Scar Symmetry – The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)

October 13, 2014 in Reviews by blackwindmetal

Scar Symmetry - The Singularity Phase I NeohumanityScar Symmetry – The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)

Reviewed by Daniel Millard

My sideline love affair with melodic death metal is a moderately well-kept secret around here, and ever since hearing Holographic Universe several years ago, Scar Symmetry has spearheaded my charge into the subgenre. Like a number of media contacts I know, I was flipping out when the video for “Limits To Infinity” was revealed. While I’ve heard the opinion from some that it was a tease, and that that single is the only excellent thing from this album, I would beg to differ as a devoted symmetrical being. In fact, I would opine that not only has Scar Symmetry laid down another bulwark of modern melodic death metal, but has in fact done some evolution and turned out one of its finer albums.

The first thing any would-be listener should know about the first installment of The Singularity is that this is a little bit of a change of pace for the Swedish vets. While Scar Symmetry has abandoned the conspiracy theorist angle of The Unseen Empire (an undersung album, in my book, but not the band’s finest) for the familiar themes of dark science fiction and dubious organic/synthetic “transcendence”, they’ve taken a turn for the progressive here. Beside the searing memorability of “Limits To Infinity”, the slow-burning, malignant fire of “Cryonic Harvest”, and the accessible smooth flow of “The Spiral Timeshift”, the rest of this album is darker, heavier, and more “brutal”(insofar as melodic death can be considered as such) than…possibly ever. Despite its short run time, “Neuromancers” is an aggressive riptide of devious melody and powerful percussive switches, and even “Limits To Infinity” has a tremendously heavy midsection!

The extended length songs are where Scar Symmetry really sets to work in distinguishing Phase I, however. Opener “Neohuman” blends nifty key licks, sci-fi beep-booping, and a refreshing, unpredictable structure to land one the band’s most interesting (if not catchiest) openers ever. The sprawling “Technocalyptic Cybergeddon” is the first song in excess of ten minutes that Scar Symmetry has ever produced, and might be one of its finest songwriting accomplishments to date, as it increases the variation on structure even further, showcases a vast array of leads and solos, and expertly balances heavy material with shimmering calm sections.

An aspect of Scar Symmetry’s new work that I feel needs to be hit upon more than anything are the vocals. People have been debating the virtues of original vocalist Christian Alvestam against his dual replacements Lars Palmqvist and Roberth Karlsson for years now. While I have long expressed my general opinion of all vocalists being very much equally capable (heck, it took me quite a while to notice Alvestam’s absence on Dark Matter Dimensions), I think it’s time to rescind that. I now prefer the new dual, dedicated clean and harsh approach, and never have the vocals sounded better than on this album. I have seen it written that Lars actually uses less pitch correction than Christian used to, and his performances on songs like “Limits To Infinity” and “Neuromancers” are amongst the best in his career. Additionally, Roberth’s multifaceted harsh approach just gets better and better, and after comparing The Singularity (Phase I) to both earlier Scar Symmetry and other Alvestam projects, I find that I now prefer Roberth’s vocals.

While I’m not sure that I prefer this release to my favorites (Dark Matter Dimensions and Holographic Universe), its more complex nature makes it a bit more of a grower naturally. For my limited tastes, it’s likely to be the best new melodic death metal album on the year, and is bang on the head for Scar Symmetry’s record for impeccable record of quality, consistency, and reliability. Phase I of the Singularity project is a must-hear for fans of the band and genre, and could very well be a gateway into the band’s discography for those who typically enjoy the melodic end of progressive metal as well.

4.25 // 5