Scar Symmetry - Dark Matter Dimensions
Nuclear Blast
Melodic Death Metal
11 songs (47:00)
Release year: 2009
Scar Symmetry, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

After last year’s Holographic Universe continued to push Scar Symmetry onto playlists worldwide, the pressure was on for the Swedes to produce a follow-up, pressure that wasn’t helped by the departure of vocalist extraordinaire Christian Älvestam – the main reason I got into the band after hearing him on the Nuclear Blast Allstars project. Few vocalists can adequately perform both harsh and clean vocals, and those who are stellar at it are rare indeed, as proven by Scar Symmetry replacing Christian with two vocalists, Roberth “Robban” Karlsson (Devian, Facebreaker, Edge Of Sanity, etc) and Lars Palmqvist. The band clearly knew that they were onto a good thing with Christian, and seemingly instructed the new pair to try and mimic him as best they could as the deep growls and light singing are present and correct, although Lars also provides Deathly snarls in most tracks that react well with the deeper grunts. Both are excellent, although if you had to praise just one unreservedly it’d be Robban, his deep growls closer in sound to Christian’s than Lars’ clean singing, but there really should be few complaints from fans as it’s very easy to pretend that Christian is still the vocalist, if that’s the only way you can cope.

The biggest, bitterest pill to swallow for those coming to this album already familiar with Scar Symmetry’s past sound is that the songs overall on Dark Matter Dimensions simply aren’t as immediate and gripping as before. It’s actually quite easy to stop listening to for one, where other albums hold you enthralled, unable to hit the stop button despite their length. Here, at only forty-seven minutes in length, Dark Matter Dimensions is heavily cut down from the hour-long beasts of before, shorter than even the debut, and it's hard to feel enthusiastic about this. The cynical would say the band are running out of ideas; there are no seven or nine minute killers like The Kaleidoscopic God or Holographic Universe on show, all tracks being three to five minutes long, and by the time you’ve got two-thirds of the way through the album it definitely drags a little if you’re on a first listen, moments like the harsh grooves of Nonhuman Era seeming surprisingly clunky at times.

Yet the more listens you give it, the more Dark Matter Dimensions shines. That battered, crushed ball of metal on the front cover is an apt metaphor; Scar Symmetry have bashed four albums together over barely five years, after all. Either Nuclear Blast has them hooked to coffee machines or there’s some seriously kickass material lurking in their brains, and by the time you’re used to the ever-so-slight step sideways that is this album you’ll be forced to agree that the latter’s the only feasible explanation. Take opener The Iconoclast, kicking off with epic melodies that soon turn into a heads-down Melodeath charge, only for an uplifting chorus to appear – it could easily have come from Holographic Universe, and is a great way to start the album. Mixed underneath the vocal tradeoffs are Meshuggah-esque groove and prog-kissed melody, with a typically amazing solo to put the cherry on the cake; there’s nothing to complain about whatsoever.

Following track The Consciousness Eaters keeps the quality high with a brutally grooving opening, soon asserting its catchy side with exuberant vocal trade-offs and leading up to a surprisingly emotional chorus, but it’s Noumenon And Phenomenon that really shows Scar Symmetry have lost nothing in their departed vocalist, the unbelievably catchy song really showing the band off as they play to all their strengths and head for intriguingly spacey territories in the second half of the song. Crims in his review of Symmetric In Design mentioned a fear that the band would do an In Flames and concentrate on the commercial aspects of their sound, and it’s clear from even a quick listen to Dark Matter Dimensions that, three albums later, they haven’t done this. The Thrashy Prog-Death of Ascension Chamber alone proves that Scar Symmetry have higher aims, especially once you’ve gotten your head around the Doom-Death breakdown. It’s the diversity and subtle experiments like that that make Dark Matter Dimensions a vital part of the Scar Symmetry discography, the Industrial Metal stomp of Mechanical Soul Cybernetics (the kind of thing Threat Signal would write if they were actually any good) another example of this.

Overall, it’s clear that the band’s mastermind, guitarist Jonas Kjellgren, still has that knack for good songwriting that made past Scar Symmetry outings such a joy to listen to. Anyone who can appreciate the marriage of catchy melodies and killer riffage that made up Holographic Universe will find much to like in Dark Matter Dimensions, and all in all this is another winner from the killer Swedes, although it may take you a few listens to realise it. Give it long enough and you may well come to declare that Dark Matter Dimensions is their best yet, but whatever you think of it against its predecessors you'll have to agree that this isn't just a noumenal record, it's a phenomenonal one!

Killing Songs :
All, especially: The Iconoclast, The Consciousness Eaters, Noumenon And Phenomenon, Ascension Chamber, Mechanical Soul Cybernetics, Sculptor Void
Goat quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Scar Symmetry that we have reviewed:
Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Scar Symmetry - The Unseen Empire reviewed by Goat and quoted 79 / 100
Scar Symmetry - Holographic Universe reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress reviewed by Kayla and quoted 85 / 100
Scar Symmetry - Symmetric In Design reviewed by Crims and quoted 84 / 100
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