Home Albums Album Review : Scar Symmetry – The Singularity Phase 2 – Xenotaph

Album Review : Scar Symmetry – The Singularity Phase 2 – Xenotaph

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Review by Richard Henry for MPM

It’s been sooooo long a wait since Phase 1 that came out in 2014. An album that I still have in regular rotation, main mastermind, guitarist Per Nilsson did fill in for a few years in Meshuggah for Fredrik Thordendal, so this album is highly anticipated!

If you haven’t heard these guys before, they are a mix of progressive metal, layers of orchestral synths with heavy guitars, great melodies and with two vocalists, Roberth Karlsson doing the gutturals and Lars Palmqvist doing cleans respectively, we also have drummer Henrik Olsson and second guitarist Benjamin Ellis rounding out the four piece!

Track 1 – Chrononautilus

Opening with a dense noise scape of blast beats and screaming, you really just get hit in the face with this opener, that’s a driving riff over the guttural vocals, but listen really closely and you will hear the little ascending keyboard parts augmenting the riffs in parts, before we hit into the chorus and something you will hear used to great effect on Scar Symmetry songs are the clean vocal chorus to give the track that lift, then mixed in with the heavier vocals, this one will cause carnage in the pit on that verse riff, that’s a really intricate guitar part in the first half of the chorus before we get a breakdown section after chorus two, then I want to go and set fire to all my guitars as Per pulls off the first of many ridiculous lead breaks, back into the heavy and into a chorus, and then that break, clean acoustic guitars enter and Per gets another solo, and yet again its stunning, this guy is without doubt in my mind one of the best modern players to come out in years, technique is frightening but yet he is so tasteful when he plays, a more mellow section with layered clean vocals come in, really lifting the track again, and then it all changes and the violence starts again, blast beats, black metal screams, it’s like being on a roller coaster on this track!

Track 2 – Scorched Quadrant

I know this one has been played at live shows but I have on purpose avoided listening to any single’s as I wanted to listen to this as intended, from start to finish! That’s a filthy riff right there, really dense guitar sound, before it drops into a half time feel with accented guitar/drum sections, so far this is a lot more aggressive than Phase 1 was, that chorus with the layered clean vocals, the driving double bass drumming and a simpler guitar riff really lets the vocal shine on it, contrast, that’s what you have already in two tracks, not just the vocals but the songs have a common thread but so different, that middle section is awesome, heavy vocals then the clean but slightly more aggressive clean mixed with the heavy vocals, some great bass playing, Per steps up again and I can hear the Holdsworth influence at the start before we go to a tap a thon that will make your head spin, I love the accented floor tom hits on the part after that solo, another quick solo, then into the massive chorus, that’s pure sing a long really, isn’t it, and being able to have a melody that strong in a song this heavy says a lot, key change in the chorus, then the heavy vocals are in again, there is no letup in this one, then the end is back to the start riff again with a bit of a variation!

Track 3 – Overworld

Now all I am saying is, that intro guitar part could easily be in a video game, it reminds me of that so much, so melodic, before we get into a driving mid-tempo riff, with a back and forth vocal from Lars and Roberth, I love that riff in the next section where one guitar is playing a broken part while the other is playing the chords, that’s a huge chorus and again, how could you not sing along to that, do swedes right the best choruses, there’s a massive heritage not just metal bands to say yes, it’s so melodic, that middle section really could be from a band like WET or HEAT, great vocals and then another Per solo, melodic to start and then the chops start to come in, the man is an animal (sorry I am having a moment, I love his playing), back into that huge chorus, it’s a short song but it’s so too the point and catchy!

