Scythian-Hubris in Excelsis 01If you consider yourself a fan of extreme metal and don’t know the name “S. Vrath,” congratulations, because you’ve got some great listening ahead of you. Emerging in force with Scythian’s debut To Those Who Stand Against Us… in 2009, Vrath has fingerprints all over the place, serving as the driving force behind Craven Idol ‘s vicious Towards Eschaton debut in 2013, along with working as a member of Crom Dubh, Sepulchral Temple, and numerous underground projects. I suppose it’s not much of a surprise it’s taken nearly six years for us to get Hubris In Excelsis, Scythian’s long-awaited sophomore album. Working in earnest since around 2012, Vrath stated it was his intent to “absolutely destroy” the debut, but To Those was a beast of an album – death-thrash that was primal, huge in scope, and savagely catchy. Can Hubris match that fervor, or…

…actually, I’ll cut the crap. Yes, Hubris lives up to the debut. And then some. In fact, it’s difficult to find any issues here whatsoever. In today’s metal landscape, where genre tags feel increasingly meaningless as bands endlessly cross-pollinate from subgenre to subgenre, Scythian is one of the brightest beacons of light. A gnashing-teeth blend of death, thrash, and black metal, with whiffs of the best elements of other fine artists: the intellectually primed thrash of Ares Kingdom, the triumphant grandeur of Deströyer 666, and the unhinged aggression of Angelcorpse. Whereas To Those was a solid album that was largely lost in the haze of 2009’s other great releases. Hubris lives up to its name as a boisterous statement of intent, brimming with spunk, ire, and bombast, and garnished by lyrics that flirt with topics as broad as Nietzschean philosophy and dark ecology.

Right from the onset, the monklike choirs and desolate acoustic strumming that augment opener “Beyond the Dust” and early highlight “Apocalyptic Visions” help attain a larger-than-life, almost biblical feel. It’s an effect furthered by the blazing leads that seem crammed into every free measure. The riffing is no slouch either. Take the frantic Melecheshian lead that propels the verses of the title track, the predatory progression and twisted tremolo riff of “Three Stigmata,” or the beat shift that makes the closing of “Penultimate Truth, Ultimate Deceit” feel downright colossal.

But ever since Death’s “Crystal Mountain” made my nipples hard circa 2008, I’ve always felt that one of the signs of a truly great album is how it saves its best moments for the second half, and that’s certainly true here. “The Laws…” apexes with a riff that’s the aural equivalent of getting sliced by a scimitar, while closer “Dystopia” lopes along with a subdued sense of melody in its verses before the choirs return for a monumental finish. And in a delightfully odd twist, penultimate track “War Graves” offers three minutes of spoken word underlaid by some of the most elegant guitarwork on the album, before the distorted guitars triumphantly erupt into the fray.

Scythian-Hubris in Excelsis 02

The biggest difference between Scythian and similar bands, however, is a feeling of looseness. Whether blasting or hammering through thrash beats, one gets the sense that everything is right on the verge of coming undone. As if Vrath is so manic he’s just making up everything on the fly while spitting out lyrics in his rapidly delivered snarl. Likewise, the guitar tone is equally fiery – buzzy, ragged, and clear, while retaining a piercing blackened death edge. Don’t let the DR fool you – the production is full and lively, and I could barely believe the range was really that low until I measured it myself.

Listening to Hubris gives one the sense that there will always be more to chew on, always another layer left to peel back. At nearly 47 minutes, it’s incredible how many ideas are stuffed into the runtime, and flaws are practically non-existent. I guess a few more standout moments in the first half would have helped, and the occasional spoken word feels a tad cheesy at times, but that’s it. It’s a paradox that such a barbaric and raw album obviously took such care to craft, and listening to it has me throbbing with pleasure knowing there are still bands that won’t settle for shitting out a new album every two years just to follow the norm. Sure, it may be another six years until the follow-up, but if that’s the case I think I already know what my top album of 2021 will be. Hubris In Excelsis is more than a great record, it’s a goddamn celebration of extreme metal that even casual fans should seek out. Bravo, Vrath.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hells Headbangers
Website: scythiandeath.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/scythian
Release Worldwide: August 21st, 2015

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  • Martin Knap

    Good shit. Good review.

