On any given day I’ll spend a fair amount of time watching compilation and list videos on Youtube. You know the ones; “10 Great New Heavy Metal Bands of 2011” and the ilk. Since I’ve been on a HUGE power metal kick lately, most of my recent viewings have been more specific to that genre and from one such video I found an obscured gem. Pathfinder. Now if you don't like power metal, go ahead and move along because these are not the droids you’re looking for...
Pathfinder is a Polish band formed in 2006 who released their first full-length, Beyond the Space, Beyond theTime, in August of last year. Even though my job requires an almost entire immersion into all things heavy metal, I have never so much as heard them mentioned in passing (I saw a Viking movie called Pathfinder once, though. It was alright.). More’s the pity. Beyond the Space, Beyond the Time would most likely have made it on my Top 10 Of 2010 list. And yours too.
Pathfinder could most easily be described as flashy-ass symphonic power metal. That’s a genre, right? Think Dragonforce but just so much better, more genuine. Think Rhapsody before the Fire, think symphonies in the navigator seat of a car driven by guitars. Speeding. On the autobahn, or its Polish equivalent. The vocalist, Szymon Kostro, could go toe to toe with just about any of the industries heavy hitters (Hansi excluded) and probably come out on top. He hits highs I’ve never heard before. As in the album’s title track, those high soar so freakin’ high past the earth’s upper atmosphere that an undiscerning listener might mistake them for guitar squeals. Seriously. When female vocals are present (provided by Agata Lejba-Migdalska of Electric Chair), they are done tastefully. The bass and drums round out the line up nicely with blazing speed and precision. In fact, the entire outfit operates with such precise efficiency that you’d swear they have a drill sergeant behind the helm keeping them all in line.
Beyond… starts, finishes, and is sprinkled throughout with instrumental tracks (one is a take on The Moonlight Sonata) which, taken on their own are really nothing too special but, within the albums context, are wonderful additions nonetheless. Of the ten or so full tracks on the album, not a single one could be called weak. Tracks like Pathway to the Moon and The Demon Awakens have melodies that will stick in your head and on the tip of your tongue long after you’re done listening. Chances are when you’re done with this album you’ll spend a good amount of time “practicing your falsetto” and perfecting air guitar solos. This will piss of your girlfriend/wife/chick your friend set you up with that you took to Applebee’s/etc. Ignore her. She’ll never understand
The “power metal commission” mandated slow ballads are few and far between but well placed and not at all pompous. Cheesy? Yes, sure, who cares? But not pompous. The first track I heard, and the track that sticks out in my mind as the albums absolute high point shares the album’s namesake. It clocks in at just over 10 minutes and within you’ll be sonically tossed and pitched through sound-scapes that could only be described as otherworldly. It might sound disjointed and confused (like this review, I know) at first but hang in there. When the song finally takes shape, you’ll shit.
The guitars, which, as I previously mentioned steer this ship, are spot on. The solos are frequent and huge, technical and impressive, but never mindless filler wank. They roll, gallop, and shred at breakneck speeds while managing to be significantly less tedious than those of the aforementioned Dragonforce. Indeed, I don’t know why I keep mentioning the ‘Force other than that the guitars are similar in speed and technicality and I’ve heard a few people draw the comparison. Where any comparisons to DF are stopped short are in formula. While most of Dragonforce’s song all sound very similar, regardless of if they are slow or fast, Pathfinder’s every note seems crafted from scratch and well thought out.
Pathfinders bassist and mastermind, Arkadius Ruth, who is also in charge of the band’s orchestration bridges the gap between musician and composer. His piano, harpsichord, string, and brass contributions to the album range from smart folksy melodies to sweeping classical arrangements. At times those elements feel dated, reminiscent of Beethoven while at other times neo-classical takes center stage and the whole thing verges on becoming a rock opera. Ruth’s understanding of classical music coupled with modern influences like Rhapsody creates something nearly irresistible to the inner orchestra nerd, outer metal-head in me.
Normally take a few minutes at this point and talk a little abut the album’s weaker points but… meh. I’m sure there is some that I’ll come across in my future encounters with this album but I’m too stoked on it right now to go through and nit pick.
All said, you need to check this album out. Pathfinder, true to power metal’s glorious past as they are, may well be it’s future.
For those man (or woman) enough to admit to liking flower metal and fans of: Rhapsody (Of Fire), Dark Moor, Awesomeness
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