Once a mighty and warlike race of semi-nomadic horseman, the Scythians seem to disappear at the end of classical antiquity. Once the master of a vast swath of Eastern Europe, Scythia eventually began to lose its grip on the region around 330 BC. Driven from the Balkans by advancing tribes of marauding Celts and several Greco-Macedonian armies, they were also threatened from North by their distant kin the Sarmatians.
Facing such powerful opposition Scythia never recovered it's former glory. By the 3rd Century what remained of Scythia had the unfortunate privilege of lying directly in the path of an advancing horde of rapacious Goths. Their arrival subsequently caused a series of dramatic population and cultural changes in the region. Scythia faded away. Their ultimate fate lost in the mists of history. Until now. It turns out they simply became a folk metal band in Vancouver.
The debut album of a band I can only adequately describe as Dragonforce's nerdy Canadian cousin, …Of War is a ridiculous, bombastic and occasionally educational album. I guess when you're band sounds like the end result of a drunken bet made by a bunch of history majors, it doesn't pay to be subtle. Luckily Scythia are blissfully unaware of subtly's existence. Simply reading the album's title proves this well enough. In a stunning display of lunatic guile the band included an ellipsis, a type of punctuation commonly used to denote a deliberate moment of silence, before the album's name. Which means in order to properly say the title you must first take a dramatic pause before continuing. Clearly this band have a sense of humour about themselves. Which is ultimately Scythia's saving grace.
Musically Scythia are very talented. Every band member is rock solid on their respective instrument. The guitar solos in songs like “Adamantium” are very good. Better than I expected from a band at their level. The long whining heavy metal fiddle is even better. “Warrior's Anthem” being among the best fiddle heavy tracks. In their lyrics Scythia plays off the tropes of sword and sorcery for maximum effect. They are full of glorious battle, mist shrouded ruins and even a mysterious red wizard. This instrumental competence and the band's humour ensure that …Of War is an entertaining listen from start to finish.
However Scythia's still need some improvement. They should definitely dial back their use of piano. It is an odd fit and usually detracts from a song's quality, as opposed to adding to it. There are moments of brilliance. “Dies Irae Part I” is particularly good as is the purely folk “Caspian Rhapsody”. However these are exceptions to the rule. The composition of most of their songs are fairly lacklustre because Scythia as a band are fairly ill disciplined. The members seem to take turns descending into long instrumental solos which unnecessarily lengthen their songs and makes the album feel choppy. The vocals of Dave Khan also need major work if this band ever wants to take it to the next level. Better yet find a new lead singer because as it stands right now, they are neither impressive nor menacing.
Folk metal as a sub genre, though still a niche market, has grown considerably since it first took root. There are a decent number of bands doing this music very well and Scythia simply can't stack up to their contemporaries at this time. Even slightly humorous, fantasy or history influenced folk-metal isn't all that rare. Again Scythia do it well enough but I've heard other bands do it far better. For a first full length album however, …Of War is a pretty good start. Hopefully Scythia can tighten up their act and sort out their vocal issues before the next one. If they do, I can see them garnering a cult following fairly quickly.