Remember when I called out for everyone to join The Resistance? Well this isn’t entirely what I had in mind… When you pull The Resistance apart first thing you’re going to notice is that the Swedish melodic(ish) death metal outfit includes members from one of the original ‘three kings of Gothenburg’ – Jesper Strömblad and Glenn Ljungström the two ex-In Flamers that bailed before becoming a part of Sounds of a Playground Fading‘s limp release. Outside of having core In Flames members, The Resistance also includes ex-Face Down members Marco Aro on deathly howls and drummer Chris Barkensjö. With a line-up like that and an EP release earlier this year (Rise From Treason) you’d be hard pressed, as I was, not to harbor some expectation that Scars with all its anger, conflict and aggressiveness would be the album that In Flames have failed to deliver of late.
Scars starts off with a promising bang, and opening line ‘Fire in the hole’ explosively delivers “Clearing the Slate”. Instrumentally the track is tight, the guitars and drums combine to sound like a hail of bullets flying full force at your chest. Marco has a vocal style that borders on a howling death growl in some instances and at other times hits full-on guttural in a mightily pleasing way, definitely the high point on Scars! Ultimately the track is like a swift, strong kick up the ass, blisteringly fast and completely merciless. The tracks that follow take much this same direction – relentless late-eighties or early-nineties era Swedish metal full of core-ish aggression, speedy repetitive riffing, heavy distortion, fast double bass and blast beats aplenty.
Unfortunately that’s where my attention starts to wane. While Scars is not a bad album per se, there are aspects that drag it down and there’s not much that makes it stand out from the slew of albums already in the market. It goes without saying, Jesper’s a talented musician, he’s ranked highly among the 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of all time by Guitar World and his work with In Flames doesn’t lie, but this album feels more like a jam session for him than a project that has his full creative attention. There’s no real experimentation or feeling that he’s pushed himself and mostly the riffs and aggression have been done and been done and been done before. I’m also not a fan of the drum work on Scars. While it’s not the playing that’s a problem, it’s a recurrent feeling of disconnection or lack of cohesion between the drums and the rest of the musical layers – the hugely delivered closing line of “Expand to Expire” probably sums up the overall attitude of the album… ‘Ah fuck you!’.
The production and mix on Scars was done by Sweden’s Bohus Sound Recording and more specifically Roberto Laghi. He’s used a neoteric or contemporary style on Scars that adds an ‘interesting’, not unpleasant, clarity to the nostalgic brutality. Robert’s worked with the likes of Diablo Swing Orchestra on their No. 3: Pandora’s Piñata album and In Flames with Sounds of a Playground Fading, and seeing that his specialty is pop/rock, in all honesty I’m confused as to why The Resistance used him to achieve their death sound.
I’ve pointed out a lot of negatives on this album and I’ve done that because I see huge potential for The Resistance – they’ve got a great vocalist with an unusual singing style that I’d like to hear a hell of a lot more of and Jesper and Glenn are 100% capable of fret-board wizardry. High points on the album are the tracks “Imperfected” with its crushing, crunchy riffage and catchy-as-hell chorus and “An Eye for an Eye” with its near-relentless pounding wall-of-noise drum intro. This is one place the drum work kicks-ass – I’d definitely recommend cherry-picking these two tracks. Scars is a decent debut and I’m keen to see what angry The Resistance serve up next!