Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Halcyon Way - Building The Towers
   
Musical Style: Heavy Metal Produced By: Lasse Lammert & Jon Bodan
Record Label: Nightmare Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2010 Artist Website: Halcyon Way
Tracks: 10 Rating: 95%
Running Time: 59:17
Halcyon Way - Building The Towers

Atlanta, Georgia based Halcyon Way has released its second critically acclaimed album in three years, an accomplishment certain to boost the enthusiasm of metal fans worldwide and confidence of this talented five piece unit.  The group got its start by putting out a four song demo in 2002, Blind Eyes To The Sky, and a three song EP two years later, Deliver The Suffering, prior to signing with Nightmare Records for its 2008 full length debut A Manifesto For Domination.  Halcyon Way returns on Nightmare Records in 2010 with its sophomore outing Building The Towers.

Halcyon Way describes itself (at its website) as (joining) “instantly catchy melodies, precise vocal harmonies, incendiary guitar work (and) intricate yet pounding drums” (with) “vocals that carry both melody and aggression”.  The group further guarantees “you will be pummeled with the punishing riffs while being hopelessly entranced by the unforgettable hooks”.

Now, rarely have I encountered a band do a better job hitting the nail on the head in terms of describing its sound.  Specifically, what we have in Building The Towers is a melding of a variety of forms of metal, including power, thrash, melodic and progressive, with the end result a work every bit as diverse as it is accessible.  Just imagine the progressiveness of Dream Theater and Fates Warning joined with the thrash heavy riffs of Testament and Believer- but all the while built around melodic based songwriting not unlike Queensryche or Theocracy.  Mixed in you will find both clean and harsh vocals.

Yes, a bit of variation, but does it work?  It all comes down to songwriting, a particular in which Halcyon excels- and plays a significant role in garnering the 95% grade in the process.

Thrash influenced tracks such as “Rise To Revise”, “Death Of A Dream”, “The Age Of Betray” and “Building The Towers” hit like a ton of bricks while proving surprisingly melodic at the same time.  Speaking of melody, the group might bring a lighter touch on “The System” (classic melodic metal) and “Mouth Without A Head” (as close any of the albums material comes to ballad territory) but proves it can compose a piece every bit as notable.  Where Halcyon Way puts it all together is on its more progressive material, in that “Inversion”, “Icon Of Resolution” and “Inside Looking Out” highlight a technical and creative flair matched by only a select few.

There are two things that impress me about Halcyon Way: 1) How the group refuses to be pigeonholed in terms of style classification.  Again, a diversity of influences here, which cannot help but leave you impressed with how Halcyon Way merges so many different types of metal and make it “work” in the process.  2) The all out melody to the group’s material.  No matter how heavy, fast, hard hitting or progressive a song might be, each one brings that notable hook or riff that would separate it from the rest and allow it to remain in your head for some time.

As already stated, you will find both clean and harsh vocals here.  Well over 90% are clean, with those on the harsher side of things taking a co-lead vocal role on two songs and backing role on two others.  Clean vocals are ably handled by Steve Braun, who brings a classic tenor style that hints somewhat at Lance King.  He remains perfectly in step with the albums material in showing the full range to his voice on softer pieces such as “Mouth Without A Head” but can also showcase a lower register, as can be found on “Desecration Day”.

Musicianship, as one might imagine, proves a strong point.  The guitar team of Jon Bodan and Zane shine with their stunning guitar harmonies (check out “The System”) while helping lend to the albums all out heaviness.  Bodan handles all lead guitar duties.  At this point it must be reinforced how Halcyon Way makes effective use of its instrumental sound but not to the point of overdoing it, as can be the habit of some progressive based bands.  Needless to say, the likes of “Death Of A Dream” and “Inside Looking Out” highlight some tasteful instrumental moments that allow him to showcase his abilities.

A solid rhythm section can be found in drummer Topran (his non-stop double on “Inversion” borders on the mesmerizing) and bassist Kris Maltenieks (he lays down an awesome bass line on “Icon Of Resolution”).

Production is excellent for the genre in helping contribute to the final 95% score.

While not a Christian band, Halcyon Way does include several Christian members.  Primary lyricist Jon Bodan was previously in the Christian metal band Final Judgement while lyrical contributions are also made by Zane, who thanks “God (in three persons)” in the liner notes, and Steve Braun, a former member of Siloam.

Lyrics, as taken from an online interview with Bodan, are “politically themed” but “not about 9/11”.  Rather, they are “more about how we as a society are trying to rebuild the Tower Of Babel, and how our country has really strayed from what it was founded upon. There’s such an entitlement mentality these days, and it’s destroying us.”

Track By Track

Album opener “Rise To Revise” represents all that works well with Halcyon Way, joining double-kick drum action and a tasteful blending of clean and aggressive vocals with a melodic proclivity that will have you returning time and again.  This one embodies the group’s penchant for heaviness and melody in no uncertain terms.  Lyric snippet:

Again we face into the void
Embrace the fear - grace the toil
Our blood is soaked into the soil
The people cry freedom

To build it up we tear it down
Bring the old men to the ground
And banish now this treachery
The people cry freedom, the people cry freedom

An exercise in contrasts can be found in “Death Of A Dream”.  On one had, the bands ever present growled vocals make a forceful impact, but on the other, the smooth and melodic harmonizing of Braun cannot be denied.  In between some very tasteful instrumental excursions make their presence felt.  Lyric snippet:

My minds no longer my own
Persecuted for my thoughts
Motives hidden
They've got no interest in me

Dreams, they are grounding out
Like a flame that's been snuffed out
Desire's been crushed
Give me faith to believe

