September 21, 2016 Scar Symmetry Lift Up Gramercy Theatre, NYC 9-11-16 w/ Arsis, Shattered Sun & Painted in Exile
Matters never seem to go according to plans, however, if one is resilient, dedicated, and determined, they forge their own destiny. That being said, Sweden’s Scar Symmetry has sustained heaps of changes since their initial formation in 2004, yet nothing has seized them from being a highly relevant and ambitious Metal band. Seeing the departure of co-founding Guitarist Jonas Kjellgren in 2013, to some fans, may have seemed like a heavy blow, but Scar Symmetry rebounded with possibly one of their best records to date with 2014’s The Singularity (Phase I – Neohumanity). Then, Bassist Kenneth Seil said goodbye in 2015 after over a decade with the band, while Vocalist Roberth Karlsson welcomed a child the same year, thus halting touring for a few months. What did core members Per Nilsson (guitars, keyboards, backing vocals) and Henrik Ohlsson (drums) do? They merely took the time to write most of the Phase II of The Singularity saga.
It seems nothing can stop Scar Symmetry, and now, after a six year hiatus from touring North America, Scar Symmetry are back in 2016. Not visiting since their supporting spot for Epica back in 2010, they were close to making a return back in 2012, however, unforeseen visa issues forced them to cancel the tour. Long overdue, Scar Symmetry announced their first headlining North American tour in support of the aforementioned The Singularity (Phase I – Neohumanity) all while they prepare Phase II.
Supported by Arsis, Shattered Sun, and Painted in Exile, the run kicked off on September 8th, concluding on September 20th, but not before the band made their way to one of their favorite cities, New York. Arriving in Manhattan on the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it was an emotional day for the city, and America in general. With much on people’s minds, several managed to find the ultimate freedom and made their way to Gramercy Theatre for an evening of Metal.
Beginning with some Progressive Metal styling, it was Long Island natives Painted in Exile up first. Together since 2007, at one point, it appeared Painted in Exile had vanished off of the face of the earth where it was not until 2014 when they surprised everyone with the new song “DM.” Since then, the band most recently exceeded their crowdfunding goal, making over $15,000 on an Indie GoGo campaign for their long-awaited full-length debut album. Working with Producer Jamie King (Between the Buried and Me/The Contortionist) to record The Ordeal, it is set for release on October 28th, and this tour is a fitting way to spread the news.
With the lineup of Keyboardist Alan Hankers, Guitarist Ivan Chopik, Bassist Jacob Umansky, Vocalist Robert Richards, Guitarist Marc Lambert, and Drummer Eddie DeCesare, their set sparked curiosity in the house with the unique Progressive elements that had a Death Metal-like combination. Additionally, there was a mixture of vigorous screams and soothing, even Jazz-induced undertones while the keyboard united the unique arrangements as they played “Bizarre,” “These People,” and “House of Cards.” Inspiring a few fans to raise a lighter due to the songs emotive medley, others clasped their hands together on a more uplifting-catchy hook. Painted in Exile seems to have more to show, and hopefully they will return after the release of The Ordeal.
The evening soon turned to a more aggressive pace with Texas’ Shattered Sun up next. Seeking to spread positive energy within their music and live acts, Shattered Sun are influenced by Thrash Metal icons such as Metallica and Testament, but they fuel an aggressive blend of Modern Metal all their own. Hard at work for some time now, the collective of Marcos Leal (vocals), Daniel Trejo (guitar), Jessie Santos (guitar), Joseph Guajardo (bass), Robert Garza (drums), and Henry Garza (keyboard/samples) have done an abundant amount of touring in support of their 2015 album, Hope Within Hatred. Making a big splash on 2015’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, the band is still riding high and fueled with momentum as they hit the stage of Gramercy Theatre.
Embracing Shattered Sun from the get-go, fans rushed up front to sing each track such as “Awaken” and “The Ultimatum.” Energized by the response, Leal dominated the microphone as he ran across the stage, demanding circle pits. Controlling the room, Leal amped up the old school Metal fans when they moved into the Testament song “Return to Serenity.” Being Football Sunday, Leal even took a moment to give a shout-out to the New York Giants, where he joked Texas folks would kill him for saying that. After the brief athletic break, they continued with tunes such as “No Sympathy” and had everyone completely engaged until the final scream. Evolving over the years, and showing even more poise than previous tours, Shattered Sun brought all they had to the devoted crowd.
