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3 stars The grass is always greener down under...

The debut EP from one of Australia's up and coming prog metal talents.

I first heard these guys on the 'Honor Thy Drummer' tribute album and was blown away. They stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the bands and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this release. It did not disappoint. Whilst this area of metal is a bit of crowded market these days, Halycon have definitely forged a unique sound which incorporates both technical and post-metal elements, alongside a generous serving of fusion with experimental textures. These jazz elements are especially noticeable on tracks such as Noodle 2, Nesting and Django Fett, a modern tribute to the legendary guitarist of the 1930's, Django Reinhardt.

Despite truly excellent guitar-work throughout, the individuals tracks don't feel quite as full as previous works which had a more prominent keyboard input. Aside from laying down some nice atmospheres, the only other noticeable synth comes in the form of (what sounds suspiciously like) a broken bar-code scanner.

The Verdict: A highly consistent debut, I would recommended 'Pastures' to fans of Canvas Solaris and Guthrie Govan.

Report this review (#459363)
Posted Sunday, June 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Pastures' - Halcyon (7/10)

Australia is a fairly underrated place for metal, and I have no doubt that the land from down under will be playing a bigger role in the future music scene. Halcyon is one such band that comes from Sydney, and as I am surprisingly rare to say so nowadays about modern progressive metal, I must say that I am impressed with what the band has done with their first legitimate album. 'Pastures' is a technically sound and adventurous outing from this two person group, and hopefully an indicator of good things to come from them.

Much of the sound here is led by the well-rounded guitar work of Plini. Backing the guitars up is the considerably less startling, but keen keyboard work and atmospherics of Allen. Although tossed into the label of 'djent' (meaning math metal with a trademark palm-muted guitar technique), there is much more going on here than rhythmically off-center riffing. 'Noodle I' starts 'Pastures' off with a sound that is surprisingly atmospheric and even mellow, with Plini exploring the guitar neck with both technicality and tastefulness. Halcyon begins this trek sounding more akin to a Jeff Beck or even Steve Vai album more than anything. Although things eventually get much heavier and typical of 'djent', Halcyon makes it clear that their sound is based around the art of lead guitar, and as a result, the rhythm section seems to falter a bit. The programmed drums are functional, but quite obviously lacking anything in the way of feeling, and are also turned far enough down in the mix to feel like an error more than an artistic choice. As 'Pastures' goes on, it becomes impossible not to concentrate on the lead guitars, as Plini's work here is incredible and well-rounded through both the more downtuned riffs, subtle plucking and melodic, sometimes jazz- infused solos.

The keyboards here feel quite largely overwhelmed by the guitars here, to the point often where they are difficult to notice until the second or third listen. That is not necessarily a problem however, as the guitarwork is so well done as to keep 'Pastures' afloat virtually on its own. On top of the progressive metal and blistering electric guitars, there is also some incredible slap acoustic guitar work that often reminds me of early 20th century guitarist Django Reinhart (humorously referred to in the track title 'Django Fett'). Barring that, this is an affair for electric guitar; someone looking for a more balanced band effort can look elsewhere. While I may have liked a quite a bit more meat on the bones of the rhythm section, the guitarwork of Plini easily rivals that of contemporary 'djent' guitarist Tosin Abasi, of Animals As Leaders.

A great album and promising note for modern progressive metal.

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Posted Wednesday, July 20, 2011 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
3 stars Halcyon's Pastures is an intriguing blend of heavy metal and various textures of jazz. Most pieces are microcosms of the album, featuring abrupt transitions in volume and style. The album is dominated by the guitars and the drums, painting with a heavy brush on a thin canvas, as it were, yet backing off every so often to add more delicate touches. For such an eclectic instrumental metal album, it is a shame that several compositions are smudged with overstated drumming. Overall, it is a pleasing fusion of jazz and metal, but is more likely to satisfy fans of the latter.

"Noodle" Immediately one is reminded of David Gilmour on the opening of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," yet this piece builds far more quickly, growing from light rhythms to heavy, chugging finesse. The mirrored lead guitar is a fine technique, adding depth to an already intriguing theme. Very clever lead lines are to be found here.

"Noodle 2" A dashing acoustic guitar weaves its way around rampant drumming. I like that the band tries to intermingle these two elements, but there just seems to be too much of the latter and the contrast is marred.

"Firefly" Astringent electric guitar chars through, burning a pathway for further lead work, which is again sadly buried by overplayed drums.

"Waterfall" Awash with sound, this is closer to heavy post-rock, and is interspersed with dazzling lead work, both of the clean and distorted varieties. All in all, a very lovely and ephemeral piece of music.

"Intermission" The dream-like quality presented here reminds me of the soundtrack of an old black and white movie, maybe a romance of some sort. It is calm and pretty.

"Noodle 3" Returning to the grunge (albeit momentarily), this musical maze transitions suddenly from metal to smooth jazz. Easily the least coherent piece on the album, it shows the band's technical ability but remains confusing in terms of composition.

"Django Fett" The title of this track amused me, and gave me an idea of what to expect, except that idea was shown to be way off. I'd compare this track to what it might sound like if Eric Johnson turned his hand to post-metal (perhaps with Joe Satriani sitting in). The old-timey acoustic interlude in the middle is more like what I thought the track would consist of.

"Nesting" Mostly consisting of light clean picking, there are some pleasing riffs and runs throughout this nimble and hopeful track.

"Pastures" The keyboards are most noticeable on this dynamic final track, providing a spacey atmosphere to accompany the simultaneous grating heavy electric guitar and the delicate clean one.

Report this review (#555447)
Posted Sunday, October 23, 2011 | Review Permalink

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