“The Age Of Betrayal” also delivers the goods, a hulking metal assault sustained by abundant driving riffs and trenchant double bass but giving rise to the group’s trademark melody emphasis in the process.  Harsh vocals play a lesser role, limited to a short interlude at the halfway point.  Lyric snippet:

In the blink of an eye
We fought for so long
It's a role reversal
It will bring us down - but no out

This is the age of betrayal - you want us down on our hands and knees
This is the age of betrayal - a Judas kiss and silver in your fist
This is the age of betrayal - gleaming in your eyes, the ability to lie
This is the age of betrayal

“The System” hints at classic melodic metal.  The song moves its distance maneuvering between quieter verses upheld by a punchy bass line and catchy chorus in which a heavy set rhythm guitar prevails fixed and firm.  Again, aggressive vocals are held back a bit (not found until the final seconds).  Lyric snippet:

A spike impales your soul
All your worth has been inborn
The fall from grace so hard and cold
The system - you've lost control

Building castles upon nothing
Building towers on the sand
Chasing phantoms through the hall
Waiting for the axes to fall

A touch of the progressive can be found on “Inversion”.  The song brings a technical aptitude, switching between full throttle double bass driven passages, others featuring pounding riff action, an ominous pre-chorus and perfectly flowing melodic based chorus.  It all adds up to one of the bands more creative outputs.  Lyric snippet:

An olive branch held our for appeasement
Taken along with our hand
A gun to the head of logic
Reason already shot out back

An elegant source of irony
The poetry of the newly damned
Dropping the lamp at the golden door
Undermining all for which we stand

“Mouth Without A Head” almost approaches ballad territory.  Beautifully crafted, the song slows drifts its first half to acoustic guitar and orchestration accompanied by female guest vocalist Pamela Moore.  Impetus just starts over the final half, as the rhythm guitar kicks in and compels things to their close in the more forthright manner.  Lyric snippet:

You keep on talking but you're never making sense
Trying to convince me of your high intelligence
But I've heard that faith without works is dead
Just a voice without a face, or a mouth without a head

The words you spit scratch the itch of my ears
But it seems to be enough to stave off everybody's fears
But two weeks later you change what you said
Words without a voice from a mouth without a head

Initiative picks up with “Desecration Day”.  This one brings a union of eerie keyboards and buzz saw guitars while Braun sings in a lower register in adding some edge and grit to his delivery.  Despite the tempestuous environs, Halcyon Way does not forsake its need for accessibility, in that the chorus proves quite gripping in capacity.  Lyric snippet:

The devil's on the horizon
A fiery gale at his feet
"Build your towers unto me"
All your tears, your pleading denied

The threat of war was foreseen
The fist of heaven cracks the sky
Broken souls lie in defeat
Nothing lives when the horsemen rides

“Icon Of Resolution” represents another progressive based moment.  The song descends into periodic frenetic riff explosions but can also temper things for calmer passages upheld by a muscular bass line.  A double bass driven chorus is catchy as all get out.  My favorite part, however, is the final minute as big choir-like backing vocals become the focus.  Lyric snippet:

I stand at the golden door
A watchman against the threat of war
I'll enslave those who would betray
And shelter weary souls who's willingly remain

They came across the seven seas
The weary find their rest in me
On my scale of judgment I will weigh
I judge you by your actions
Feel the wrath of warmth of my embrace

“Inside Looking Out (The Icon & The Ghost)” is the albums longest at eight and a half minutes.  Now, at times lengthier songs can come across a bit trite, but such is not the case here in that we are presented with enough in terms of variety and melody to keep things fresh with repeated listen.  I particularly enjoy the instrumental emphasis while the majestically done chorus is as good as it gets.  More female vocals and choir-like vocals add an emotional emphasis.  Awesome song!  Lyric snippet:

I watch over you
I see the evil that you choose
We fought and died for truth
That you twist and the abuse

I am watching over you
I shed a tear for what you do
From inside looking out
I am the ghost inside your house

“Building The Towers” closes the album strongly.  The song opens its first minute instrumentals to a cool mix of thrash flavored riffs and melodic vocals harmonies.  Things taper to an almost groove-like beat for its first verse, with impetus returning as a bottom heavy pre-chorus and technical done chorus are achieved.  The remaining instrumental moments find the thrash emphasis returning.  Lyric snippet:

Brick by brick and stone by stone
Man will try to reach the throne
What once was now is nevermore
The hand of God hast shut the door

Building bricks of straw and clay
Snow-blind fools will rule the day
You climb in pride but fall in shame
The fist of God will smite thy name, smite thy name

How many albums in your collection can you honestly say EVERY song is great?  Not many, huh?  Well, Building The Towers is one of the few in which I can actually make that statement.  It all comes down to the group’s insistence on imbuing its material with equal parts heaviness and catchiness, a particular which compels me back to the project time and again.  In the end, this rates with the new Darkwater as album of the year (for 2010).

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Rise To Revise” (5:40), “Death Of A Dream” (6:01), “The Age Of Betrayal” (5:13), “The System” (5:02), “Inversion” (5:49), “Mouth Without A Head” (5:40), “Desecration Day” (5:09), “Icon Of Resolution” (5:45),  “Inside Looking Out (The Icon & The Ghost)” (8:20), “Building The Towers” (6:32)

Musicians
Steve Braun – Lead Vocals
Jon Bodan – Lead Guitar & Programming
Zane – Rhythm & Acoustic Guitar
Kris Maltenieks – Bass
Ernie Topran – Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians
Pamela Moore – Vocals
Silke Thomsen – Cello
Dan Scott – Keyboards & Programming

 

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