathcore, as espoused by fast-rising bands like Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage, and Caliban. Some of the older genre's stalwarts still managed to hang on to their careers (albeit via diminished popularity and/or attempted reinventions like In Flames' idiotic flirtations with nu-metal), while other, more recent practitioners like Soilwork or Children of Bodom found continued fan favor by way of lighter, poppier material, but truly promising new faces were conspicuous by their inexistence. Into this relative void stepped Sweden's Scar Symmetry, whose impressive 2005 debut, Symmetric in Design, raised quite a few eyebrows, and whose frankly stunning 2006 follow-up, Pitch Black Progress, could very well help launch "the next" relevant phase of death metal's evolution. Impossible as it is to be sure about such things until years after the fact, there's something so fresh about the group's uncompromisingly extreme hard-soft dynamics and accompanying, remarkably accessible sing-and-grunt-along choruses, one can't help but envision tracks like "Slaves to the Subliminal," "Mind Machine," and "Calculate the Apocalypse" becoming next-generation death metal standards. Likewise, additional album highlights such as the title track, "The Kaleidoscopic God," and "Retaliator" proudly show off DM's legendary rhythmic complexity, while offering the necessary space for guitarists Jonas Kjellgren and Per Nilsson to alternate brutal crunch and tuneful leads so fluid, they often sound like synthesizers...and sometimes are synthesizers! And, once again, versatile frontman Christian Älvestam proves himself as uniquely capable of emulating the Cookie Monster as reaching for the skies in dramatic operatic fashion. Naturally, the latter talent always has defenders of metallic extremity steaming in their steel-toed boots, but anyone who stomached Killswitch Engage's similarly talented Howard Jones will have no reason to bitch about what's on hand here. Especially since ultimately it's about songs, people, and Scar Symmetry has those in abundance, making Pitch Black Progress a sure-fire regular on 2006 year-end Top Ten lists.

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