WORDS: Tim Redman
The Scythians were a warlike Iron Age Tribe from the Black Sea region. SCYTHIAN is also a brilliant British band who made quite an arrival in the UK underground metal scene with their powerful and well executed 2009 debut To Those Who Stand Against Us… Combining the aggression of early SODOM and DESASTER with the sheer epic sound of Hammerheart-era BATHORY the band looked to be going places. However the band dropped out of view shortly afterwards and apart from a single track on a split seemed to have vanished.
Then in the early months of this year it was announce that they had signed with renowned underground label Hells Headbangers to release a follow up. Titled Hubris In Excelsis the bands sophomore album promised a maturation of their sound without compromising the iron-fisted essence that made their sound unique.
The first of the tracks on offer here is Beyond the Dust. Beginning with an acoustic guitar and Quorthon style choir-like singing, a carefully laid riff move the track into heavier territory. A powerful slab of thrashy death metal the track blasts along with the spoken vocals and background choir making reappearances throughout the song to great effect. The second, and title, track Hubris in Excelsis kicks straight in and a fast paced drumbeat from drummer J.C. Volgard drives this song ever onward. This pace allows the skill here to really shine through, showing the quality of musicianship the bands members have.
Apocalyptic Visions begins with a Bathory-esque epic feel to it from the combination of the clean vocals and guitarist A. Satyrus’s riff. The riff on offer here is one of the best on the album, driving the epic feel of the song while perfectly maintaining the aggression. This balance is a perfect example of why the band have so much potential to explode onto the wider metal scene. The track finishes with the band slowly winding themselves back down to the slower intro.
The following track has no such regard. As Tyrants Feast kicks off with another great riff and a death grunt, before pounding into a snarling verse. Pausing slightly only so that vocalist S.Varth can cry out on the chorus the track continues to hammer away, switching between raw aggression and melodic guitar solos with an ease that feels like a natural progression before ending abruptly.
Penultimate Truth – Ultimate Deceit also makes use of an acoustic guitar for its introduction, although it only lasts seconds. The track continues the establish pattern of an aggressive pace coupled with powerful riff and snarled vocals laid over a clean choir in the background. The lyrics also illustrate the albums transition away from simpler themes that were present on their debut into more nihilistic overtures, without the pretentiousness that often involves.
The slowest track on the album The Laws… uses spoken vocals more than any of the other tracks present here. Taking its time before returning to the level of aggressive death/thrash on the rest of the album the song somehow manages to avoid feeling out of place. Three Stigmata follows on from this by going straight into another standout riff from an album filled with them. The vocal’s on this track is also an example of the quality on offer, both lyrically and on sheer vocal performance. The track finishes with an atmospheric fade out to set the scene for the penultimate track on the album.
War Graves (Dulce et Decorum Est…) is a reading of the famous World War 1 poem of the same name. On this track SCYTHIAN show that they have been influenced by the centenary remembrance events that have been occurring this year. They provide a background atmospheric before exploding into a short but powerful segment of song behind the second verse. This is a powerful track, perhaps because of the significance of the material used in it.
Continuing straight on from the end of the previous track, Dystopia is a work of nihilistic inspiration. On this track you can feel the band passion to deliver a feeling of despair and anger. From the lyrics dealing with “our histories, our travesties” cried out in an anguished manner to the way that the entire track is tied together with atmospheric sections and bursts of pure aggression leading seamlessly into one another. Another contender for the best song of the album. Clocking in at over 8 minutes long SCYTHIAN make a powerful statement of their unquestionable skill as musicians with this track.
There isn’t much more to say about this album. It’s simply perfect in every way. Blending the pure aggression taken from multiple style of extreme metal and combining it with epic overtones that very few have managed to pull off by themselves, is an incredible feat. The quality of musicianship on offer here is tremendous, with almost every riff, snarl and drumbeat timed and executed perfectly. Most albums struggle to have one or two tracks that stand out in terms of quality. On Hubris In Excelsis SCYTHIAN have nine tracks that feel like they should each stand above the others. None do, simply because every track is a masterpiece. It cannot be stressed enough how much you need to get this album.
Hubris in Excelsis is out now via Hell’s Headbangers