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Originally published at http://suite101.com
Halcyon Way has been gaining a lot of momentum over the last couple years. Despite a switch in lead singers and the recently treated illness of guitarist/founding member Jon Bodan, they’re acquired some great festival appearances and have two high quality full-length albums to their name. In a way similar to Dream Theater’s A Change of Seasons, this release is somewhere between a full-length and an EP. It’s long enough to be an actual album but the mix of material puts it closer to an EP status. Either way, it does manage to be a pretty solid release.
As the band has noted, this release essentially serves as an extension/sequel of sorts to 2010’s Building the Towers. The music still goes by a good mix of genres under a progressive metal umbrella, the lyric keep the more political themes going, and even the artwork is pretty much of a repeat of that album’s cover with a blue backdrop instead of red. But even though these songs were written and recorded around the same time as the previous album, the band still manages to put a few surprises on here. For the most part, the song structures are complex and not exactly immediate while still offering catchiness. In addition, the title track, originally performed as “Citizen Zero” during a few early performances, stands out for its use of Indian instrumentation and serves as a good reminder for why I wish more heavy metal bands used sitars…
Along with the other things that haven’t really changed, the band still puts on some strong performances. While some listeners may still find the contrast between lead singer Steve Braun’s clean voice and bassist/vocalist Kris Maltenieks’ death grunt to be a bit jarring, it feels like the band is getting to be more comfortable with the dynamic. The guitars are also quite prominent and retain their heavy tone while the drumming express power and technicality.
With the consistency that is achieved by sticking to a previously established sound, the songs themselves prove to be a very mixed bag. That is not to say that they are poorly written but rather that they are a very strange mix of old and new material. We’ve got five original songs that were previously unreleased, a cover song, a radio edit, and even a remix of all things! Predictably, the first five songs are what really make this collection worth looking into. As previously noted, the title track is probably the most memorable track on here thanks to the unique instruments and infectious hook transitions. However, the opening “On Black Wings” and “Our Finest Hour” stand out thanks to their uplifting choruses, “Revolution Is Now” has some more mellow verses and a chugging main riff, and “The Wages of War” just might be the easiest track to get into on here.
The album does dip a bit from there though there’s something to be said for “Stand Up,” a cover song that was originally written by Sammy Hagar and is perhaps best known for the version performed by the infamous Steel Dragon project. Seeing as how the band has been performing it at shows for a while now, it doesn’t sound too out of place and Braun does get some several chances to draw out his wail.
Seeing as how the last two tracks are a radio edit and a remix of two older songs, it goes without saying that you can skip over these if you feel the need. The remix of “The System” is kind of cool if you’re a fan of industrial or just want to hear it performed in a different way, but the radio edit of “The Age Of Betrayal” feels rather pointless. It was an awesomely constructed and accessible song in its original form so this version just feels more incomplete. Of course, that’s also my typical attitude towards edits at work…
While the inclusion of the bonus materials may lead some to brand this as a non-essential purchase, I would say that this is still a good purchase at the right price. It manages to go along with “Building The Towers” quite well and also leaves one wondering how the band will follow this up on future releases. The five songs on this are quite strong and the cover tune does manage to be a good amount of fun, but if anything, this and the new Iced Earth are two metal albums that definitely need to be blared during at least one Occupy Wall Street protest in the near future. Come on, guys, I know you’re out there!
“Our Finest Hour”
“Revolution Is Now”
“The Wages of War”