  • Roquentin

    Part Sodom, part Nile, 100% awesomeness. Hells Headbangers are on a hot streak.

  • Ugh. DR4. I’ll give this a whirl anyway.

  • sir_c

    Talking about the looseness, I heard the two embedded tracks on BC and this band shows that same uncontrolled viciousness as early Slayer and Metallica.
    Which Is Good. I’ll definitely go out and check it.

  • Thatguy

    Thanks for the review – good stuff.

    This was already on my Bandcamp wishlist and the review has reminded me that I must get it.

  • PanzerFistDominatrix

    Couple of questions:

    “…brimming with spunk…”
    Wait, the album is overflowing with ball juice?

    “…Death’s Crystal Mountain made my nipples hard circa 2008…”
    Symbolic came out in 1995 – it took 13 years for your nipples to stand up for that sexy beast of a song? Damn, that’s some serious foreplay to get you in the mood.

    Anyway, the review makes me wanna hear the album, thanks :-)

    • Grymm

      “Symbolic came out in 1995 – it took 13 years for your nipples to stand up for that sexy beast of a song? Damn, that’s some serious foreplay to get you in the mood.”

      Someone’s not heard of the term “slow burn”. ;)

    • Angel R. Suarez

      What, you think the vocalist gargled water to pull off those textures?

      • PanzerFistDominatrix

        “Start with straight shots and then pop bottles,
        Pour it on the models,
        Shut up bitch, swallow,
        If you can’t swallow,
        Shut up bitch, gargle”

        You know, there’s a Lil Wayne quote for so many moments in life. Weezy always spit that knowledge… can I get an ‘Amen’?

  • Von M.

    Thanks Angry Metal Guy for giving our vocalist credit for every note on the album and every band he’s ever played in. He’s turning into a delusional bastard and might need to be knocked down a peg or two. Save it for album 3… ETA 2030.

    Great Review!

    Von M.
    SCYTHIAN

    • Dr. Scorpion

      Why such a low DR score?(other than that the two tracks on bandcamp are amazing.!!)

    • Angel R. Suarez

      I noticed the vinyl is Out of Stock on the website. Any chance of a repress in the near future?

      Also, in my experience, smashing knees with baseball bats helps bring people down to earth.

  • Excentric_1307

    I’m loving the two tracks available on Bandcamp! It sounds great… except for the whole loudness thing. It does sound great for a DR4, but, the drums seem pretty lost back there somewhere. I might order this on vinyl, hoping it opens up a bit more.

    • Ditto. Lively isn’t exactly how I would describe this kind of production.

  • renjin_3

    This didn’t bring to mind Melechesh until I read the review, and you know… you nailed it.

    I gave Enki higher marks than AMG, but if Hubris in Excelsis follows suit (songs on Bandcamp are killer!), this will be a masterpiece!

  • Luke_22

    This sounds excellent, killer riffs and a real vicious streak. Really dig Craven Idol so this sounds right up my alley. Great review.

  • Elton Chagas

    Where were these guys hiding?

    AMAZING!!!

  • Wilhelm

    This is some well written blackened death/thrash. The low DR score doesn’t really reflect any overproduction or intentional compression – it sounds more claustrophobic; It still could be fuller in dynamics but as it stands it’s pretty impressive.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    This is one of those albums for which you could go insane for an hour or two! Just awesome!

  • AddicoInABox

    First thought was “This must be on Hells Headbangers.” Rarely am I ever let down by anything coming out of there.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I like the reading of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est. They should play that in High Schools as a way to get kids into poetry. I’m reminded of my Romantic Lit prof who, on the day we were covering Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, played the Iron Maiden song at the start of class.

  • metalhead

    uuugh the guardian, IM DYING

    • PanzerFistDominatrix

      Bizarre comments 9 months later… but please, read The Sun if you fancy :-)