Say ‘progressive death metal’ to me and chances are I’ll laugh at you before listen to some nice safe music and have a cup of tea. Well, three years ago, perhaps. Then I found Scar Symmetry’s Holographic Universe and everything changed, a perfect blend of brutality and melody. It turns out that like me, they think it’s a rather winning formula and have decided to keep at it.
Thankfully, the abysmal promo album art is no more (but still at the top of this review anyway), but is replaced with some Orwellian cult nonsense instead. The songs titles reflect the angle too, with a more than slightly cosmic bent to proceedings, see Astronomicon. They range from the grandiose Alpha & Omega to the slightly ridiculous Rise Of The Reptilian Regime, which sounds like every episode of Bucky O’Hare.
Despite touting themselves as a progressive outfit, the majority of tracks follow a distinctly similar patter, at least in terms of vocals. The flesh tearing rasp and growls take up the verses, while the almost boy-band choruses are drenched in reverb. Illuminoid Dream Sequence shakes it up a little bit by reversing the roles, which is a little disappointing compared to the ingenuity of previous releases. Despite that, the clean vocals really stand out on the beautifully melodic chorus of The Draconian Arrival.
The music is similar split; there are periods of sweeping keys and intricate guitar harmony, the instrumental part on Rise… is especially phenomenal complete with it’s harmonised guitar solo before the finale of countered vocals. The issue is that while the music by and large is fantastic, Scar Symmetry too often revert to the safety of death metal breakdown rhythm across their verses and growled vocals which can really cheapen what is otherwise a tornado of excellence.
The Unseen Empire is unforgiving and forces you to really listen; it’s by no means driving music. However, it is another triumph by Scar Symmetry in their uniqueness of punishing rhythm and hook laden melodies.