The Unseen Empire marks Scar Symmetry‘s fifth album and the second with dual vocalists Roberth “Robban” Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist. While the Swedish progressive-power death metallers have always held a unique niche in the genre, the band has eclipsed anything it’s previously done with this release. In so doing, Scar Symmetry has further set itself apart from its contemporaries.
The album is about The Illuminati, and the New World Order. Or as drummer Henrik Ohlsson describes it, “the elite bloodline pulling the strings of mankind in order to manifest their agenda.”
With all due respect to former vocalist, Christian Älvestam, Robban and Lars prove here that two are indeed better than one. Their vocals play as brilliantly off one another as they do entwined. I liken them to the vocal equivalent of guitarists Per Nilsson and Jonas Kjellgren, who shine in their own right on The Unseen Empire.
Bassist Kenneth Seil and drummer Ohlsson lay down an incredible rhythmic foundation full of heft and driving impact, upon which Nilsson and Kjellgren lay their masterful guitar pyrotechnics, which are at once technically delightful and melodically resonant.
Robban and Lars are the glue that brings Scar Symmetry‘s sonic cohesiveness together. Robban offering up his harsh vocals and death growls while Lars counterpoints this with soaring and often epic, clean vocals. “Symmetry” is defined as “an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance”. That sums up what these two voices bring to the table. Their unique tonal qualities combine to create a flawless imperfection.
The sound and production on The Unseen Empire is full and inviting without being overworked or overdone.
From the album’s opening track “Anomaly”, The Unseen Empire is at once inspired and inspiring. Traits of epic albums that spiral upward and never seem to lose momentum or intrigue on the aural journey from beginning to end.
The Unseen Empire sees the band moving in a less technical or progressive direction than they have taken previously. Elements that were at the forefront of Dark Matter Dimensions. They can still be found here, the album’s second track, “Illuminoid Dream Sequence” is a perfect example, but the band is moving in a more melodic power metal direction on much of this record. This is sure to alienate a few die hard fans of the old school.
Listen to “Illuminoid Dream Sequence”:
Many SS fans have yet to embrace the band’s replacements for, Christian. Particularly the clean vocals from Lars. But as “they” say, you can’t please everyone, so fuck ’em.
In all, The Unseen Empire, takes a step in a slightly new direction while still maintaining the heart of the band’s own unique style. There are a few moments where the songs sound a touch ‘gasp’ formulaic, but like a cold beer on a hot day, it still tastes damn good. The album is packed with a heavy dose of shredding guitar work over chugging rhythms and blended with powerful clean vocals enmeshed with tasty death growls. There’s a bit of everything we love about metal on this record, so add it to your collection! \m/