Released: 2012, Sonic Attack
I reviewed the last Pathfinder album BEYOND THE SPACE, BEYOND THE TIME in late 2010 and the album was my #1 album of 2010. However in my brief and hyper review (despite my excitement and praise) I didn't really do that band justice in terms of describing the music and songs. Now that their new album FIFTH ELEMENT has arrived I can spend some time and share my thoughts about this wonderful new act and excellent new record.
In the interim there has been some activity in the Pathfinder camp. The band signed to the young German record label, Sonic Attack who reissued the debut. The band has parted ways with drummer Ruth and Kacper Stachiowiak is now on the throne. The band has also put together another great package complete with a very cool and eye-catching logo design of two dragons intertwined around the band name. The cover art sees the return of the mysterious figure in the red hood drawn by Felipe Franco, one of the most in-demand, recognized and popular Metal cover artists. The production is essentially perfect with the powerful voice of Syzmon Kostro up in the mix and in your face.
Musically, Pathfinder blend a number of styles (epic, symphonic, progressive) into the Power Metal framework and the results ate staggeringly good. The band starts with the obligatory intro with sound-effects and narration setting the stage for the metaphysical lyrics. This song naturally bleeds into the bombastic opener but in an unusual twist the band hit us over the head with an intense 8-minute epic opener. Combined the intro and song proper is in the ten minute range and that shows a lot of courage as most bands open with a catchy, speedy song that hooks you early and leave the 'epic' long song for the back end of the track sequence. Not Pathfinder. On the opener, 'Fifth Element' the band pull out all the stops and throw everything in, including the kitchen sink, it a marvelous song moving through a variety of tempos and tones, including orchestration and female vocals. Kostros voice is even more over-the-top than the last album, his vocal delivery tending of Dani Filth with a really wide range of clean, gruff tones in both the high and mid-ranges. He employs some more aggressive tones on this album but also whispers at points for impact. Another stellar performance and he is aided by lots of choral vocals, soprano vocals and gang-vocals and chants.
The songs are a continuation of the last album, shimmering highs, blazing speed solos all over the place, and counterpoint of somber moments of quietness... but not many of those! I hear Pathfinder effortlessly deliver the same energy and intensity that Lost Horizon provided for that brief shimmering moment. FIFTH ELEMENT is not a relaxed or even an easy listen by any means…every song is fully loaded, every spare inch of space is packed with sonic overload, a hallmark of a Metal band that is not afraid to embrace going all out, all the time...full speed or no speed! There is a huge of guitar and keyboard interplay both dueling to the stars. When there is a lull in the music it will be a brief 10 second lull with a bit of orchestration or a soprano female vocal before tearing off into hyper-space again at Warp Seven. In case I didn’t make my point yet, the drums, keyboards and guitars on this album are very fast, the whole album is a magnificent blur that you can’t resist, you just have to strap in, hold on and hope you come out of the other side of the imploding black hole with all your parts intact.
The lyrics are a wild and fun mix of metaphysical ideas about the astral planes, the four elements of earth, wind, water and fire and the fifth element of ‘power’ (naturally). Mix in a liberal dose of sword and sorcery; dragons, swords, unicorns and blend in some darker stuff, the demons, the abyss and a pinch of highflying songs about destiny, flying, freedom, flames and storms…and of course anthems about the power of Metal and you have got the recipe for a heady lyrical experience. The only thing I don’t like in terms of lyrics is that Kostros drops the ‘F’-bomb quite a lot. It’s not that I’m especially sensitive to hearing profanity in Metal, far from it, but it just doesn’t fit the lyrical themes. This album as classy and professional as FIFTH ELEMENT with flowing lyrics on a grand, universal scale, should be beyond common vulgarity to make a point. There are a couple of bonus tracks, both covers, one a cartoon theme song and the other a cover of Cher’s big hit from 1989, ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’ which is the spiritual sister of their own song, ‘The Day I Turn Back Time’, which the band was born to cover.
If you allow your self to be swept into the swirling maelstrom of the FIFTH ELEMENT you will find yourself finding the path to another plane of Metal perfection. Hyper-kinetic, unashamedly and unabashedly Metal in every sense of the word, Pathfinder will give Rhapsody (both of them) and Dragonforce a run for their money.