Halcyon Way – Indoctrination
I’ve heard a lot of progressive metal over the last few years, but I’d say Indoctrination, the latest release from Atlanta’s Halcyon Way, is actually regressive metal. That’s not to say it doesn’t fit in with the former genre, but this is one of those rare releases where the music consistently gets worse as it goes on, so it keeps regressing. I’ve read about this band having some problematic songwriting, and unfortunately their latest effort does not do anything to change that. It feels like the band knows what they want to do, but are only willing to go halfway with it, which makes the songs extremely hard to listen to at points, and pretty much impossible to enjoy.
Only five of the eight songs are originals, as there is a cover song called “Stand Up”, a radio edit of “The Age of Betrayal”, and a remix of “The System”, both featured on the previous release Building the Towers, to which this is apparently a sequel. The five original songs aren’t particularly good, but they at least have their moments where they’re enjoyable. My biggest complaint (musically) with them is that, based on the lyrics, names, and cover art, you can tell that the band has a real attitude to them. There are portions of the music where this comes out, particularly on the band’s thrashier riffs (which are actually quite good), and an album based around these heavier sections would probably be enjoyable. Unfortunately, the band forces themselves to dial things back a lot of the time to allow room for vocal melodies, and that is where everything falls apart.
Not only does the the music seem to lose a lot of its energy during the softer parts, which come across as feeling forced, they also present the worst feature of the band: Steve Braun. I have heard quite a few bad singers in my life, but this guy is pretty high up there on the list of singers I simply can’t tolerate. His default voice is quite high pitched and fairly whiny, so even when no others flaws are present, he is still hard to listen to. During the choruses it gets worse, since stretching for high notes sees him becoming extremely pitchy, which makes his already annoying voice becoming absolutely insufferable. Even worse, at points he’ll try to sound aggressive, but his voice simply doesn’t allow this, so instead it comes off as an unpleasant whine which just drives me crazy. Simply put, Steve Braun should never be allowed near a mic again. Ever.
As far as the actual songs go, opening track “On Black Wings” isn’t too bad aside from the chorus, which is the first thing you hear when starting it up (the song begins with the chorus at about half volume). After that you get some growls from bassist Kris Maltenieks, which fit the music much better than anything Braun does. Too bad they aren’t used nearly often enough. The title track has a really good main riff and is probably the most listenable song here, but after that, you may as well hit the stop button. “Revolution is Now” and “The Wages of War” are much more melodic than the first three songs, with the riffs pretty much vanishing and the terrible vocals becoming the main focus. Why the band doesn’t realize he is such a bad singer I’ll never know, because he really does ruin everything each and every time he starts singing.
Though the rest of the band isn’t exactly faultless either. For every good riff there is the failed attempt at melody or some boring chugging section. Even the good parts sometimes backfire, like when the downtuning causes a solo to sound really awkward and unpleasant on the opener. They also lack the ability to write a good song from start to finish, since even though the first three songs are the best here, they all have some sections that don’t work, and not just because of Braun’s voice.
As frustrating as the original songs are, the remaining three tracks are much worse. I’ve never heard the original version of “Stand Up” before, and this cover certainly won’t make me rush to look it up. Actually, it is the second most irritating song here, as the chorus takes up the majority of the song and features Braun at his absolute worse. Damn, does he ever sound whiny!“The Age of Betrayal (radio edit) ” convinces me that their previous works aren’t worth looking into, as it has the exact same flaws as any song here, and fewer good parts. Lastly, “The System (Karbon Black Remix)” is not listenable, as the electronic sounds are implemented so terribly that I got sick of it in less than a minute.
The only way I’ll ever care about Halcyon Way would be if they ditched Steve Braun. Everything about this release is flawed in some way or another, (aside from the production, that is) but I think with a better singer I would have moderately enjoyed this. Even using the growls as the lead vocals and shifting their sound a bit wouldn’t be a bad idea. Anything that removes the incredibly pitchy wails and whining would be a good thing.
Travis Green’s Rating: 1.5 out of 5