Band: Halcyon Reign | Album: The Voyage | Genre: Progressive metal | Year: 2019
From: Sydney, Australia | Label: Independent
For fans of: Mastodon, Opeth, Dream Theater
Halcyon Reign are a trio hailing from Sydney that play a brand of progressive metal which borrows heavily from Mastodon’s most-acclaimed era. It’s sludgy yet melodic, complex yet accessible, and a successful album overall. However, some of the Mastodon influence can be a bit on-the-nose. The most egregious example is the album artwork. Mastodon’s Leviathan, a retelling of Moby-Dick, features striking artwork of the white whale and the Pequod. Similarly, The Voyage—while not based on Moby-Dick, as far I can tell—features a monstrous white whale charging at a ship.
Moving past the artwork, though, The Voyage stands on its own as a strong, enjoyable album. Many riffs are rooted in sludge metal, but the band incorporate other influences, including jazz and folk, to create smart contrasts and interesting textures.
“’Welcome Reality’” opens the album with riffs which are equal measures Mastodon and Opeth, stampeding under snaking scale runs. Overdubbed acoustic arpeggios are an unexpected element here as well. The vocal melody, while not the most original, is strong, and the vocals (to a degree) remind me of James LaBrie in his prime.
“The Kraken” moves at a slower pace and has a less-enveloping atmosphere than the opener. This song’s roots feel closer to traditional doom metal, though the verses are presented with a sludgier edge. The instrumental moments in the song’s second half have some fun with time signatures. It’s nothing particularly technical, but the rhythm is off-kilter and always shifting. “Beyond the Cape” is the most overtly proggy track on the album. The chorus is big and melodic, and the moments in between riffs are engaging and complex. Keyboard flourishes are used to great effect.
The Voyage closes on its title track, a strange amalgam of classic prog metal tropes and jazzy flourishes. It’s an enjoyable song, but the different elements can feel a bit disjointed, which does detract. Similar weaknesses can be heard on “Peleliu”, where it sounds like there were a lot of ideas but not a particularly coherent way of stringing them together.
This is a good debut album. Halcyon Reign have laid down six tracks of pretty solid progressive metal, but there is room for improvement. Some of the songs felt like they lacked direction or were otherwise unfocused, and the deployment of jazz touches felt especially scattershot. The DNA for more great music is there. They’ve got the chops and no shortage of ideas. They just need to figure out how to better harness those elements.