Scythia - _Of War..._
(Independent, 2010)
by: Mark Dolson (4 out of 10)
I really couldn't get into whatever wares Scythia were trying to ply here. I think they're trying to pull of some strange version of "Canadian medieval battle metal", but it isn't really working -- for me at least. _Of War..._ comes across as a little sophomoric in its attempts at being original, and doesn't really convince me that this band has much to offer that other, more established bands, don't.

This is an eclectic release, featuring quite varied instrumentation -- I'll give it that much. Accompanying the semi-heavy riffs, we've got piano, violin, acoustic guitar, harpsichord, and some synths. It's great that Scythia can incorporate these instruments into their music, but to me, it comes across as rather low grade, folkish, battle metal. Sure, they can play their instruments to an extent, but the catchiness and commanding compositions just aren't there. The songs come across as a little schizophrenic, and lack that needed cohesion to capture the listener's attention. The closest comparison I can make with Scythia is with Finnish titans Turisas, or maybe even the British folk-metal masters Skyclad; however, Scythia, unfortunately, come nowhere close to these aforementioned masters of their folkish and high-flown craft.

The production is sufficient, but the drums are way too weak in the mix, and therefore weaken the overall effort. The guitars, in my opinion, could have been much heavier and cleaner in the mix, too -- just so that their juxtaposition with the acoustic, folkish parts could have been that much more pronounced. There are a few things that really make it difficult for me to accept this album. First, the acoustic guitar solos aren't really working here. There are a few amazing acoustic guitar solos on Tiamat's _Clouds_ and _Wildhoney_ albums that are fantastic, so I use these as my gold standard; but the few acoustic solos on _Of War..._ just aren't really working -- they sound weak and disjointed. Second, the drumming is very lacklustre. For this kind of metal -- which, to me, needs to be very charismatic and bombastic -- you need a very powerful drummer; or, at the very least, a very powerful drum production. Neither of which is to be found anywhere on _Of War..._, unfortunately. Third, I find the vocals very upsetting. With respect to the clean vocals, the singer's fake English accent and overly dramatic approach are just too much for me to take; and the King Diamondesque squeals need to rest with King Diamond (with the notable exception of Ihsahn, who can pull them off beautifully). There are a few gruff-sounding growls in some places, but they're not convincing in any way; and therefore, I'm glad they're only used sparingly throughout the album.

By way of conclusion, if you're into over-the-top folkish metal à la Storm, Finntroll, Turisas, Korpiklaani, Lumsk, Suidakra, Folkearth, Battlelore, Falkenbach, or Arkona, you might want to give _Of War..._ a try; and, you never know, you might find this release interesting. Inasmuch as this is Scythia's first release, all I can say is that I hope their next effort contains some stronger, more convincing song writing, musicianship and production.


(article published 4/11/2010)

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