Scar Symmetry

Holographic Universe

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With their daunting versatility, sheer instrumental prowess, and prolific songwriting talents, Sweden's Scar Symmetry must drive other heavy metal bands absolutely crazy with envy! Ever since their entirely unpublicized, or at least unexpected, emergence via 2005's impressive Symmetric in Design, and its even more undeniable follow-up, Pitch Black Progress, released just one year later, the quintet made up of spare parts left over from other bands, looked capable of trouncing any competitor, and possibly blazing a future trail for technical, yet accessible heavy metal. Unfortunately, record sales didn't respond in kind to this widespread critical acclaim, and although the band's core strengths remain as sharp and potent as ever on their third album, 2008's Holographic Universe, you can't help but wonder whether a broader heavy metal audience will ever get the band, in the end. If anything, Holographic Universe is their most commercially focused album yet, and the band appears more serious than ever about contrasting super melodic choruses, guitar harmonies, and even intermittent synths, against aesthetic "evil twins" like furious death metal growls, aggressive riffing, and torrential drumming. Sure enough, spectacular examples like "Morphogenesis," "Timewave Zero," "The Missing Coordinates," and "Trapezoid," mesh improbable extremes of light and dark into astonishingly fluid combinations, making them sound natural when by all rights they should repel like oil and water. This also makes it easy to overlook the band's ultra-complex, prog metal-level musicianship throughout; a tendency that they could probably explore to Dream Theater heights of indulgence, but whose whims they only really succumb to on the stunning nine-minute title track, and the memorably capricious, two-part "Ghost Prototype." The only question left, then, is whether this insistent songwriting audacity will finally reward Scar Symmetry (and the other, rare bands of their ilk, such as Canada's Into Eternity and Divinity) at a time when "safer," more predictable heavy metal bands like Soilwork and Children of Bodom seem to be floundering in a baby pool of stylistic repetition. All it would take is a generation of fans with somewhat more sophisticated palates, ready for something a little more challenging and adventurous, yet still enticingly infectious.

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