SCYTHIA
"...Of War"

(Self-Released)

01. Caspian Rhapsody
02. Fierce Riders of Scythia
03. The Black Death
04. Red Wizard
05. Elegy
06. Adamantium
07. Dies Irae Pt. 1
08. Warrior's Anthem
09. Epilogue

RATING: 4.5/10

It is not for lack for trying that "…Of War" falls flat and ends up a middling demonstration of trimmings-and-all folk metal. It is the lack of compelling songwriting, as well as a frustrating degree of disjointedness in the arrangements. What one is left with is an album that is long on ambition and concept, but short on memorable hooks and convincing composition.

Imagery, lyrical themes, and delivery are all in keeping with an approach to folk metal that puts the emphasis on the "folk," yet still drives it forward with metal muscle. The problem is of a twofold nature. The attempts at maintaining a pure level of folk on top of the metallic foundation is successful in terms of instrumentation and spirit, but the melodies just aren't strong enough to carry the tunes and the vocal patterns are more often than not awkward. An exception would be "Fierce Riders of Scythia", a fast paced number with a triumphant, shouted chorus that is, quite simply, a lot of fun, traditionalist cries of cheesiness notwithstanding. Though not attaining the same level of notability, "The Black Death" succeeds in some respects for somewhat different reasons, mainly due to the dynamics at play, including an epic feel bolstered by shifts to spoken parts, as well as decent melody. It is not like either track is destined for folk metal classic status; only that the stars nearly align in both cases, at least from a comparative point of view.

Even in those cases, the album's second major problem cannot be masked by performance effort: the mix is such that vocals, piano, and string melodies are so far out front that riff heft and drum thunder is severely compromised. The thinness of the guitars robs the compositions of their otherwise metallic qualities and the strange mix makes the riffs sound purposefully juxtaposed, instead of separated for clarity. I'm sure that wasn't the intended result (I hope not anyway), but it was the result nonetheless. It is difficult to totally dislike "…Of War" because one can hear the band almost getting there in so many instances; hell, you're almost rooting for them in that regard. Unfortunately, they rarely get to that elusive place known as "there," in part due to those aforementioned alignment issues and in part due to that maddening mix.

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