Scar Symmetry's The Singularity (Phase I - Neohumanity)
Release Date: October 3rd, 2014
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Melodic Death Metal, Progressive Metal
Honestly, I had no idea what to expect with this album, the first in a trilogy Scar Symmetry is beginning to create. There wasn't much news or media about the album leading up to the release, at least not anything I heard, and for one of the major bands in the Melodeath genre, that was a tad concerning. However, just like The Unseen Empire released in 2011, this album blew me away immediately, making me throw away any unsupported beliefs about how the album would turn out. At the time of its release, I was already making the final touches on this list and had Sabaton's Heroes at number one, which I knew would happen since April of 2014. In less than a week of my acquisition of this album, it flew up my list and comfortably landed at its deserved position here at number 1.
I'll go a bit into the history of Scar Symmetry before I start the actual review, as they are one of my favorite bands and I love talking about them. Scar Symmetry is one of the most recognizable names in melodic death metal, which is impressive as they stand along such greats as Soilwork, Dark Tranquility and In Flames (not counting their recent album) despite being much younger. Many of the Melodic Death Metal bands that are considered "great" are the founders of the genre and therefore began in the early 1990's or late 1980's, but SS began their run in 2004, releasing their first album in 2005, not even a decade ago. After a few albums, including the incredibly successful Holographic Universe, which stands as one of my top albums of all time, they parted ways with their vocalist Christian Alvestam, who is now known as one of the best singers in Melodeath for his extreme range of singing and growling and now fronts bands Miseration, Solution .45 and Svavelvinter, the latter of which almost made it on this Top 12 as well but did not make it because I do not count a 20-some minute cd with four songs a full album, though it was quite good. When the split occurred, many questioned whether Scar Symmetry could go on, and I agreed in the concern. To replace the lost legend, they hired two singers, Roberth and Lars, which was a great idea as many of the songs with Christian already overlaid his vocals on top of each other, making many songs hard to replicate in concert. Dark Matter Dimensions was released next, which had some good songs, but it was not a great followup to Holographic Universe in my opinion, and I considered Scar Symmetry to be going downhill. A year passed and I went to go see them in concert supporting Epica (Blackguard and The Agonist were there too). It ended up being one of the best shows I've ever been too, largely in part to how Roberth and Lars blew me away with their new songs and their rendition of Alvestam's songs, which were arguably even better! I talked to them and told them how much they impressed me with their performance and they were very appreciative and we talked for a while in that Cleveland bar before we all called it a night. The Unseen Empire was released a couple months later during the spring and it completely agreed with my opinions from the concert, as it was laced with beautiful track after beautiful track, completely reviving my love for the band. Three years later this album, The Singularity (Part I - Neohumanity) was released and that is where we are now.
PHEW! That took a lot longer than expected. Anyway, on to the music!
"The Spiral Timeshift"
This album, as I listed in the genre, is much more progressive than their previous releases, except for maybe The Unseen Empire, though this album has a much more coherent theme or story going about it, which it should if it is supposed to be connected in a trilogy. Scar Symmetry's lyrics have always been sci-fi themed and this album is no different as the lyrics tell a story of the divide between normal human beings and those that graft technology onto or inside of their bodies, becoming "Neohumans" and the eventual transformation into "downloading" or transferring a human mind into a cybernetic body, hence leading to near immortality. It is not that new of a topic, per say, but it is an interesting one, and the story Scar Symmetry weaves is one worth listening to all the way through and for me, a sci-fi and mathematics enthusiast, hearing a lot of this tchnobabble and math references ("There are limits to infinity in this restricted lemniscate") floors me.
All of this is the handiwork of Henrik Ohlsson, who normally writes the lyrics for these albums, and damn if he is not one of the nerdiest men in metal, although there is just about every lyricist in Power Metal who sings constantly about Tolkien and George R. R. Martin. Now, when I say nerdiest, I mean that as a compliment, as his lyrics are like nothing else you'll find out of such a talented band, and particularly out of a Melodic Death Metal band, they are incredibly unique and that is what draws me to them. The music on the other hand, which is the first thing that attached me so heavily to this album, is almost completely attributed to founding guitarist Per Nilsson, who took this album, composed it, produced it, mixed it, and mastered the entire thing by himself. Now, he's been helping out with the production since Dark Matter but this is the first time he took the reigns solo and I am hoping he continues to do this from now on because his production work here is beyond incredible. It is crisp and tight, balancing everything perfectly so no one element is over another, creating a full blast of sound and very entertaining melodies through every track. One thing I also noticed is that a lot of the time when Lars is singing, it sounds like he is overlayed multiple times, similar to how Blind Guardian does the production for Hansi, which makes for an eerie type of tine, particularly in songs like "Technocalyptic Cybergeddon"
"Limits to Infinity"
It is hard for me to choose my personal favorite tracks for this album, but if I had to, I would probably choose "Limits to Infinity" first, then the epic closer "Technocalyptic Cybergeddon" and also "Neohuman". Overall, this album has only eight tracks though because of their length, almost all are near five minutes,, they add up to over forty minutes of great tunes. From the bookend melody present in the opening track and the last two minutes of the closing track to the instrumental guitar-focused "Children of the Integrated Circuit" to the catchy tunes of such songs as "Cryonic Harvest" and "Neuromancers", this album has everything. I highly suggest you pick it up if you haven't already by the end of this review, as you can pick it up for just 10 American Dollars on Amazon with shipping, which is an absolute STEAL for such a masterpiece. This is easily the best album released this year in my opinion, and nothing will take its place. The Singularity, best album of 2014. Period.
Click here for Scar Symmetry's official website.
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Click here to buy The Singularity (Phase 1 - Neohumanity) on iTunes.
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