Viathyn – Cynosure
Viathyn – Cynosure (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
I’ve been kicking and screaming for a new Viathyn since reviewing this Calgary-based power metal outfit’s debut in late 2010. At that time, The Peregrine Way was one of the more novel experiences to have emerged from the Canadian power metal scene, and a refreshing, liberating sort of recording by any measure. Four years later, the quartet has stepped up with a loose conceptual album, entitled Cynosure, and added a substantial level of maturation to its sound.
At first blush, Viathyn’s sound seems to have changed little. The storming opening to “Ageless Stranger” is as furious as any moment from the band’s debut, and vicious guitar leads propel the album out of the gate in a blaze of malignance reflected by the lyrics and the inflection in Tomislav Crnkovic’s vocals, which ring with substantially more emotion than I recall from The Peregrine Way. While the dual guitar leads and solis are extremely memorable and resolve themselves frequently in a fashion that recalls a variation on Celtic folk tendencies, riffing takes a more important place in the band’s formula this time around. While Viathyn’s approach is predominantly and prominently that of a power metal band of the European persuasion, the elongated songs, occasionally irregular structures, cerebral storytelling, and varied rhythmic drive drop more than occasional hints of progressively minded songwriting. This is thinking man’s power metal, to be absolutely sure.
There’s very little for me to criticize, even doing my worst, on Cynosure. Speaking personally, I don’t think Tomislav’s singing is outstanding. He is a very competent vocalist and struggles not at all with range, but while his emotional palette has broadened and his delivery improved all around, he still lacks the sheer power and/or vibrancy of timbre that I feel is necessary for a metal vocalist to truly be remarkable. Additionally, with such a talented bass player in Alex Kot, it’s a shame that he doesn’t cut through more often. Interestingly, it seems Alex himself got a little restless, as he switched things up and contributed a guitar solo on “The Coachman” (a song that is literally “the cat’s meow”, if you listen carefully to the last 30 seconds carefully)!
Everything else about Cynosure is predominantly face-melting. Will it sound familiar to a lot of Euro-power fans? Most likely, but with the particularly strongarmed leads and solos from Jacob Wright and Tomislav (yes, he does double duty), the album easily fulfills wishes for both strong chorus hooks and commanding guitar work. The aforementioned “The Coachman” is a monster of a song, and it’s hardly the only example of what Viathyn is capable of. The slow down for the somber and determined “Time Will Take Us All” is extremely effective before the song erupts halfway through, and “Three Sheets To The Wind”, with its rollicking, shanty-like sound and fiercely memorable chorus, is the most intellectually rewarding “drunk on the high seas” power metal song that you’ll ever hear, hands down! The guitar leads that dominate the first couple of minutes of “Albedo” nearly bring me to tears with melodic bliss, and the closing title track is a ferocious summation of the entire work.
After having grown on me consistently after six or seven listens, I’m flabbergasted by what Viathyn has accomplished. Despite my minor gripes, this band is capitalizing perfectly on all of the promise that was written all over the already-satisfying debut. While the guitars are just as impressive and virtuosic as on The Peregrine Way, and the vocal lines even more touching, both are tempered with a songwriting maturity and sense of purpose that surpasses the debut considerably – and serves to help the songs stand out from each other in a much more effective fashion. Sparing use of harsh vocals, familiar melodies from western Classical music, and a mixture of regional styles and influences goes even further in creating an unforgettable atmosphere. Cynosure sees Viathyn move from a solid foundation to having released a mature batch of power metal songs that meet or exceed my (very high) expectations for front line power metal veterans like Labyrinth, Orden Ogan, and DGM. I give this album an extremely high recommendation to those that like heavy, fast power metal with extremely satisfying twists and quirks. The unparalleled lyricism: often dark, sometimes abstract, and always very vivid, is bound to appeal to progressive fans as well. You just can’t lose with this one.
4.5 // 5