Scythia – Of Exile

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews

Scythia

Of Exile - Self Released

Last year, Vancouer folk metal minstrels Scythia wowed the metal world with their debut …Of War.  Unique amongst their peers, they breathed new life into a soundscape dominated by the likes of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth.  A year later and the battle-clad group of warriors return with a new chapter of mythos to their expanding lore with …Of Exile.  But if you were one of the few that thought the now quintet (former sextet) held any reserve in embracing their fantasy folk inspirations then their sophomore offering should slay any lingering doubt.

Boasting full-blown narration, atmospheric trimmings, and a cinematic scope typically reserved for Hollywood epics (I’ll get my typical Lord Of The Rings comparison out of the way early on), …Of Exile is first and foremost a vivid experience.  While previous efforts often found the band letting the music tell the story in instrumental, right from the opening notes Scythia takes command as the undisputed guide of your thoughts for the next forty-five minutes.

Opening delicately with a scene-setting “Prelude,” Dave Kahn’s dark, menacing whispers twist ominously within a beautiful web of keys and wind instruments.  Here Morgan Zentner and Scott T. Thompson gracefully bear their respective “Oboe Of Death” and “Keys Of Oblivion,” meeting listeners with a rare elegance in the metal world.  Upon entering the album’s chief conflict, Kahn finally crunches down on his guitar as he raises his voice to stress the magnitude of betrayal thrust upon our subject and freshly exiled monarch from his kingdom.

From here the band invites listeners on a surprisingly introspective look into the mind of a wandering king.  There’s the initial stage of shame and defeat (“Fallen King”), an engulfing deal with the devil that finds our hero succumbing to an inviting evil within an ancient heirloom (“Voice Of The Sword”), a struggle for redemption, and rise from the ashes.  Those familiar with …Of War might even recognize the shout out to “Adamantium,” the sword that once protected the Scythian kingdoms from the Eastern riders.  It’s a perfect tie in and great first step in building their own mythic lore that will no doubt inform future works.

The band doesn’t shy away from integrating sound effects to embezzle their journey.  At first I anticipated that the sounds of rustling of leaves beneath hooves, distant chirping of birds, and vengeful battle cries might place a damper on replay value; but it soon became clear that these segments could be relived with the same welcome comfort as a good movie.  In an early example, the passage bridging “Spirit Of The Quest” and the gypsy-inspired “Sleeping Village” engages the imagination, hinting at visual accompaniments that segway perfectly into the haunting whispers of “Forgotten Forest.”  Never used in excess, sound effects compliment a lush soundscape ranging from merciless to serene.

Finally there is the matter of the band losing their violinist.  While Scythia’s former violinist’s delicate strokes are sorely missed, they don’t undercut the group’s vision.  In his absence Zentner and Thompson step up their own contributions, achieving a bigger medieval folk vibe than ever.  I’d love to see a new violinist join the troupe somewhere down the line, but as …Of Exile proves, Scythia can carry on just fine as a quintet.

So if you’re looking for a cinematic dose of folk metal, Scythia has your back.  Whether you’re a returning, armour clad mega-fan or fresh faced newcomer, …Of Excile is surprisingly accessible and easy to get into (my wife actually sat through this predominantly metal based outing purely on her love for all things medieval).  Even metal purists should get some good mileage out of the final few songs and their solo-heavy narrative climax.  With …Of Exile, Scythia solidifies that they’re a forced to be reckoned with.  Bring on the third chapter.