American Metal band Halcyon Way have been defying categorization and side-stepping musical labels for over 10 years now and this 4th full-length offering continues to challenge critic’s carefully laid out boundaries. If Metal genres were neat wooden fences, Halcyon Way are walking round the place with a flame-thrower! Which always makes things interesting.
Not for them picking and choosing from mere Thrash, Melodic Death, Power, Speed or Melodic Metal, they want them all….NOW! Yet their sound is not messy or hap-hazard by any means, it’s all well crafted, carefully arranged and delivered with utter conviction. When Halcyon Way get reviewed they are so varied that they mean different things to different people and rarely are their nuances the same twice running…and now it’s my turn.
The title track seems as good a place to start as any, and the elements of the band’s sound that envelop the album are evident from the start. Within the first few minutes I’m reminded of Into Eternity, Agent Steel, Soilwork and…Royal Hunt? Because that’s one of the main things that sets Halcyon Way apart from many others in the speed metal area – it’s this amazing ability to throw in a multi-layered chorus or hook reminiscent of say Stratovarius, Royal Hunt or even Pink Cream 69, without losing any of the track’s intensity or power.
That intensity which Halcyon Way exude carries from track to track. I’m reminded at times of 90’s Metallers Black Symphony, something that kind of bridges the gap between Halcyon Way’s 80’s Speed Metal and their more modern Melodic Death or Thrash Metal sides. The vocals are nicely varied, changing their guise between grunts, a powerful mid-range, and harmonized clean when the music dictates. The music remains heavy, often letting the vocals change the mood so that this way the sound never loses it’s overall ferocity. And the bands that crop up in their sound keep coming – there’s some Evergrey or Borealis at times, but equally there are sprinkles of classic Testament and Helstar.
Basically, there’s all manner of shit going on – this is kitchen sink metal indeed – but Halcyon Way also possess a cohesion that’s down to their overall sound being very much their own. I guess the only slight worry I have is that in the past when a Metal band has tried to be all things to everyone they can alienate stalwarts of certain styles who are unwilling to welcome other influences into their beloved genre. But these are different times and this might just be an elixir for a new audience. Granted, you do have to like all the different styles Halcyon Way incorporate, but I whole-heartedly applaud and encourage musical border smashing and genre defying and in doing this “Bloody But Unbowed” remains interesting and unpredictable throughout. Halcyon Way take plenty of influences from the past, but also blend it professionally and effortlessly with much from the present and end up with something that massively grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)