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Pythia - Shadows of a Broken Past

Pythia - CD Review
Shadows of a Broken Past





CD Info
Golden Axe
10 tracks
English lyrics



Pythia has a little head start on other Femme Metal acts. Their vocalist has been doing this for a while, in a number of formats. Emily Alice Ovenden works with this band but also tours with other groups, Mediaeval Baebes being the best known. Within that group, Emily Alice is one of several outstanding vocalists, that’s why they’re one of the biggest names in that particular genre. With Pythia, Emily gets to hog all the attention, and she does it with style. This is the third re-lease of the band and they seem to be growing with each release. I’m not suggesting Emily Alice sounds substantially better here, she always sounds good. But with this one, there’s a growth in terms of the production, the song writing and other components. There’s also a movement to-wards a direction the Brits seem to be enamored with these days, not sure what you call it, a reflection of the glorious days of yore in Britt land or something. We’re getting a lot of that these days from British bands. You get some of it with Russian bands as well, guess they have a level of appreciation for their history that Americans don’t. But then, most Americans aren’t all that familiar with American history, they think the Civil War was between some Europeans and someone in Boston, maybe. Anyway, it provides some interesting thoughts for this production and we’ll take a closer look here shortly.

I did ask guitar player Ross White for a comment regarding the focus of the release, just to get that perspective covered. His response, “ I actually think it is important for people to take their own meanings and interpretations from lyrics. After all, that is how we really connect emotionally with songs, by relating it to our own thoughts, feelings and experiences. Songs can have different meanings to different people, that's the beauty of art. It isn't a concept album. Each song is it's own tale. However I would say there is one theme that appears on quite a few songs through-out the album, and it is related to the album title (which is a lyric from 'The Key'). That theme is of facing the past, overcoming it and moving on to a positive future.”

Beyond the historical perspective and the general tone of the lyrical work, this production also seems to have grown in musical complexity. Don’t know if it’s electronic or what but there’s a lot of sound here, and more vocal than just Emily Alice doing a single vocal. And that’s a general theme here, these guys are working hard to get better. They were never bad, I liked their first release, I covered their second but there is a noticeable movement forward with this one. Now, obviously, there is a lot you can do with a voice like Emily Alices’ and they’ve worked overtime to expand that part of the package. But, with this one, the guitar work seems to have expanded, the background material is larger and the overall sound is vastly expanded. Lyrics, well, I do tend to favor the dark Gothic, but, these are sufficiently interesting to keep up my interest level. And, on occasion, they do tend towards those directions I prefer, if in a British kind of way.

Well, individual tracks reveal what this release is all about so lets get to the subject. They did a fookin’ masterful job of deciding on which track should lead off the party. The King’s Ruin jump starts things in a way that truly reflects what we have to anticipate. You get an epic intro, followed by a choral-like thing that sure sounds Arthurian. But then the metal kicks in and we get down to business. Emily Alice brings us up to date on where it’s at Effendi, and she take no prisoners:

She came on a mighty steed across the desert sand
She came with a blade of steel and a burning in her hand
And oh, she sought revenge, from he who did her wrong
And oh she would not rest for all the souls gone

The second track takes us to an even more profound understanding of that British reverence of the Arthurian mystique. But, with this one they get help. There’s an introduction from revered British actor Brian Blessed that puts things in perspective. The words are from Pope Urban II in 1095. Don’t know the dude but he was clearly an orator of the highest level. First time I heard it I almost hid my vodka bottle and my illicit drugs, it’s truly a voice of authority. But, he’s only there to introduce the subject matter, your drugs are safe. But you quickly recognize the subject matter, even if Brian’s intonation didn’t frighten you into a life of catholic sobriety:

There is a sword beneath the sea that can hold back war’s misery
Within a kingdom lost in time, inside a child’s mind
It holds the key to endless peace, and so our search can never cease
Our only hope for happiness and end to distress
One fine day we will be saved

Clearly, the highlight of the release is the Highwayman. Doncha fookin’ know they don’t have a fookin’ vid. Here you get something of an Irish tone to things. The music is Irish, the lyrics fol-low the tone. We get some nice keyboard intros, as every Irish track requires. The metal is slightly downgraded but, you never notice it, especially with the symphonic stuff towards the end. Emily Alice sounds like a lass from the Everlasting Green, but, that symphonic takes us to a killer ending. The lyrics are extracted from a poem by the poet Alfred Noyes:

His love had died a year ago, a bullet in her breast
The deadly shot a warning that he soon would be next
And so they found him on the road and they killed him like a dog
But still he rides to meet her in moonlight and in fog

Ahh, sure and it’s a lovely song of the Green, and damn close to the Gothic.

Yellow Rose is a bit softer for the most part. With this one most ‘murikans will be thinking of the John Wayne movie of the same, or similar title. Not good, don’t think the Brits are familiar with that one. And Big John never had a guitar player to kick our the jams like this one does. Emily Alice goes slightly over the top vocally here, don’t think Big John could have handled it. But the following track, Your Eternity, might have been more in line. This is the ballad of the release. Emily goes Mediaeval Baebes with this one, at least up until the part where the metal kicks in.

The Key take us back to pounding metal. You get the feeling Emily Alice just sits around with the Baebes wishing they’d kick it up a notch and this is where she gets her revenge. The metal pounds, the lyrics are quick and to the point. Emily seems to be having fun with this one, and so are the guitar players:

Push, pull, you’re the fool / You’re the one who knows it all
Every day you walk away / Just to find you’re here to stay
You’re up, down, going round / Never find some middle ground
Live your life inside a cage / Only you had time to make

Shadows seems to have a little for everyone. Fine music, well composed and performed, some interesting ideas that take us to a variety of locations, both past and present, and one of the premier vocals in the industry. In fact, the only thing I’d like to see more of would be some more focused choral involvement. Interestingly enough, I think I know where Emily Alice could find some folks for that. Just a thought.