Scar Symmetry occupies an under-respected position in melodic death metal. Heavily influenced by the Gothenburg Three, they have been consistently developing a technologically inspired and technically incredible version of the genre that combines Fear Factory, Meshuggah and Issac Asimov. Neohumanity fits into this tradition perfectly, but also includes enough change from what has come before to keep long time fans on their feet.
Previous album The Unseen Empire was a dramatic change for Scar Symmetry which brightened the mechanical bleakness of their sound and replaced their literary inspirations with David Icke’s reptilian conspiracy theories. The departure of guitarist and founding member Jonas Kjellgren has left Per Nilsson as the band’s sole composer, leading to another shift in their style. In a lot of ways it’s return to the sci-fi soundscapes and darkness of Holographic Universe. Yet, there are also melodies pulled from classic rock and other poppy sources that the band haven’t tapped before. The chorus of ‘Limits to Infinity’ is far more ABBA than At The Gates, ‘The Spiral Timeshift’ has a very poppy bridge followed by a solo which dances between tech metal and eighties rock and there’s even a couple of Haken-like proggy breaks in ‘Neohuman’. Particularly for a band that seemed like it was treading water a couple of albums ago, this is excellent work.
Drummer Henrik Ohlsson is an uncommonly talented lyricist – his words have a poetry to them that is rare and he managed to make Dark Matter Dimensions‘ ‘Noumenon and Phenomenon’ a handy little philosophy lesson within a lead single. Conceiving The Singularity as a three part series of transhumanist concept albums is ambitious, even for him, and it won’t be obvious how successful he has been until they have all been released. For the moment, Neohumanity’s pace suffers from being part of an already planned trilogy. There is nothing as immediately lyrical as ‘The Anomaly’ and though Aeon Zen’s recent Ephemera managed to fit a complete story into forty minutes, this album’s storytelling feels like it is all set-up with no satisfying conclusion. It’s not just the narrative that is impacted – the symphonic swell that concludes ‘Technocalyptic Cybergeddon’ (seriously?) feels much more like a bridge than a cadence. This impression is not helped by the album’s brevity, so instead of finishing with Fellowship’s Amon Hen Scar Symmetry have ended up on An Unexpected Journey’s less interesting sunny hill.
Mixing the sound of The Unseen Empire with the technocentric chill of their earlier releases without getting some kind of lukewarm grey is worth praise, as Scar Symmetry continue to surprise deep into their influential career. Though it suffers like Time I by feeling like a fraction of something larger, Neohumanity is still a great album in itself and an impressive start to a new part of this band’s life.
Header picture by Erik Larsson Photography