7/11/2008 - Review by: Etiam
Given the surfeit of progressive artists today--and an equal surplus of technically dazzling musicians--the deck is stacked against newcomers Pathosray from the get-go, and although prog fans are fervently loyal, they are far from the majority of the metal populace. Despite these odds, Pathosray's eponymous debut is a very welcome surprise, combining the instrumental fanfare of prog with majestic and memorable vocal lines of power metal. The band also has done an excellent job drawing on their genre's emotional depth--doing full justice to their moniker--without veering into saccharine ballads ('In Salicis Umbra' aside, which is less than two minutes).
The leading presence in the band is co-founder Marco Sandron, whose voice is a little grittier and his delivery occasionally lower than is typical for this kind of metal nowadays. In fact, some comparisons can be made to the recent era of Mercenary, where the shrill and harsher timbres of Mikkel and Kral balanced each other out so sublimely. (A more obscure comparison would be Outworld, a new group out of Texas with a comparable agenda.) When not supported by harmonies or jacked up for a chorus, Sandron can become a little buried in the bass-heavy mix, and given the album's focus on instruments this is no surprise.
From arpeggiating solos to staccato rhythm triplets, each instrument's performance serves a unique and distinctive purpose in the mix. Fabio D'Amore's fat bass tone chugs along, lending a punch that complements Luca Luison's fairly straightforward approach to guitar, while the majority of the bombast and noodling comes from Gianpaolo Rinaldi on the keyboards. Ivan Moni Bidin on drums perhaps splashes a bit too much, but his rhythm is impeccable.
Pathosray make a strong statement for their diversity early on. The short 'Free of Doubt' serves as symphonic overture, is followed by the predominantly prog 'Faded Crystals', and then 'Lines to Follow' turns up, motoring along in A with its stacked fourths and Marco's rowdy verse delivery, arguably sharing more with Germany's Primal Fear than Italy's highly melodic tradition. Admittedly, this track is probably the most forthright rock 'n' roller on the album, but a similar vein is found in many of the other tracks and helps keep Pathosray's prog leanings on track. The sheer aggression of other tracks like 'The Sad Game' show the band's willingness to branch out, which is ironically far from a given with progressive bands today.
Altogether, 'Pathosray' is remarkably well-developed for a debut album, and the band's vivacity is infectious, even astonishing, at its peaks. At others, the gap between Sandron's lyrical flow and the stuttering rhythm section is too pronounced, and the wraparound songwriting does not always live up to its epochal vocal lines. If Pathosray can address this particular imbalance (as mastered by Fates Warning), their ascent to prog stardom is all but guaranteed.
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