Scythia – …Of Exile
Chancing upon a random copy of Scythia’s latest cd led to an impulse buy and, some time later, a spontaneous sit down with it. In part, this album is what has re-sparked my interest in both fantasy and folk-influenced metal this fall, and I thought it as good a time as any to give it a review.
Eschewing strong ties to any well-established genre (so far as I can see), but often treading into the territory of melodic death and power metal, Scythia by and large fall most easily into the generic “folk metal” tag, with some touches of keyboard, sound clips to support the story, and their most distinctive trademark: the oboe (of death). Vocal duties are handled somewhat clumsily by lead guitarist Dave Khan, whose voice is sometimes only tenuously in tune, and often rather thin when he moves to the upper register.
Scythia’s compositions sometimes seem to be without direction, and once in a while their redundant riffing reminds me of Falkenbach, though that’s where the similarity ends. Occasionally a reasonable melody is begun, but the band has a hard time finding a good chorus upon which to hang its hat. Instrumental lines go on an on, as if in search of a motive that will finally bring them the hook that they’re looking for (think of the antithesis of power/folk/prog greats Wuthering Heights in this respect- wandering without being very catchy). The oboe is the only part of this that I find consistently interesting. But this is a metal band, and that doesn’t seem right.
The softer sections of …Of Exile create a great medieval atmosphere, and it’s easy to get sucked into the calm ambling of the oboe combined with soft guitar and the sound of a horse cantering down a country lane. The backing female vocals are reasonably well performed, but not well placed, and do not represent the songs very well. On songs like “Voice Of The Sword”, where harsh vocals present themselves, I’ve almost laughed out loud at the band’s attempts. The gasping hiss of the sword’s speech early in the song trails off to an absurd sounding gurgle that prevents it from being taken seriously.
Scythia is a strange machine: a rather watery story that has flashes of inspiration from time to time; music that seems wandering and aimless, yet occasionally hits spot-on to support the atmosphere and plot; vocals that are weak when they’re clean and just plain bad when they’re harsh, but sound like they could improve vastly with some adaptation; and finally, narration that, while having poor lines, is neither too dramatic nor mucked up with an accent. Consequently, this is a mildly enjoyable listen, and I wonder if Scythia is fated for mediocrity or just on the road to properly establishing their sound. Listeners of folk metal may well find something to enjoy here, but the music is eclectic enough that many could find something to enjoy at least passingly.
Dan’s Rating: 2.75 out of 5