May 10, 2011

Album Review: "The Unseen Empire" by Scar Symmetry

When a band experiences any significant membership change, they usually get a one-album grace period, during which they are afforded a chance to work out any issues resulting from the change. After that grace period ends, if the band cannot hold the interest of their established fans, then those fans usually abandon the band. This is especially true with vocalist changes, since many vocalists are the most recognizable members of their respective bands.

This is the reality that has faced Scar Symmetry since 2008. After releasing their 2008 masterpiece Holographic Universe, lead vocalist Christian Älvestam abruptly left the band, causing a massive backlash among fans. Many critics regard Älvestam as one of the best vocalists in all of modern metal, and rightly so. His guttural roars and screams are the antithesis of the beautiful melodies he sings, and very few singers are capable of reproducing his vocal performances. Perhaps the greatest indicator of his talent, though, is the fact that Scar Symmetry needed two singers to replace one.

Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist had some humongous shoes to fill when they stepped into the roles of co-lead vocalists for Scar Symmetry. Karlsson had little experience in such a vital position (as the brief frontman for Edge of Sanity in the late '90s), while Palmqvist had never before been in a band with any degree of prominence. Their performance on 2009's Dark Matter Dimensions convinced many fans that Scar Symmetry was still in good shape, but many others remained skeptical, calling for Älvestam's return. And now that the one-album grace period has passed, fans will judge Karlsson and Palmqvist even more harshly than before.

May 3, 2011

Album Review: "Circle Regenerated" by Norther

Norther suffered a harsh loss in 2009, when lead vocalist, lead guitarist, and primary songwriter Petri Lindroos left the band. The reason for his departure was obvious, as his commitments to folk metal group Ensiferum were much more time-consuming than those with Norther. Given Ensiferum's recent growth in success, it also made sense for Lindroos to stick with the more popular band. However, Norther was left in an extremely precarious position, as three vital positions within the band were vacated, with few conceivable options for filling them. Thankfully, though, the Finnish group was able to adapt. Rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist Kristian Ranta, who had co-written a number of songs with Lindroos on both 2006's Till Death Unites Us and 2008's N, assumed the primary songwriting role for the growth of the band. Norther also found two new musicians that were already veterans of the Finnish metal scene to join the band. These things have all led to Norther's newest studio album, the appropriately-titled Circle Regenerated.

May 2, 2011

Album Review: "Fake History" by Letlive

There are two reasons why Glassjaw is considered to be one of the primary innovators of post-hardcore. The first is Daryl Palumbo's incredibly distinct vocal style, allowing him to be instantly recognized on any song on which he sings. The second is the group's unique compositional style, which allowed for experimentation while still upholding the precepts of the genre. Most recent post-hardcore bands have attempted to replicate the group's formula, with varying degrees of success. One of these groups is Los Angeles-based quintet Letlive (sometimes typeset as letlive.). The group started out in the underground, but their third album, Fake History, ignited a lot of hype about the group when it was initially released by Tragic Hero Records in 2010 (and then re-released by Epitaph Records in 2011). However, whether the album truly deserves the accolades it has received is still open to debate.