Track 4 – Altergeist

Well, Henrik is getting a serious workout on this album, this opens with a serious blast beat, something there wasn’t really much of on the last album, and a guitar melody that reminds me of Inspector Gadget for some reason, the way those chords are in the background almost reminds me of a black metal sort of vibe with that melody hanging round the outside of the riff I think doubled by piano as well from what I can hear, I seriously recommend listening to this with headphones so you can catch all the layers and where everything is placed in the mix, it all has its place despite all the layers going on, between all the vocals the drums, its dense, that guitar melody coming in just before the solo is a welcome reprieve, another stunning solo from Per, before we back off to a key bad with a restrained guitar part played over the top before Lars comes in, it’s a really nice break in the intensity of the song, before yet another section comes in, a lot more half time before another solo comes in, now there are two solos here and I think Ben is playing the second one as the sound is a bit different, I could be wrong as I have only have the tracks and no notes on the songs as to who is playing anything different, I love that drop right at the end where the track stops and there is a pulsing keyboard part and just Per playing over it, it’s so good!!

Track 5 – Reichsfall

Almost synthwave intro to this one, descending part to open it up, that guitar part at the start over the keys just gave me goosebumps, it is so epic it’s unreal, this hits with an up-tempo rock sort of feel, and then you get slapped in the face as the riff changes to a heavy grinding riff following the double bass, the variation Roberth puts in between the guttural and more black metal screams just makes it, then you get the clean vocals coming in as well, it’s such a great mix as no one vocal style ever outstays its welcome, huge chorus which is if you have ever listened to these guys before is something nearly every song has, great middle where the distorted guitars break down a bit for the clean vocals and then we build up with the guitar melody before the harsh vocals come in, listen closely to the little arpeggio guitar/synth part in the background as we build into another solo, technically brilliant but there is a great melody to this and in the background you can hear the keyboard stabs just adding to it as well, easy to miss but adds a great bit to the song, also pretty sure it’s in the chorus and then you hear the piano and keys as Per lets loose again and into another chorus, so far this is my favorite track, outstanding!

Track 6 – Digiphrenia Dawn

The start of this track really takes me back to a few tracks on Phase One, that double bass riff with the wall of keys, straight away this links me to the last album! That’s a riff there, really playing off the drums in an off kilter slight Meshuggah sort of way, huge chorus, part clean and then doubled by the two vocalists, I love that verse that’s a get out of my way in the pit right there, chorus and then a breakdown with clean guitars and a more subtle vocal matching it, before we go into another doubled vocal part with the keys in the background adding a degree of atmosphere to the riff, another drop in intensity with a lower spoken softer vocal before we go into a really uplifting major key feel to the solo, before we have a breakdown into a second harmonized part to the solo, then you get slapped with the vocals and back into that verse part and into another chorus, then it breaks down again with the cleaner guitars and clean vocals before we get a second solo, then into a really dizzying outro section!

Track 7 – Hyperborean Plains

Opening with an almost tribal drum pattern on the toms with the riff following along, guitar melody playing against the riff that’s following the drums, then we have a key change, the guitar melody I am pretty sure is being doubled by keys, before the drums shift up tempo and start driving along, that sounds like an 8 string riff on the verse of that, it’s definitely lower than a 7 string, listen to the way in the chorus the one guitar is playing an arpeggiated part and the other is accenting the drum hits and the way the whole thing works with the vocals, so well put together, stunning track really, an almost Dream Theater descending part with the clean vocals at the 3 min mark, before all hell and chaos lets loose on the next part, I know I am picking this up because Per played in the band but that is so Meshuggah that part, you need a calculator and a compass to work out where you are at in it, the solo itself keeps modulating and twisting but listen to that riff behind it and yet again the way the keys are hidden in there but are stabbing out the chords as well, that is a huge chorus I just love the fact they have so many singable parts on albums and with that you still have the harsh vocals but it never detracts from the melody at all!

