Halcyon Way – “Conquer”


CONQUER-HWSome bands are tough to understand.  In some instances this is just a function of the genre but in others it can be the combination of styles and songwriting that make up the band’s sound.  Halcyon Way is one of those bands for me.  At times heavy, leaning toward perhaps even toward thrash but within the same song also showing the harmonized vocals of hair metal bands.  If you like metal at all that has clean vocals, Halcyon Way is a band you should check out as the musicianship and songwriting is top notch, so keep that in mind as you read through my struggles in the review below.

The Atlanta Georgia-based Halycon Way traces its origins all the way back to 2001.  Obviously working hard behind the scenes and “under the radar”, the band did not release their debut album, A Manifesto for Domination until 2008 but as a testament to their reputation, were able to have Jon Bodan and James Murphy (ex-Testament) produce the album while Lasse Lammert took care of the mixing (worked with Alestorm, Gloryhammer).  For their second album, Building the Towers, the band enlisted current vocalist Steve Braun, had Mike Froedge (ex-Black Label Society) engineer drum tracks, had contributions from Pamela Moore (appeared on Operation:Mindcrime, Queensryche) on five tracks, and once again had Lasse Lammert for mixing and mastering as well as co-producing with Jon Bodan.  Following release of this album, the band went on a European tour with Fozzy and was set to support Stuck Mojo until guitarist Jon Bodan was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo chemotherapy.  During 2011, the band was mostly off the radar while Jon underwent treatment but they did write and record their third album IndoctriNation getting it released late in the year.  Following successful treatment of Jon’s cancer, the band embarked on a large European tour with Delain and returned to the US to begin working on material for their fourth album, Conquer.  This time Jon Bodan and drummer Ernie Topran went to Germany to track drums with Lasse Lammert and Jon handled production on his own.  For Conquer, the band also enlisted Seth von Paulus to assist with vocal production, which must have been a bit of change for him as he is best known for working with Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys.  Since the album has been completed, the band continues to build support on the road, touring throughout the US/Canada with Fozzy and Fates Warning.

Conquer is in several ways a very unique album and not being familiar with the band was a bit of a surprise on first listen.  The uniqueness stems from the variety of genres the band employs in their sound.  They often get tagged with “progressive” as a label, but their songs are all under five minutes, so I’m not sure that fits very well.  The vocals were the biggest surprise for me.  When  Steve Braun starts the singing in “Conquer”, I immediately pictured Vince Neil and the harmonized vocals later in the song definitely show the influence of the vocal production done by a producer known for working with pop artists.  To be honest, this is my least favorite part of their sound as it seems to soften it a bit too much.  The vocals do bring to mind bands like Stryper and perhaps other hair metal bands, but they seem overly soft, at least for my liking.  Mixed in several songs are some harsher “death vocals” that do provide some contrast but really just seem somewhat out of place.  Overall production is very clean and drums especially come through in the mix very well, highlighting the skills of Ernie Topran.  Unfortunately, the guitars and bass seem to be lacking an edge or bite, which does take away from the overall impact of the songs.

Not knowing the band, I kept waiting for the inevitable power ballad to show up, but thankfully, there is not one on the album.  With the harmonized clean vocal opening to “Home”, I was sure this was the power ballad, but the song quickly shifted into some guitar and  style for the verses that was reminiscent of something off Operation:Mindcrime by Queensryche and never looked back.  The more I listen to this album, the more I can see the comparisons to Queensryche and how that would fit, but you would need throw in Vince Neil on vocals and some more influence from bands like Stryper and maybe even attitude from old Skid Row.

Throughout the album there is the contrast between the heavier sounds and the more melodic sections with the harmony-driven vocals.  Songs like “World Comes Undone”, “Militant”, and “Hatred is My Cause”, open with heavy riffs that bring to mind in some cases …And Justice for All by Metallica but then the harmonized vocals come into the mix and the heavier feel is greatly softened and leans heavily toward hair metal with the guitars often following in that shift.  This was the most difficult thing for me to move past as I wanted the songs to stay heavy throughout as the band has talent to really carry some heavy songs.

Rating: 7/10

Written by John Jackson

1. Conquer
2. Web of Lies
3. Conceived in Torment
4. Home
5. World Comes Undone
6. Militant
7. Hatred is My Cause
8. The Poisoned Apple
9. Save Your Tears
10. Every Second Counts
11. King of Ruin
12. Eviscerate the Morning Sun

Band Members:
Steve Braun – Vocals
Jon Bodan – Lead Guitars, backing vocals
Ernie Topran –  Drums
Max Eve – Rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Skyler Moore – Bass, backing vocals

Record Label: Massacre Records, Aug.  2014

Weblinks: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Video for ‘Web of Lies’

Lyric video for ‘Home’


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts