Angry Metal Guy

Scar Symmetry – The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph) Review 2023-07-22 16:22:48

Scar Symmetry – The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph) Review

By Dear Hollow on July 22, 2023 in Reviews, Groove Metal, Melodic Death Metal, 0 comments

It’s been a hot minute since this blog has beheld Scar Symmetry. Once the golden standard by which all melodic death should be measured alongside acts like Soilwork and Mors Principium Est that dominated the 2000s, Scar Symmetry has largely settled in the rearview in favor of young blood – always there, just rarely making it known. The Singularity (Phase 1: Neohumanity) went by without much notice in 2014, but the Big Man Himself gave 2011’s The Unseen Empire a confused thumbs-up, noting their bulletproof trademark while acknowledging the unnecessariness of the album at large. After a nearly decade-long wait since Phase 1, we are faced with Phase 2 of The Singularity.

While Angry Metal Guy gave 2009’s Dark Matter Dimensions a rare stamp of near-perfection, I have always felt that Scar Symmetry has been attempting to fill the Christian Älvestam-shaped hole since the vocalist’s departure in 2008. Truly, albums like 2006’s Pitch Black Progress and 2008’s Holographic Universe are considered classics of the melodeath genre, with trademark dueling axework as flashy as it is technical, a Jekyll-and-Hyde vocal duality that frightens and soothes in equal measure, and a science fiction and philosophical lyrical and aesthetic underpinning that conjures the stars but never neglects humanity. Xenotaph will not change your mind on the Swedes; it’s Dark Matter Dimensions-era Scar Symmetry through and through, with all cylinders firing and guiding the path to the stars. Ultimately, although oozing melodrama and flashy theatrics in its bloated runtime, there’s enough here that keeps the quintet afloat and warrants a spin or two.

If you know Scar Symmetry, Xenotaph will not surprise you. The seventh full-length opens with “Chrononautilus,” a raging kickoff complete with passages of blasting death metal guided by Roberth Karlsson’s vicious growls, interspersed with Lars Palmqvist’s power metal-inspired cleans, with Per Nilsson’s signature axework (both guitar and bass) balancing technicality with melody and heart. “Reichsfall” encapsulates every classic Scar Symmetry element, with a thunderous chorus and harsh-clean dialogue that stands out; “Digiphrenia Dawn” and “A Voyage with Tailed Meteors” shred with more bouncy punk rhythms alongside the best solos and grooves of the album; “Altergeist” offers a more horror-themed sound, its central keyboard lick and darker palette stealing the show; “Gridworm” features a crushing death metal groove and a nearly 80’s synth line that’s difficult to shake. Each track is quintessential Scar Symmetry, showcasing a cosmic atmosphere that contrasts the apathy of the stars, the promise of refuge, and a humanity that beholds the alien presence throughout. While enacting it through different means, when a storytelling flow is accomplished, it elevates Xenotaph to the level we know and love.

The biggest and most glaring criticism of Xenotaph is that it does very little to separate itself from its own legacy. Not that we want Scar Symmetry to stop doing what they’re doing, but Dark Matter Dimensions failed to step out of Christian Alvestom’s shadow and the three subsequent releases are based on that sound. Xenotaph furthermore takes its sweet time gaining traction: while “Chrononautilus” was an effective intro, the following tracks pump the brakes until “Altergeist” picks up the slack. Similar tracks outdo one another throughout: “Reichsfall” is an all-around better track than “Overworld,” while “Digiphrenia Dawn” outdoes “Scorched Quadrant” at every turn. With clocking in at an hour of material with a bulletproof but rigid formula, the album begins to falter by a certain point. While “A Voyage with Tailed Meteors” is an impressive song with an earth-shaking groove at its core and “Xenotaph” is a uniquely ominous closer, both appear too late in the album to make an impact. “Soulscanner” makes no cases of justifying its placement, being the cleanest vocal-focused track of the album and most milquetoast instrumentally.

The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph) is the epitome of contemporary Scar Symmetry. It’s full of killer and filler alike but begging the ultimate question that AMG himself pondered over a decade ago in The Unseen Empire: “but why?” Xenotaph makes no cases for challenging melodeath or progressive death metal or even the Swedes’ own catalog, as The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity) offers a frankly better execution of their signature Jekyll-and-Hyde duality in a much more concise runtime. If Scar Symmetry made an album from “Altergeist” to “A Voyage of Tailed Meteors,” we might have a winner. But with excessive bloat and the stale game plan of playing it too safe, it fires on all cylinders on a star voyage you’ve been on many times before.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 263 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 9th, 2023

Give in to Your Anger:

Tags: 2.5, 2023, Groove Metal, Jun23, Melodic Death Metal, Mors Principium Est, Nuclear Blast Records, Progressive Death Metal, Review, Reviews, Scar Symmetry, Soilwork, Swedish Metal, The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph)
« Eternal Rot – Moribound Review
« Previous