Scar Symmetry - The Singularity (Phase II - Xenotaph) review
|Album:||The Singularity (Phase II - Xenotaph)|
|Release date:||June 2023|
02. Scorched Quadrant
06. Digiphrenia Dawn
07. Hyperborean Plains
09. A Voyage With Tailed Meteors
Kalmah had a triumphant return last month after a lengthy 5-year wait, only to be immediately upstaged by Scar Symmetry’s comeback after 9 years.
It’s been a curious career journey thus far for the Swedish veterans, who are approaching their 20-year anniversary. The momentum built over their first three albums was somewhat derailed by the departure of original vocalist Christian Älvestam in 2008, whose versatile talents were replaced with two vocalists in the form of Lars Palmqvist and Robban Karlsson. The first two records featuring the duo didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes on the site or elsewhere, but 2014’s The Singularity (Phase I - Neohumanity) indicated a change in momentum. Said momentum was curtailed by guitarist Per Nilsson joining Meshuggah as a live guitarist during Fredrik Thordenhal’s hiatus, but Thordenhal’s return in 2021 gave Nilsson and Scar Symmetry the opportunity to make progress with Phase II of a planned trilogy, which has arrived in the form of The Singularity (Phase II - Xenotaph).
I’m not a strong Scar Symmetry fan, so I was never as perturbed by Dark Matter Dimensions or The Unseen Empire in the same way some were, but I still found Neohumanity to be something of a return to form, particularly with its proggy inclinations. Xenotaph is something of a continuation of the melodeath/prog-power style from that record, although most songs linger around 5-6 minutes, with nothing threatening the 10-minute mark like “Technocalyptic Cybergeddon” did on the previous release. This release is more prog-lite than full-on prog, but there’s nevertheless some satisfying twists and turns to be encountered.
As far as melodeath goes, Scar Symmetry can be somewhat aggressive here; “Chrononautilus” is quite a pounding assault, at least initially, although it does later progress into soaring melody. The chorus here, and on some other tracks, has an accessibility to it that is somewhat reminiscent of Soilwork’s flirtations with The Night Flight Orchestra-esque arena rock. The most satisfying melody on the record, however, comes courtesy of Nilsson’s guitar talents, with some great solos on the likes of “Scorched Quadrant” and “Altergeist”.
Now as mentioned at the beginning of the review, Kalmah dropped a pretty excellent record with a ton of satisfying hooks just a couple of weeks ago, so rivals entering the fray around the same time have a lot to live up to. I’m less taken with Xenotaph in comparison; at just shy of an hour in length, it’s quite a commitment to sit through, and there are definitely moments where it can drag. I think my least favourite song here has turned out to be “Gridworm”, a track that is on the one hand quite rampant, but also is low on hooks. Also, while I don’t generally have an issue with Lars Palmqvist, it is a song such as this that does highlight some of those limitations when contrasted with Älvestam, as an unsatisfying chorus melody can’t be rescued by his voice. Additionally, while “Soulscanner” has a pretty strong solo, the surrounding song is somewhat underwhelming.
Still, while it’s not an unmitigated success, Xenotaph is still a pretty decent return for Scar Symmetry. For me, the record finds its momentum starting with song 4 “Altergeist”, which has plenty of ballistic blasting, but also some mischievous melodies and a symphonic grandeur. The run of following tracks, including the bright-sounding “Reichsfall” and Omnium Gatherum-esque “Hyperborean Plains”, represents Xenotaph at its best, although the 8-minute closing title track is also a respectable return to proggier territory.
The Singularity (Phase II - Xenotaph) doesn’t represent a return to Holographic Universe levels of quality for Scar Symmetry, or even perhaps Neohumanity levels, but after such a prolonged absence, it’s a good enough effort that long-waiting fans should find it to be a rewarding effort.
||Written on 08.06.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not|
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