From outward appearances alone – cover art, band photos, track names, etc. – everything paints SCYTHIA, and their sophomore album, “…Of Exile”, as a run-of-the-mill Viking/Pagan/Folk Metal band. And therein, I believe, lays the problem for many listeners. Head over to Google and check out some reviews of these Canadians’ material, and most is not favorable. Now, I may be off base, but I’m willing to bet some of that comes from the confusion caused by actually listening to their music. You see, SCYTHIA is in no-way normal, or “run-of-the-mill”.
While Folk music is a key feature in “…Of Exile”, it’s hardly the only one. In fact, SCYTHIA mostly defies easy categorization, as their sound is all over the place. There’s Folk Rock akin to JETHRO TULL, Progressive segments similar to 70s cult act NEKTAR, acoustic sections that bring to mind BLACKMOORE’S RAINBOW, and narrations that wouldn’t be out of place on a BAL-SAGOTH album. Stylistically, “…Of Exile” is all over the map, which brings about an interesting, if often disjointed listen.
“Prelude” gives a decent idea of what to expect, with keyboard-produced orchestrations, and intertwined male and female vocals. The first proper track is wear the listener can be sure that they’re in for something different, as the guitars possess a jaunty 70s vibe, backed by folksy keys. The strongest tracks are found right in the middle of the album, with “Fallen King”, “Voice Of The Dead”, “For The King”, and “The Fortress”, as these are amongst the most “Metal” songs on the album (especially noting the guitar work on “Voice…”).
Besides tightening the songwriting, and finding a good niche for themselves (rather than the everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach), the biggest nitpick of the album is the mix. The album is little thin and muddy, but there are lot worse sounding albums out there, so “…Of Exile” gets a pass, especially since it is self-produced.
What it all boils down to is this: how adventurous of a Folk Metal fan are you? If Viking/Pagan/Folk Metal is your thing, and you also happen to enjoy the other genres listed above, then “…Of Exile” is likely to provide you some enjoyment. It’s certainly unorthodox, and far from perfect, but I personally find it more enjoyable with every listen.
(Online January 3, 2012)