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Italy isn’t exactly known for its large amount of original bands and neither is progressive metal these days so it was bit of a surprise that this debut from Pathosray avoided two such deadly traps. These Italians draw their influence from USA mainly but that’s as far as I will go with the comparisons. Like many tiny brooklets combining into a larger stream, there’s simply no influence large enough here to get into such specifics. A diffuse, but nonetheless correct description would be that this is a mix between your beefier kind of power metal and your standard melodic progressive metal, with a large symphonic influence that’s primarily incorporated into the structure as chunkier segments, rather than into the general flow of the songs (though there is some of that too), as is more common.
Considering this is only a debut, it’s really impressive how professional it sounds on all levels. Sure enough, Pathosray have been playing together for quite some time already and have released a couple of demos, earning some recognition in the process, but it usually takes a long time before a band gets as finely tuned as this. Most finely tuned is their songwriting; it’s been a long time since I’ve heard a progressive metal band with such a dynamic songwriting. It took quite a while before everything made sense to me, but it was apparent from the first track onward that this was something out of the ordinary. It’s hard to explain what a captivating experience this really is, and what a pleasant surprise it is to hear something that is so full of ideas and sounds so fresh.
Their genius lies in the unpredictable nature of their songwriting, but as unpredictable as they are, they never fail to keep things interesting. In a heartbeat, they can shift from power-chord riffs, or whatever they should be doing, to soaring – sometimes ethereal - vocal melodies ala Midnight, “spacey” sounds, strange keyboard passages or dissonant sounding chords which would have made Piggy (Voivod) proud, though they never stray far from the epic, powerful sound, which is the mainstay of this album.
As good as Pathosray is, there is still room for development. The backing vocals could have used a bit more work, and the other complaint is – ironically - that the band’s brilliant songwriting recipe sometimes works against them, making a few of the songs stand out as just a bit too disjointed for their own good. Such sad little nitpicking that is though; this is about is good as progressive metal is ever going to get, and to expect more out of any band is just silly.
What a great year for metal this has turned out to be. Two months ago I was ready to proclaim 2007 one of the worst years of the 21st century, metal-wise. Since then I’ve found at least 5 great albums of which two or three were masterpieces, and this is certainly one of them. Best album of the year award? I’m not sure just yet, I feel there is still room for this album to grow, but it’s this one or Circus Maximus’s Isolate. There’s just no way another album is going to come out this year which is going to top those two, so I know what I’ll be listening to during the next couple of months.