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A SCENE IN RETROSPECT: Scar Symmetry – “Pitch Black Progress”

Howdy, y’all, and welcome to the thirtieth episode of A Scene In Retrospect! That’s right, we’ve hit another milestone here; these feature grow up so fast, don’t they? And that’s not even the only special thing about this episode either. This time around, we’ve only got one contributor laying down a more detailed outlook on the album in question. Without further ado, I yield the floor to It Djents staff writer Jake Walters, who will enlighten you on Pitch Black Progress by Swedish progressive/melodic death metal act Scar Symmetry. Please enjoy!

 

Jake Walters

Since I’m the sole contributor to this edition of A Scene In Retrospect, I’ve got plenty of room for activities and lots of room to pace while I assemble my thoughts on the featured album, Pitch Black Progress by the always-dynamic Scar Symmetry. This is the band’s sophomore outing, and the included 13 tracks clock in right at an hour. It’s a meaty release that’s not for those with short attention spans who also happen to hate gigantic riffs, searing solos, and killer vocal performances (from Christian Älvestam in this case). Scar Symmetry are from Sweden, the veritable breeding ground and haven of melodic death metal, so their pedigree is outstanding.

Given that Pitch Black Progress is the second release from this band, and their first on the metal powerhouse label Nuclear Blast, it’s always smart to put your best foot forward when opening the record. As a band, you wish to relieve your existing fandom that you’re still worth their time, and impress this new audience that you have by being promoted by a big label. Well, I think “The Illusionist” is a suitable piece to lead off with. It’s mid-tempo, but has plenty of blast beats, some djent-leaning riffs, and their version of the beauty-and-the-beast vocal approach. It also sort of sets the tone for the record and establishes the theme. What is the theme you ask? Sentient machines and an apocalyptic rise of our robot overlords…or something like that.

In going back to listen to this album I have to say it has aged well, even though it’s quite obviously a product of its time. While ‘charming’ is probably the wrong adjective to attribute to PBP, I think that there is a certain amount of it that weaves its way through the near hour of the record. Scar Symmetry is a band that was at one point getting airplay on certain television stations (which have since abandoned music, if you know what I mean), so there is some mainstream appeal present with this band and their material. Looking through the lens of today’s heavy music, this is still somewhat unbelievable to me. I mean, this is a somewhat conceptual melodic death metal band from Sweden getting some mainstream attention. Sure, some of their more melodic takes like “Dreaming 24/7” are quite accessible, but it’s still an interesting occurrence.

One thing that I think we have to address is the breadth of this album. At the time, perhaps a longer, girthier record made the most sense. Maybe it was to serve the narrative of Pitch Black Progress, but for the 2018 version of my ears, it’s a little too much. A few cuts here or there could have made this a little more digestible, and the right cuts would increase the dynamics of the album. Speaking of dynamics, though, I have to talk about possibly my favorite track, “The Kaleidoscope God”. It’s the most progressive song to be found on the record, and in a way it solidifies the Scar Symmetry sonic blueprint. With elements of power metal, death metal, and a dash of classic heavy metal, it’s a full seven minutes of bliss.

As the tracklisting winds its way toward the conclusion, it seems that symphonic elements crop up more and more, giving the final third a wider, more cinematic feel. “Oscillation Point” and “Carved In Stone” are prime examples of this. I really dug (and still dig) the usually cleaner elements of symphonic metal when paired with those harsh death growls that bring a little bit of gravitas and relatability to an otherwise refined and lofty sound. Sure it’s a bit indulgent, but I have a special spot in my heart of broad and showy elements in my entertainment.

As some of you may know, my journey into metal came through some early metalcore, and then on to power- and symphonic metal acts. Scar Symmetry were a sort of bridge that linked me to even heavier stuff. I love them for that. This album has held up incredibly well, the vocal range is insane, and come on, Per Nilsson is basically a multi-instrumentalist god among men. Going back to this album was a blast, and if you’ve not yet plumbed the depths of their discography, I encourage you to do so.

And that’s a wrap! Thanks again to Jake for doing this momentous epsiode on his very own; you’re the real MVP! Anyway, what are your thoughts on Scar Symmetry and their second album Pitch Black Progress? Would you like to recommend some albums for inclusion in this feature? Leave it all in the comments!

Be sure to come back again in fourteen days for another part of the A Scene In Retrospect saga! Until then, stay safe, and as always…

…thanks for reading!

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