Released: 2014, UDR
I might be a bit premature in writing my review because I don’t know too much about this band but I do know that I like what I hear. The Scintilla Project, despite being a brand new band and putting out their debut album in September of 2014, is loaded with veteran musicians. I’d hesitate to call it a super-group or even an all-star project, but most of the members have been around for some time. The band features past and present members of a number of British Rock institutions, including Balance Of Power, English Dogs and Saxon.
THE HYBRID is the debut album and they take full advantage of having a famous guest singer by announcing his name on the album cover. I’ve never thought this was a good idea, it takes away from the art and smacks of cheap advertising. A promotional sticker, I can live with but to have the words ‘Featuring Biff Byford’ printed right across the artwork looks cheap. The cover itself is pretty dull and non-descript but the band, not doubt using Biff’s contacts, have ended up on the same label as Saxon, namely UDR. Andy Sneap helped co-produce the album and it sounds just fine, he has done this before and knows how to great sound.
The Scintilla Project reminds me a bit of another classy British Metal band, namely Ten. There is a good amount of smooth keyboards laced among the crunchy elegant guitar lines. The album starts off with a spoken word intro that might make you think it is a concept album about the discovery of alien DNA in a meteorite. Listening to the lyrics the album may have a more modern sci-fi theme running through it but there does not seem to be a whole cohesive storyline with a main character. Accordingly, to the label website the storyline is based on a Science-fiction/horror/action film of the name Scintilla which was later renamed The Hybrid. The songs are dark and somewhat longer than Saxon of Balance of Power songs, with a very slightly more progressive feel, but only just.
THE HYBRID is quite atmospheric with some acoustic guitar, acoustic piano, female back-up vocals, narration (and/or clips from the film) and lots of keyboards and it really does have a bit of a soundtrack feel to it. I must admit it hard to disassociate Biff voice with Saxon. He has sung a song here and there over the years as a guest vocalist, backing vocalist, or narrator for bands like Helloween, Doro, Freedom Call, Destruction, Avantasia and more, but this, I believe, is his first sort of…dare we say it…solo album? Could The Scintilla Project become Byford’s Avantasia or Operation Mindcrime? Regardless, his voice is great and he has lots of help from backing vocalists. The narration adds an eerie element to the whole album and the guitar tone is surprisingly thick but it needs to be to cut through the heavy emphasis on keyboards. In the final assessment, the album straddles the line between traditional Metal, mixed with some progressive flourishes and the occasional bursts of energy that cross into Power Metal territory.
My initial feeling is that Biff wanted to do something that was considerably different, perhaps heavier and darker, from their main projects, Saxon and Balance Of Power, respectively. In that case, they have succeeded on all levels. I suspect this may be just an interesting one-off side-project that the guys had a chance to indulge in. Even if we eliminate all connections of Byford, this would still be a fantastic record no matter who was singing. Curiosity and name recognition may draw people to listen to THE HYBRID but they will become fans for the music.