Scythia – Of War

  • Cole Faulkner posted
  • Reviews


Of War - Self Released

Little known fact: when I’m at a loss for something to listen to, I’ll throw on some medieval power metal.  Blind GuardianIced EarthDemons & Wizards – anything with a larger than life, symphonic quality to it.

That being said, it’s more of a casual fixation than a regular pastime, so I’ve kept my regulars down to a small pool of favourites.  It’s been a while since I’ve added a new player to my cast, but after listening to Vancouver folk metal six-piece Scythia, I think it’s time for an update.

These metal minstrels take exactly what I like about the high stakes fantasy based genre, throwing it all together for the gloriously captivating, larger than life narrative that is …Of War.  Armed with a variety of acoustic and electric strings, keys and violins, Scythia lays the grounds for an adventure of Lord Of The Rings proportions.  The very fate of the world hangs in the balance of six nameless heroes as they embark on a thankless quest that will undoubtedly determine the shape of civilization.

By the elegant strokes of a talented violinist’s bow, and enchanting Oboe from days of yore, the journey begins with “Caspian Rhapsody.”  When narrator Dave Khan hits, his dark, controlled tone sets forth a sense of looming peril over a land formerly at peace.  As if to hint at a now dying god, the soft, fading whisper of a woman echoes below as together they plead listeners to heed their tale.  Not soon after, “Riders Of Scythia” rolls out an image of ruin heading to the kingdom from the baron outlands, wreaking havoc upon all with the misfortune of falling the path of these mysteriously materializing foe.  They complement the image with big metal riffs, interlaced with melancholy moments of dissent, and solo’s only matched by the scale of the approaching threat.  And as the next track, “The Black Death,” makes clear, a faceless foe already wreaks havoc upon a home front in shambles.  The deep, bellowing “ooohs,” and shadowy, surfacing voices resonate the futility of escaping from a disease “consuming life deep inside.”  To put it lightly, this kingdom is in need of a miracle.

With all hope dissipating, the troupe turns to an unlikely ally deep within a forsaken realm – none other than the figure sharing his title with the track name, “Red Wizard.”  As soon becomes clear from the fleeting violin and menacing vocal change, this is tactic that only succeeds upon a gross ego and lack of faith.  Soon after the heroes embark upon a tireless journey across the land.  Taking an almost entirely instrumental approach in tracks like “Elegy,” Scythia orchestrates a soundscape writhing with trials, hardship, and most importantly, hope.  Instrumentally, these tracks sound as crisp and atmospheric as the highly revered Castlevania soundtrack (an odd comparison, I know, but trust me, it’s flattering) – and as the battle heats up, the instruments assume command, telling the story leading up to the final showdown.

As you can probably tell from my enthusiasm, you can really get into this album after a while.  It strikes a great balance between narration and atmosphere that many fantasy metal groups lack, and as with every good story, new plot details and instrumental embezzlement reveal themselves upon subsequent listens.  As far as I can tell, Vancouver has never turned out a folk metal band of this caliber, and that this is a debut simply astounds.  I can’t wait for the next chapter.