Interview with Henrik Ohlsson - Scar Symmetry, April 2011

Did you expect back in 2005 that your debut ‘Symmetric in Design’, would make such an impression on the metal scene as it did? 

No, absolutely not! We knew that the music was good and everything but I mean, that doesn't mean you're going to be successful or anything. At that point Scar Symmetry was just a project among many others, we all had multiple bands releasing albums on smaller labels and we didn't expect Scar Symmetry and “Symmetric in Design” to take off like it did. Everyone in the band had been playing in bands for years and years, releasing albums etc., and we just considered “Symmetric in Design” to be just another release. But then we got all this media attention and things got real interesting. Big labels wanted to sign us and stuff like that, it was unreal and we totally did not expect it. 

You created a rather original style, did it just end up this way? 

Yeah, at first we didn't know exactly what our style would be. Jonas messed around with some riffs that became “Seeds of Rebellion” and “Veil of Illusions”. We rehearsed those songs as a three-piece at first: Jonas, me and Kenneth. We did that a couple of times and then Per came in and he started to write material too. He came up with ideas that later became “2012, the demise of the 5th sun” and “Reborn” for example. We just went with whatever came up at that point, all the songs had kind of different musical approaches but there was a red thread somewhere in the material. I wasn't used to such an open attitude when writing songs, since I was used to being restricted to one genre for each band and shit like that. But it worked out and that album laid the foundation for the diversity of our sound and the general playfulness of our music. 

Were there any plans to stop with the band after the departure of Christian Alvestam? 

No, we actually kicked Christian out of the band because we wanted the band to continue. We wouldn't exist today if we hadn't kicked Christian out. We had totally different ideas of how to work with the band and everything started to seriously deteriorate around the time of the recording of “Holographic Universe”. The vibe was really bad at that point and we felt all the energy and motivation being sucked out of the band and it was a case of either breaking up or getting rid of one person. He refused tours for no apparent reason, didn't want to play shows in certain countries etc etc. It just didn't work out and right after the video-shoot for “Morphogenesis” we decided that he would no longer be a part of the band. 

Is it because you couldn’t find one vocalist with good grunts and clean vocals that the band recruited 2 new members?

No, we had the idea of using two vocalists even before Christian was out of the band. Especially live it is problematic to only have one singer because of the diversity of the vocals. I mean, we switch between multiple types of voices and vocal styles all the time in the songs and that puts incredible strain on the vocal chords if one person is supposed to do all of the vocal work. I think Christian would be the first person to agree on that. So when we had the opportunity to recruit two new singers it felt like a whole new world opened in the vocal department and it's great to be able to arrange the vocals without having to worry about how to pull it off live. 

When recording the new album ‘The Unseen Empire’ could you feel that things went easier than on the first record with the two new members, just because you got used to each other?

Yeah, definitely. We've really bonded with Lars and Roberth over the last two and a half years both on a musical and on a personal level. When we recorded “Dark Matter Dimensions” we were sort of in a weird state of mind because of the line-up-change and all that. The future felt a bit insecure and the whole situation was new to us. Nowadays Lars and Roberth are used to our kind of music and they know exactly what the band is about. But in the beginning the whole thing was new to them, Roberth had only been playing regular death metal and like, traditional extreme music while Lars came from a background of classic heavy metal type of stuff. It takes some time to get used to the weird mix of styles that is present in Scar Symmetry. I felt the same way when we recorded the first Scar Symmetry album, I was like: “can you really play all these different styles within the same band?”. But it turned out you CAN do that and we get away with pretty much anything musically, ha ha. So we were definitely more on the same page on this album compared to how it was when Lars and Roberth first joined the band. But still I have to point out that even the recording of “Dark Matter Dimensions”, being a new situation and all, was still way easier than the recordings of any of the first three albums we've released. It's just that the recording went even smoother on “The Unseen Empire”! 

I have the idea that your new album even is more melodic than its predecessor ‘Dark Matter Dimensions’ what is your view on that? 

I agree. It wasn't intentional though. Perhaps some of the frustration we experienced back then poured over to the material for “Dark Matter Dimensions”, I'm not sure. That album became more brutal and raw compared to everything we had done before and we also went off in some unusual directions musically at times. I feel that “The Unseen Empire” is more true to what Scar Symmetry really is about but I still appreciate the previous album for what it was. “Dark Matter Dimensions” was our way of bouncing back from some sort of crisis and it was an important album because of that. It was also an important step in our musical evolution. 

Your style still is being described as Melodic Death Metal, is that still what the band plays in your opinion? 

Well, you know, genres are not that important. It's just a way of giving people who hasn't heard a particular band some sort of hint of what the music sounds like. We tend to go with the term “Melodic Death Metal” because it is an established genre and it kind of points to what we do musically. What we actually play is “Scar Symmetry Metal” but that doesn't help a person who hasn't heard us to understand what the hell we sound like. We've also been called “progressive metal”, which is true in one sense but not true in another sense because we also do a lot of straightforward stuff, and we've been called “modern metal, whatever that means. What is modern today is not modern tomorrow, so the term is kind of meaningless. Basically we call our music “melo-death” but it is only a hint and it doesn't give the complete picture of what we're about.


I like it very much when there is a big contradiction between the brutal and the melodic parts, is this also what you want to create? 