Acting as direct support for the tour, Virginian Technical Melodic Death Metal act Arsis were ready to go. Created by Guitarist/Vocalist James Malone as a college project in 2000, where he attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, after a few demos and roughly five live gigs, Arsis landed a deal with Willowtip Records, releasing their impressive 2004 debut album, A Celebration of Guilt. Since then, there have been quite a few lineup changes where the latest addition of Arsis is led by Malone, Brandon Ellis (guitar), Noah Martin (bass), and Shawn Priest (drums). Continuing to support their fifth studio album, 2013’s Unwelcome, the crowd was eager for the set to begin.
While there were signals that the band was ready to start, unforeseen technical issues caused some delays. As a result, Arsis had to work double time in order to give the crowd as much as possible, with little time for social interaction. However, performance-wise, Arsis seemed on point as they did not show any sign of frustration as they went on with absolute energy. Pummeling the audience with screams, intense headbanging, and endless Metal adrenaline, it was a rush as the entire Gramercy Theatre floor spread out into a massive circle pit. Showing the utmost professionalism, at one point Ellis’ guitar strap broke off, yet he continued playing without a hiccup. These guys were unstoppable in spite of any issues came their way as they rattled out songs such as “We Are the Nightmare,” “Handbook for the Recently Deceased,” “Wholly Night,” “The Promise of Never,” and “The Face of My Innocence.” Anyone who has not seen Arsis live need to do so, and look out for possible new material come 2017.
There was only one left, and it was guests of honor, Scar Symmetry. Known for their mixture of brutality with a melodic twist, they also incorporate harmony with dark synthesized ambiances. A style fans have come to love, the latest addition of Scar Symmetry consists of dual Vocalists Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist, along with co-founders Nilsson (guitar) and Ohlsson (drums), as well as brand new additions of ex-Bloodshot Dawn member Benjamin Ellis (guitar) and ex-Hypocrisy member Andreas Holma (bass). Pumped up and curious to see the new lineup, a buzz flowed through the air. Then, during soundcheck, a massive voice was heard asking, “All right, are you ready for some Swedish Melodic Death Metal?” Reacting instantly, many screamed in approval as Scar Symmetry was ready to take the stage.
Lifting off with the opening track of The Singularity (Phase I – Neohumanity) ,” The Shape of Things to Come,” they quickly flowed into “Neohuman.” Garnering instant positive feedback from the crowd, the band fed off it all as they played on with “Frequency Shifter” and “Rise of the Reptilian Regime.” Much like a visit with a dear old friend, the surprises kept coming when they played “Reborn,” from the debut album 2005’s Symmetric In Design, and “Retaliator,” from 2006’s Pitch Black Progress. Electricity was flowing through the room as the audience chanted “Hey! Hey! Hey!” with the band blasting forward with “Cryonic Harvest” before “The Iconoclast.”
More than just music, Karlsson and Palmqvist continued to interact with the audience, showcasing their gratitude and mentioning how happy the band was to be back following the lengthy absence. A feeling that was mutual, they soon offered “The Anomaly” and “Noumenon and Phenomenon” as the dual vocalists complemented one another with growls and soaring singing, a perfect storm to conjure a circle pit. A matter of fact, the pit was filled with Metalheads of all ages, proving Metal has no age limitations. Loving every minute of the beautiful chaos on the floor, Scar Symmetry opened the floodgates with “Chaosweaver,” “Mind Machine,” before concluding with “Pitch Black Progress.”
Departing from the stage, fans begged for an encore. Shortly after, Nilsson walked to the spotlight, assaulting everyone’s ears with a blistering guitar solo. Playfully taunting the crowd with the next tune, the band asked if anyone wanted to hear a song from The Holographic Universe. Shouting yes, Scar Symmetry teased more saying, “Sorry, not today.” It was a funny moment, and after the torture, they did in fact play “Morphogenesis,” yes from Holographic Universe. Appreciative for the gift, the track provoked everyone to scream and chant along before the finale, “The Illusionist.”
Scar Symmetry’s return to New York City was bold and full of adrenaline. Now that the tour is wrapped up, Scar Symmetry return home to work on Phase II, and soon enough, there will be an update on what is next for the band. Hopefully the update will include more touring in the USA come 2017, for waiting another six years would simply be too long.