Italy’s Pathosray is in some ways different from other Italian progressive metal bands such as Zen, Khali, and Empty Tremor in that they are significantly heavier in their musical statements. Though they definitely follow a predominantly Dream Theater-defined route, their frequent use of double bass drum onslaught and slightly thrash-inflected guitar work bring to mind early Eldritch, one of Italy’s greatest power-thrash combos ever.
The self-titled debut consists of nine tracks, two of which clock in at less than two minutes. “Free of Doubt” is the album’s keyboard-laden intro that segues into the stomping “Faded Crystals”, a tune that is relentlessly heavy with corrosive riffing and aggressive vocals which suddenly transform into crystal clear melodies during the chunky chorus. Not for a moment is melody sacrificed for single-minded fury, but vocalist Marco Sandron does know when to reach for heavens and belt out scorching high screams as well as go for ultra-clean statements with creepy whispering or melodic mid-range delivery.
On the comparatively more challenging “Lines to Follow”, for instance, Sandron delivers the verses aggressively in an almost traditional metal sense. However, as the chorus arrives, he opts for a Khan-like multiple harmony-driven style that totally balances the whole piece out. Fabio D’Amore’s incessant bass stomp lays the foundation for a thrashy rhythm workout in the finale.
“Scent of Snow” is the album’s catchiest number, and evokes another Sensory Records band, Pantommind. With its extended intro, cool bass work, thunderous drumming, and versatile vocals, it recalls later-day Vanden Plas. Sandron’s range of vibrato is frightening, and the chorus is simply infectious. Broken down into a nifty acoustic passage, the song regains pace with the arrival of a very Dream Theater-inspired instrumental section. The slightly Egyptian-scaled guitar work and odd-sounding keyboard work at the end are truly impressive. Provided they continue to hone and develop their sound, Pathosray could become a great prog band in the future.
Not everything is swathed in melodic song structures on this album, however. And it is this that sets them apart from their contemporaries. Following the one-minute piano ballad “In Salicis Umbra” (the only ballad on the album), the band foray into the most straightforward number “Strange Kind of Energy”, which has the potential of gaining them fans of melodic metal and power metal as well. It is a fast-paced track with the occasional spoken vocals and sprinkles of keyboards thrown in. The last track is decidedly more eventful, as it contains yet another melodic chorus backed by wailing guitar work courtesy of Luca Luison.
The album’s centrepiece is “The Sad Game”, just shy of the ten-minute mark. Guesting the godly Alessandro Seravalle from Garden Wall on back vocals, this is easily their darkest and most wicked offering. Thrash-imbued guitar work and unorthodox chord progressions in the intro signal drummer Ivan Moni Bidin’s deep respect for Garden Wall, arguably the most bizarre and original progressive metal band from Europe. Seravalle’s instantly recognisable demonic-sounding vocals contrast that of Sandron in every possible aspect. Each evil verse is followed by a clean-sung line in a whirlwind of slamming drum and bass battery. Although the Eldritch comparison may be a stretch, Pathosray is perhaps the only other Italian band in this style that can churn out such aggression without diluting melody.
It is a shame that guitarist Luca Luison has left the band, for his powerful articulation during the brief yet effective sections may not be too easy to replace. The guitar solo on “Sorrow Never Dies”, for example, is truly expressive and a rare treat indeed.
Tommy Hansen’s mix is great, but the recording done in Italy is definitely rawer and more in-your-face compared to, say, bands like Circus Maximus, Sun Caged, or Andromeda.
This is a solid debut album from Pathosray. Hopefully they’ll follow it up with an equally great sophomore release soon.