When the members of Sweden’s Scar Symmetry announced they were parting ways with vocalist Christian Älvestam last year, it seemed to signal the end of the band.
Älvestam’s departure couldn’t have come at a worse time. The band had just released “Holographic Universe,” a blistering piece of melodic death metal. With the proper promotion and touring, Scar Symmetry seemed poised to ride “Holographic Universe” to a new level of success.
Instead, the band was left without a vocalist – and with a larger problem: Many of the songs on “Holographic” were so complicated vocally that they would be impossible for one vocalist to reproduce live.
Guitarist Jonas Kjellgren said, despite Älvestam’s departure, the band never seriously considered breaking up.
“It was before he left that we were afraid we were going to break up,” Kjellgren said during a Sept. 20 phone interview. “He didn’t want to do any touring at all and we didn’t want to be just a studio project.”
Faced with the problem of having to reproduce the songs live, Kjellgren and the rest of Scar Symmetry made a unique decision – they hired twovocalists, Lars Palmqvist for clean vocals and Roberth Karlsson for gutteral roars.
“It’s not so weird,” Kjellgren said. “I don’t know why the norm is one vocalist.”
With the new singers on board, the members of Scar Symmetry played a few shows, but skipped major touring. Instead, the band went back into the studio and recorded “Dark Matter Dimensions,” a melodic death metal album that showcases the band’s trademark tight musicianship while demonstrating the vocal power of Karlsson and Palmqvist.
The band’s first appearance with two singers was daunting, Kjellgren said.
“It was in Spain,” he said. “We had rehearsed one time, or not (even) one time. I was so nervous – everyone was so nervous – but it went really well and the audience went bananas.”
Performing with the new lineup is “still very nervous, because it’s still so fresh and new,” Kjellgren said. “It feels new. It feels like a new band.”
The new vocalists are not yet contributing to the songwriting process, Kjellgren said.
“It’s always Henrik” Ohlsson who writes the lyrics, Kjellgren said. “We all have our different roles in the band. Me and Per (Nilsson) write the music, Roberth and Lars get to front the band and Ken (Seil) takes care of all the groupies and liquor.
“We asked Roberth and Lars if they wanted to change the lyrics (for the new songs) and they said no,” Kjellgren said. “It would have been forced for them to write the lyrics for Scar Symmetry.”
A band with two frontmen could create problems – especially if the two compete to be the leader and try to outshine the other. But Kjellgren said Karlsson and Palmqvist are not the kind of guys who resort to diva behavior.
“It’s a really dangerous thing that could be if you had two vocalists and they’re both prima donnas,” Kjellgren said. “But (Karlsson and Palmqvist) have been in the same band before – and they’re best friends since they were kids, so it works well.”
While a one-year turnaround might seem fast between albums, Kjellgren said the band wanted to get into the studio quickly once Karlsson and Palmqvist were on board.
“We wanted to have new songs our new singers were singing on,” Kjellgren said. “Since we didn’t do much touring for ‘Holographic Universe,’ we had time to write new material.
“It didn’t feel like one year” between albums, Kjellgren said. “It feels like it has been forever, because we recorded ‘Holographic Universe’ in December 2007.”
Since the band had to dramatically curtail its touring plans for “Holographic Universe,” the group will tour extensively for “Dark Matter Dimensions,” Kjellgren said.
“We’ll start with a European tour with Behemoth and Devildriver and then we’ll go to South America,” Kjellgren said. “Then, another European tour in January and then we’ll hopefully come to the U.S. We’ll tour as much as possible, because it’s so damn fun.”
The new Scar Symmetry album, “Dark Matter Dimensions,” is streaming in its entirety on the band’s MySpace page.