Following the release of their two demos they have been hailed as the saviors of symphonic power metal and having toured with the likes of Norway's Thunderbolt and ex-Maiden singer Paul Di'Anno its time to find out if the hype surrounding Poland's Pathfinder is right!
The debut album from Pathfinder opens with all the symphonic grandiose pomp you would expect from a band heavily inspired by Rhapsody Of Fire. The symphonic intro, Deep Into That Darkness Peering, sounds like something from the Pirates Of The Caribbean soundtrack and is a quite majestic, light and uplifting piece of music. I do appreciate a good intro and Pathfinder have certainly nailed this one. However, these bands live or die by their metal songs, not their keyboard instrumentals.
The Whisper Of Ancient Rocks starts and certain bands instantly spring to mind. The whole track is extremely reminiscent of many of the Finnish power metal band Celesty. In fact, based on this song, this album could have been the lost follow up to Celesty's debut album so closely do the band's styles resemble each other.
Pathway To The Moon continues in the same path as The Whisper Of Ancient Rocks. I still can't get over the early-Celesty sound of these guys. However, in this track they express more fully their classical influences. They also partially embrace the extreme metal heritage of their native land with some hoarse, rasping vocals in addition to the soaring, clear vocals of Simon Kostro. The extreme vocals make a few appearances throughout the album but I don't think its enough to put off people who don't like the rasping style.
The album really does get better the longer it goes on and also benefits from repeat listens. The Polish sextet have taken the best of their influences from symphonic metal luminaries such as Rhapsody Of Fire, Fairyland, Epica and Scandinavian bands such as the aforementioned Celesty, Dreamtale and Stratovarius.
One of the best elements of Pathfinder's music and one that is thankfully not overused is the beautiful voice of guest opera singer Agata Lejba-Migdalska. Her crystal clear vocals put many of the popular vocalists from popular female-fronted symphonic metal bands to shame. Used sparingly, as in this album, even critics of bands such as Epica et al would be hard-pressed to deny the impact of this lady's voice as anything but brilliant. She is not the only guest on this album; others include Roberto Tiranti (Labÿrinth), Bob Katsionis (Firewind and Outloud), Matis Kupiainen (Stratovarius) and Michael Jelonek (Hunter) who each add their own touch to the music, although admittedly none with so much impact as Agata Lejba-Migdalska!
The true excellence of Pathfinder is shown in the longest songs Stardust and Beyond The Space, Beyond The Time as all of the elements that have been shown throughout the album are woven together masterfully to create epic songs that keep you entranced from beginning to end.
This album really shows all that can be good in power metal and in the symphonic branch of the genre in particular. The album is light and melodic, yet where needed it has an undeniably dark and heavy atmosphere. The musicianship on the album is phenomenal, especially the virtuoso guitar work by Karol Mania and Gunsen.
This album really takes me back to my first tentative steps into the world of power metal when I was awed by bands such as Freedom Call, Rhapsody Of Fire and Sonata Arctica. There's just something about this music that seems so refreshing that its a real joy to listen to again and again. Sure, there are some minor negative qualities. The music is a little unoriginal at times, Simon Kostro's high notes occasionally made me wince and some of the short instrumental interludes were a little pointless in my opinion (although Dance Of Flames is a nice, jovial little folky number!). Some songs are a bit weaker than other, but overall this is a phenomenal debut from a band well-deserving of the hype surrounding them.