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Their press release hails HALCYON WAY as “Atlanta's premier heavy metal band”. Well, I'm not familiar with the metal scene down in Georgia, but after a few listens through A Manifesto For Domination, I can find that statement believable. Though generally performing progressive metal, HALCYON WAY is a little more memorable, especially in their choruses, than I typically expect out of the genre. The song structures are relatively simple, and there's no excessive wankery at all. If you're like me, and think that bands like YES and DREAM THEATER go a little over the top sometimes, then that's not a bad thing at all. There are a couple little moments where the song almost seems to skip, but after rewinding it, you come to find that the band just did a little off-kilter fill or brief change of meter to keep things interesting. It's things like this (and the syncopated guitar chugging) that will keep the progressive metal fan entertained.
I particularly enjoyed the title track, as well as “Blind Eyes To The Sky”. Both of these songs felt very heavy, with enjoyable melodic choruses, and a great vocal performance. Singer Sean Shields is (he's no longer with the band as of 2009, and only time will tell how much this changes their sound) one of those fellows who has a deep, slightly rough-edged voice, but seems to have a fair bit of versatility. Personally, I find his lower vocals better (some of the higher singing and especially backing vocals seem to be a little weak to me), and the songs that he stays lower on seem to stick a little more.
There are also a few death grunts thrown in in just a few places, that add a good effect. Something else that HALCYON WAY really have going on for them on this record is a slightly dark atmosphere throughout. The music isn't depressive, nor the lyrical content, just a very mellow and melancholy mood during many of the softer sections.
This is really a great first effort, and has a really polished sound to it. I have a few complaints, and most of them minor. The music seems a bit repetitive at times, and the backing vocals leave a bit to be desired. All else aside, this is a nice little slice of somewhat dark progressive metal, and I think that these guys have a lot going for them in the future.
Originally written for http://www.metal-observer.com/
Based out in Atlanta, Halcyon Way plays a style of metal that’s a little tough to specifically tough to pinpoint. The band uses the technical playing of progressive metal, accessible song structures in the vein of more traditional metal, and a dark atmosphere that gives the album an almost gothic touch. This is the band’s debut album and showcases a band that may have a promising future before them.
Before I go to the actual album, I must say that I was really impressed by the broad distribution that Nightmare Records let this band make use of. I picked this album up at the Best Buy in Cumming, Georgia and was quite surprised to see it there after hearing about the band by means of MySpace. Hopefully this distribution can help provide the band with some commercial success. Then again, maybe it’s just a Georgia thing...
With a few exceptions, most songs seem to follow a pretty set structure. The guitar/keyboard riffs are generally upbeat and most of the songs’ verses spend their time building up to the catchy but melodic choruses. A few ballad moments do occur on such tracks as "The Lonely Road" and the closing melodies of "Physician, Heal Thyself" and some death growls are provided on songs such as "The Hidden" and "Communicate with the Violence" by a Blaze Pearson. Sometimes the songs get a little too similar but they’re generally well thought out and nicely structured.
The one thing that really makes this band stand out is the vocal performance of Sean Shields. A solid singing chameleon, he adopts several different personas over the course of the album. Tracks such as the title track and "Blind Eyes to the Sky" feature gruffer vocals that recall Metallica’s James Hetfield, a Layne Statley imitation shows up on "Disconnected" and "A Thousand Points of Night," and some Ripper Owens-style wails show up on nearly every chorus and within the closing screams of "I Fought the World." He may need to work a little more towards establishing his own character but he does a pretty good job.
Overall, it’s a solid debut worth checking out for fans of Dream Theater, Queensryche, and others of that nature. Here’s hoping for a strong future!
1) The songwriting is almost always accessible
2) Great band performance, especially the vocals
1) The songs sometimes sound a little too similar
2) The band is still working towards finding its own identity
My Current Favorites:
"A Manifesto for Domination," "Blind Eyes to the Sky," "Powderburn," "I Fought the World," and "The Lonely Road"