Halcyon Way – Bloody But Unbowed – Album Review

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Artist: Halcyon Way

Album Title: Bloody But Unbowed

Label: Agonia Records

Date Of Release: 3 August 2018

Back in Medieval times when Myspace was pretty much the only social media-type outlet online and the Blackberry was the iPhone of its day, I got chatting to Steve Braun, the vocalist with a band called Halcyon Way and prior to that, Ashent. Halcyon Way was an outfit about which I had little or no knowledge at the time. However, Steve was enthusiastic about heavy metal and his energy and my liking of his Ashent performances led me to checking out the Atlanta-based band.

Their debut, ‘A Manifesto for Domination’ was the first record I heard and I was suitably impressed, whilst recognising that here was a band that needed a bit of time and experience to grow into something even better. The promise was there for sure and with subsequent releases, ‘Building The Towers’ in 2010 and then ‘Conquer’ in 2014, the quintet steadily built up a name for themselves in the underground.

It is a little disappointing to note that in 2018, Halcyon Way remain very much in the underground, apparently eluding the gaze of the metal mainstream. And so it is that I am presented with ‘Bloody But Unbowed’, the American’s fourth full-length release, with very muted fanfare within metal circles. Those that know about Halcyon Way are suitably excited about the new material but, beyond that, the ripples don’t extend too far.

It is disappointing because, as ‘Bloody But Unbowed’ demonstrates yet again to those who are willing to listen, that Halcyon Way know how to write and perform heavy metal music of a high standard. The one criticism that you could perhaps level at them is that there is occasionally a slight lack of focus or, more accurately, an internal confusion about their true identity. On their press release, they are billed as progressive metal but within the body of the release, it openly admits that Halcyon Way ‘cannot be neatly slotted into any sub-category of metal’. This is fine, because I hate to pigeon-hole bands and I’m equally wary about sub-genres. However, what it does maybe suggest is that here is a band that are still a little unsure of where to sit, perhaps borne out of the fact that there have been quite a few line-up changes over the years.

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But having said all of that, it is quite impossible to listen to ‘Bloody But Unbowed’ and not find plenty to really enjoy. Jon Bodan and Max Eve have the skills with the guitars to offer plenty of crunching riffs, melodic leads and exuberant solos. Newcomer Aaron Baumoel is a more-than-handy drummer, laying down a strong beat alongside Skyler Moore, whose bass throbs and rumbles very nicely indeed, surprisingly audible within the final mix. Then there’s Steve Braun who has a huge range to his voice, able to hit the highs but also the gritty lows. There is an element of vocal harmonisation within the band as well as the occasional growled vocals. Indeed, within songs like ‘Blame’, I’m forcefully reminded of Into Eternity, through the vocal delivery, the aggressive riffing and the thunderous rhythm section that then gives way to a strong, sing-along chorus.

It is this latter ingredient that takes Halcyon Way to the next step for me, because the hook-laden choruses are really excellent here. You can really hear the NWOBMH influences in some of the stadium-friendly anthemic passages and melodic solos. ‘Ten Thousand Ways’ is a perfect example of this, a monster of a song that opens with a Maiden-esque melodic lead and huge chorus that begs to be sung at the top of your lungs.

Elsewhere, the electronic elements to ‘Slaves To Silicon’, as well as the bass-hungry stripped-back verses highlight Halcyon Way’s willingness to allow more modern metal influences into their output. By contrast, the moody, thrash intent of ‘Superpredator’ blends with more of a dirty death metal vibe and a stomping rhythm. There’s yet another catchy chorus, but this song ably demonstrates the ability of this band to get heavy and aggressive when required.

‘Primal Scream’ evidences more of a funky, groovy swagger that’s part hard rock, part sleaze and part classic metal, whilst ‘The Church of Me’ offers more in the way of moody atmosphere, accented by some satisfyingly chunky riffing, not to mention more in the way of memorable melodic sensibilities including an exuberant melodic lead break at the midpoint that’s rather arresting in a very good way.

As ‘Bloody But Unbowed’ draws to a close, I can only reiterate everything that I have said before, only just a little more effusively. The more I listen to this record, the more I hope that people will give these guys a go. It isn’t necessarily the most progressive record you’ll hear all year and there are times when their radar malfunctions a bit. But overall, if you like powerful riffs, channelled aggression, melodic power metal/NWOBHM solos and strong choruses, there’s no reason why you won’t like Halcyon Way. If you’ve never heard of them before, now’s as good a time as any to take the plunge.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:

2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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Lux Terminus – The Courage To Be
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Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
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