Stronger overall, but marred by the same flaws
Hot on the heels of their debut release ...Of War from 2010, Vancouver (Canada) based folk metal outfit Scythia has returned with their sophomore effort, ...Of Exile. While Scythia’s debut was hardly the greatest folk metal release that I’d ever had the pleasure of listening to, it did at least entertain, and give the band something to build upon with their next release. And now having given ...Of Exile several spins, it’s clear that the band have improved in their 12 months between releases. But having said that, ...Of Exile still has some glaring problems – most of which were issues that were raised with their debut.
Scythia begins the album with Prelude, while essentially a slower keyboard based piece that features the dual vocalists laying down the conceptual storyline in musical/vocal form. The song itself is good, and the vocal performances are quite well done (especially Derval, who is a great vocalist).
It’s with the follow on track Spirit of the Quest that Scythia really gets the album underway, and immediately shows their limitations. On a musical and composition scale, this track is definitely one of the better examples of what the band are truly capable of. Their blend of folk and metal is well done, and the dual vocal approach is far stronger than when Khan sings solo - and ultimately shows his obvious limitations. But what really brings the song down is the thin production (which was again handled by Shaun Thingvold and the band themselves). Had the production been fuller and more dynamic, things may have been different. But as it stands, the song seems a little held back with its lack of punch and power.
After a short interlude piece (Sleeping Village), the band ramp things up once again with Forgotten Forest, which happens to be one of the best compositions the band have written to date. There’s a touch of everything included here, but not to the point where it all sounds forced and random. Essentially, this is one of the album’s real stand-out cuts.
Despite the band’s attempts of creating a cinematic experience and sense of the epic on Fallen King, the production holds the song back too much to really fulfil its objective. Things do take a turn for the better with the metallic blast of Voice of the Sword and Fortress, where the aggressive vocals and the greater emphasis on guitars mask some of the deficiencies in other areas, while the varied and solid effort For the King, the rather impressive Dies Irae II (a sequel to Dies Irae Pt. 1 from ...Of War) and the Alestorm-like closer Hobarth’s Inn at least finish the album in a consistent manner.
Having heard both of Scythia’s albums to date, it’s hard to say which one is the stronger of the two given that the pair has the same problems. In the end, I’ll say that while Scythia haven’t progressed much from one album to the next, they have at least taken a small step up in terms of making their sound gel a little more, and in their song writing. It’s just a shame that Khan’s vocals and production issues still blight what is otherwise a solid folk/metal album.