Track 8 – Gridworm

Massive waves of keys from the off which dance away on the sides of the double bass and the tremolo picked riff and melody, then straight into another Per solo, before Roberth unleashes hell, aggressive vocals crossing between death and black metal, before we have a stop start guitar riff with another in the background playing octaves with the clean vocals, before a unison vocal section, then into a really cool chorus riff with again the double vocals, the two guys mingling in and out perfectly, love the keys again just on the peripheral of what you hear but adding another dense wall of sound to the proceedings, then it breaks down to a staccato riff and Per starting to solo and tap his way around, before another double bass section with a busy riff and the two vocals, then we have a tempo change and it all goes a bit 80s in the riff with the more forward keys adding to it, then another tempo change and blast beats are in with Per just letting loose and terrifying the rest of us guitar players, back into the chorus and out with the melody playing with the double bass, twists and turns everywhere in this song!

Track 9 – A Voyage with Tailed Meteors

Straight in with the thrash tempo from the start, the most direct so far apart from the first song on the album, just aggressive in the verse and I was starting to wonder how they are going to turn this around and then you have a keyboard part ascending coming in and despite how direct it has been it totally changes the vibe of the song, love the vocal delivery Roberth has on this, really reaching for the higher screams in a lot of this and it really works well, interesting transition into the clean vocals with a really eerie piano part and a lower sung vocal being peppered with the harsher vocal, if you’re a guitarist skip the solo, you will be depressed, it’s amazing, then back to aggression for a verse before another awe inspiring tap fest from Per! This is a savage track, and one that really benefits from Roberth mostly being the main vocal on it, absolutely loved this one!

Track 10 – Soulscanner

Fast start to this one then goes half time with the double bass groove coming in with a guitar melody oaring over the top of it, then it drops again into a grindy riff, then changes again, that’s a ridiculous guitar tone, heavy verse into a clean chorus, again just makes so much sense with the two vocalists and brings so much light and shade to the whole album, that’s a disgusting riff at 2:15, I love it, then solo, very Vai in that descending run at the start, it sounds like Per, the second solo could be Ben again I have no notes so I am not sure, seems like a different guitar tone? Love the key change in the chorus after the solo, really lifts it up and then peppering of the harsh vocal around it is just fantastic, another solo comes in, it’s amazing but then everything Per does is!

Track 11 – Xenotaph

Like Phase 1 finished with the epic, Technocalyptic Cybergeddon, we have another epic to end Phase 2. Slow intro with a massive wall of keys and distorted and I think clean guitars, the next thing we have an almost Dream Theater style guitar line and syncopated section before the blast beats come in, then into slayer beat then double bass, it is changing all the time, then into an odd tike verse section with Roberth leading the vocal charge, then we half time with Lars coming in with an almost children’s choir in the background adding to the chorus section, we repeat the verse chorus combo again, the next section is very interesting, clean vocals over the blast beats with the keys adding again before we hit the first solo, now listen to the way the solo is accenting against the chords then into another trademark tap fest and then back into that chorus again, that slow middle section with that almost counter point keyboard part and the slow driving drumming is so hypnotic, clean vocals adding along to it, then a key change comes in and the vocals go a bit higher, a slow melancholic solo now comes in and another key change, some nice tapped arpeggio parts lead back into another clean vocal section, although listen closely to Roberth adding just one harsh vocal word to this section it actually really adds to it, I love those chords just descending and then the distorted FM radio style keyboard outro likes it breaking up over the light years transmission…

10 out of 10

Ultimately this is a much more aggressive album than Phase 1, but there is still so much variety musically in the heaviness, the two vocalists are the key to this, giving light and shade to every song, Pers playing on this is outstanding and as I said he is one of the best guitar players out there, not just for this style but go listen to him on his YouTube channel playing over all styles of music, amazing player, man of the match for me is Henrik the drumming on this album is phenomenal!

So, what have I learnt from Phase 2, it was worth the wait as it is stunning, but I hope I don’t have to wait 9 years for the trilogy to be complete, and I am going to set fire to my guitars now!

Very highly recommended album it is a masterpiece in my opinion as was Phase 1, go buy them both!!

Pre-order The Singularity (Phase II – Xenotaph) now at: https://scarsymmetry.bfan.link/xenotaph

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