I admit, I sometimes forget folk metal actually exists. Sure, I toss around the term frequently when discussing Opeth, but rarely do I ever bring forth what the term actually means. I often forget the music of great bands such as Wuthering Heights or Skyclad. That's one reason listening to Canadian group Scythia's latest album ...Of Exile was so fascinating for me; it revived an interest in a genre I had almost entirely forgotten about.
In general, the album sounds a lot like Ayreon circa The Human Equation, with strong overtones of Alestorm and Powerglove. You can also hear slight progressive and neoclassical influences; it's clear these guys have studied their Symphony X. Though Scythia's composition skills are relatively solid overall, the album does feel like it lacks inspiration. They are quite set in and dedicated to their brand of mediæval metal, and as a result, a lot of the tracks have this droning plod to them that make them not just more authentic, but a bit more lethargic as well. The flat out metal parts do blend very well with the more overt folk sections, however--certainly something to Scythia's writing credit. There's just a general sense of malaise that bogs down the album ever so slightly.
Additionally, the folk instruments are toned down just a bit too much in the mix. While you can certainly hear oboist Morgan Zentner, it feels like she's almost an afterthought to the rest of the album. And when she is readily audible, it is often difficult to audibly reconcile her often docile playing with the rest of the music. That's not to say it's displeasing; quite to the contrary. She definitely avoids the tone qualities that plague other folk metal acts like Arcas. That being said, there's still a sense that something is missing in the mix; the music feels like it wants to be intense, but just doesn't have the power it sounds like it should have.
You probably already know if you're going to like this album or not. If you're already a huge fan of mediæval folk metal like Subway to Sally or the more fantastical veins of power metal à la Blind Guardian, then you're definitely going to like ...Of Exile. Conversely, if you haven't been sold on the genre already, this album isn't going to be the one that does it for you. ...Of Exile is a fun album, and it doesn't take itself too seriously. (Does any band that considers a kilt acceptable attire take itself seriously?) It may not present anything new or challenging, but it's clear these guys are having fun making this music, and that they want you to enjoy it, too. On that level, I'd say they succeeded.
5.0 / 10
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