Yeah, we like the brutality of death metal AND the ultra-melodic approach of...let's say AOR or whatever. We love 80`s heavy metal, that's what we grew up with and we're also not afraid to use non-metal stuff in our songs. And at the same time we like it heavy, seriously heavy, extreme metal kind of heavy. We have all played in extreme metal-bands in the past, that's kind of where we started as musicians. The whole idea behind Scar Symmetry was to play something we hadn't done before and that's pretty much why we constantly balance between those two sides and you never know what to expect from one part of a song to another. 

What do you think off the people that always compare the two new singers with your former vocalist and have critical opinions about it? 

Well, what can I say? Most of those people doesn't have any background info and they don't realize that the band wouldn't exist today if we would have kept the first line-up intact. Anyone who feel that Christian is such a good vocalist should follow his current projects and forget about this band, except for the first three albums. That's the best advice I can give. Negativity and criticism won't change anything and it's just bad for everyone. We feel comfortable with the situation now, we feel stronger than ever, and that's ultimately what matters to us. I do feel that people started to accept the new line-up for real last year when we toured a lot and that's promising. I've also read a lot of good feedback from fans regarding the new album “The Unseen Empire” and generally people seem to think that the new singers did a great job on that one and they seem more open to the new line-up now. 

Do you like the band Soilwork? 

Yeah, absolutely. I was signed to Listenable records with my old bands Theory In Practice and Mutant and Soilwork were signed to the same label back then. I got their first two albums from Laurent at Listenable and I really liked the second one, “The Chainheart Machine”. I think that was the name of it. I later picked up on Soilwork after having completely missed their album “The Predator`s Portrait” but I listened to “Natural Born Chaos” and “Figure Number Four” and enjoyed both of those albums. I also liked “Stabbing the Drama”, probably their best album in my opinion. By then we had released our second album with Scar Symmetry and we went on tour in Europe with Soilwork, they were really professional and cool guys. Later on I wasn't that thrilled when I heard “Sworn to a Great Divide” and I haven't heard “The Panic Broadcast” yet but I've heard from others that it's a return to form for them. 

What is your opinion about Christian's the new band: Solution 45? 

I've heard like one song and it seems to be good quality music even though it's not something that I listen to at home, it doesn't really move me. I recognize many of the vocal lines from the stuff that we did on the first three Scar-albums so the ideas are in no way new to me when it came to the vocals, if you know what I mean. We're good friends with the bass player in that band, he usually comes to our shows when we play in Sweden and we hang out and party and have a good time, there's absolutely no bad blood going on between us and that band. 

What does the title ‘The Unseen Empire’ mean? 

There are visible empires that SEEM to rule and there's an invisible empire that truly rules the world. The unseen empire represents the Illuminati or whatever name you want to use for this group who rule in secrecy. The album seek to expose the hidden hand of the elite that pull the strings of mankind in order to fulfil their agenda of global domination. The album concept goes from theories of shadow governments to ancient bloodlines and even further into speculations of malevolent influence from metaphysical reptilian-based intelligences. 

Why different artworks for the normal CD and the special edition? 

That's something that the label decides and we're not part of working out stuff like that. We leave the marketing and those areas of promotion to Nuclear Blast because they're very experienced and professional and we trust them. I guess they wanted the special edition to look different than the regular CD and that's probably the reason for having different artwork.  

I saw you in Leeuwarden on the Neckbreakers Ball tour, was it a successful tour? 

We've done two Neckbreaker's Ball tours and I'm not sure which one you're referring to. But anyway, both were important for us and we've had a blast touring Europe under the moniker “Neckbreaker`s Ball” in both 2006 and 2009, the band has grown with every tour we've done. Doing tours and any kind of shows are kind of a sign that you're active and alive, it's important to show yourselves to the audience in terms of live shows regularly. That endeavour is a success in its own right. 

Which question do you want to answer about the new record that no interviewer has asked you yet, and what is the answer? 

I've been asked pretty much everything regarding the new album after about one hundred interviews but this one is probably new:

Question- How the hell was Jonas able to record his guitars on the new album in January 2011 when he broke his wrist during the last U.S-tour in November/December 2010???

Answer- The man is inhuman and has supernatural healing abilities. He broke his wrist during an after-party in Denver and had to leave the tour halfway through. We played with only one guitarist for the rest of the tour. We didn't think he'd be able to play guitar for many months but he actually recorded all his guitars for the new album and we even did a show in Greece in January and he was able to do that as well. Incredible, I must say! By now he is totally healed. 

Anything else you want to share with our readers? 

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the fans out there, your support is immensely appreciated and you are the reason we can do this in the first place. So THANK YOU! Keep checking our myspace/facebook-sites for the latest updates and info. 

Scar Symmetry - The Unseen Empire

Label: Nuclear Blast



Roberth Karlsson (Vocals)
Lars Palmqvist (Vocals)
Jonas Kjellgren (Guitars)
Per Nilsson (Guitars)
Kenneth Seil (Bass)
Henrik Ohlsson (Drums)

The Unseen Empire (2011)
A Dark Matter Dimensions (2009)
Holographic Universe (2008)
Pitch Black Progress (2006)
Symmetric in Design (2005)

Interviewed by Reinier de Vries