Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Album Review: Scythia - "Lineage"

Canada is rarely thought of as a haven for power metal, but the west coast of the Great White North is the home of Scythia, a full-throated power metal band that flies below many radars, but it quickly ascending into the clouds above.  Their new album “Lineage” sees the band practicing their combinative art of story-telling and orchestrated metal that captures the attention and shows the versatility of the genre.

Like many concept albums featuring an array of colorful characters, “Lineage” is at its best when introducing its villains.  As Scythia bounds into “Laugh of the Tsar,” we see a depiction of a patrician, decadent ruler who scoffs at those beneath him, content to flex his iron will and exert control.  The music here is not filled with particular malice, but instead portrays a carousing recital, making it easy to picture a crowded hall of sycophants chanting in chorus with their liege lord.

Which reflects the best strength of “Lineage,” Scythia easily and comfortably changing color to fit the mood of the various phases of their concept.  “Soldier’s Lament,” in contrast to what we spoke about above, is a much more dour and emotional piece, with thinner melodies and more open space for the on-point vocals to glimmer through.  This same versatility applies when looking at nearly every song on the record, whether the raging thump of “Barbarian,” or the dire tones of “The Sacrifice.”

“Barbarian,” so long as we’re talking about it, might be the album’s best singular experience, a rousing good time that combines the bright colors of Scythia’s preferred tones with the deceptive power that this brand of metal can use in spots.  The song rumbles and rattles but never loses its melody, an excellent brand of brandished muscle and well-constructed scaling.

The only thing that “Lineage” is missing is some threatening edge.  All the pieces of “Lineage” are fine, but for an album that’s creating characters and telling a story, it could use a little more bite.  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Scythia, it’s endemic to power metal as a whole, so we’re not talking about a new problem here.  Nevertheless, a little variance in the attitude or tone, in addition to the musical separation of the songs, would go a long way.

Scythia’s new record is, by and large, a fine example of all the things that this genre can do well, particularly in relation to storytelling and scene setting.  The atmosphere of “Lineage” is spot-on, and the presentation is a good lesson to contemporary bands about how to craft power metal songs that don’t sound stamped out or cliché.  There’s a lot to like here.

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