A major lineup change, especially a vocalist change, earns most bands a one-album grace period to get themselves functioning normally. Some bands survive with the new lineup, and occasionally do better than they used to. Others are incapable of maintaining their past successes, and fade into the silence of obscurity. The real catch is for a band to find a way to survive when their lineup is seen as negative in first impressions.
This is the challenge that Scar Symmetry faced in 2008 after Christian Älvestam, considered by many to be one of the best voices in all of metal, departed from the band. His replacements, Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist, worked hard to earn the respect of fans on 2009’s Dark Matter Dimensions, but now their grace period is over. And how does Scar Symmetry’s new album measure up? In this writer’s opinion, it’s already got Album of the Year possibilities. Read about it (and the rest of today’s releases) in this week’s list.
Scar Symmetry, The Unseen Empire (Nuclear Blast)
In just two and a half years, Scar Symmetry’s new lineup has gone from uncertainty to brilliance. The Unseen Empire is a phenomenal album with an amazing degree of technical skill, vocal prowess, and genius-level lyricism. A concept album based around the history of The Illuminati, The Unseen Empire is easily the best melodic death metal to emerge from Sweden in the past decade. I will likely get a lot of flack for this, but in my opinion, The Unseen Empire belongs in the top tier of Swedish albums, alongside Slaughter of the Soul and Colony. Yes, it is that good.
(Author’s Note: A personal thank you to Scar Symmetry and Nuclear Blast for releasing this album one day before my birthday. Happy Birthday to me!)
Seether, Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray (Wind-Up)
It’s been four years since Seether released their smash hit Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, but it made a very strong impression, even more than 2005’s Karma and Effect, and effectively turned Seether into an international force in rock. The follow-up to those albums will need to be even better in order for Seether to grow in their popularity, although it may be hard for them to gain even more fans than they already have. Almost every rock lover in the world has a Seether song that they love – either their collaboration with Amy Lee on “Broken”, their groove-infused grunge hybrid on “Remedy”, their rendition of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper”, or any of their other radio hits, Seether has a very wide range of appeal.
Arsonists Get All the Girls, Motherland (Century Media)
If one was to try to describe Arsonists Get All the Girls in genre terms, we’d have to invent the genre of tech-death-prog-noise-core just for them. This California-based six-piece group has torn up stages and stereos in their five years together, and although they were (and in some cases, still are) a joke band in their inception, their following is nothing to laugh about. Motherland looks to grow the band’s fanbase in the same way that 2009’s Portals did, introducing new and uninitiated minds to the insanity that is AGATG. Perhaps most shocking of all for the band is the fact that they only experienced one member change since Portals, a feat which may point to some relative consistency in the band’s lineup.
Samael, Lux Mundi (Season of Mist)
Prefaced by the Antigod EP back in November, Lux Mundi is a continuation of Samael’s return to their black metal roots, which began on 2009’s Above. That album was described at the time as being a “tribute to the roots”, so this continuation towards those days is a pleasant and most welcome surprise. There are some accessible tracks amidst the heaviness, so even fans of Samael’s more recent work will find some things to enjoy. On the whole, though, Lux Mundi seethes with more evil and promises even more darkness than before.
Demonaz, March of the Norse (Nuclear Blast)
Anyone know about a band called I? They were a supergroup of sorts, featuring Abbath and Armagedda of Immortal, TC King of Gorgoroth, and Ice Dale of Enslaved, playing a Bathory-inspired brand of Viking metal. Former Immortal guitarist Demonaz wrote the lyrics for the group’s only album, Between Two Worlds, which was released in 2006. The work on that project must have inspired Demonaz to take his writing skills further, as his new band (also with Ice Dale and Armagedda) has a very similar sound to I. And although he will likely never be able to play guitar again (at least not in black metal, due to the acute tendinopathy he was diagnosed with in 1997), his lyrical skills will definitely be put to good use for the foreseeable future.
Bloodbath, Bloodbath Over Bloodstock (Peaceville)
Bloodbath’s performance at the Bloodstock Open Air Festival in 2008 was pure carnage, to put it plainly. All you need for proof is the DVD trailer, which shows a microcosm of the mayhem that occurred on that fateful August day in 2010. This DVD also includes clips from the band’s performance at Party.San Open Air in 2008. If you caught their last DVD, The Wacken Carnage, then you know that Bloodbath Over Bloodstock is going to be high quality.
Also being released this week:
Warrant, Rockaholic (Frontiers)
Anaal Nathrakh, Passion (Candlelight)
Hell, Human Remains (Nuclear Blast)
Gallhammer, The End (Peaceville)
Legend, The Pale Horse (Rise)
Necrophagia, Deathtrip 69 (Season of Mist)
A Storm of Light, As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (Profound Lore)
Putridity, Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria (Willowtip)
The Chariot, Before There Was (Solid State)
Zao, The 2nd Era (Solid State)
Next Week: Get ready to bang your head, as we bring the heavy in every form and shape imaginable! Come on back in seven days for the earth-shaking tunes you’ve been waiting for!