Just a year after Pathfinder stormed the scene with their mightily impressive debut album, 'Beyond the Space, Beyond the Time', they're back already with sophomore effort 'Fifth Element'. And that's not a reference to Luc Besson's cinematic masterpiece so this Polish act haven't gone all futuristic on us, rather their aesthetic is still firmly embedded in a fantasy world of yore; a continuation of the 'Dreamworld' narrative that began life on their initial offering and, apparently, refers to "Creativity as a new timeless element that is fundamental to all artistic exploration." With such a statement in mind, although Pathfinder have refined their songwriting abilities to create a generally better balanced product on this second outing, "artistic exploration" is perhaps something of an exaggeration within the context of their own creativity. "Artistic exploration" implies innovation or progression, both of which Pathfinder fall short on. Instead, they've consolidated their established style so, this time, everything has a little more sonic flair and compositional sophistication and, like I said, better balanced throughout. So, once again, we have another dose of extreme power metal layered with symphonic grandeur and occasional prog twists, all executed with impressive precision and virtuosic flourishes. And if all of what I've said thus far sounds ever so reminiscent of a particular Italian band who claimed to pioneer the "cinematic metal" subgenre then you're entirely correct. Everything about Pathfinder yells out Rhapsody of Fire pastiche - from the music's idioms to the cover art - but, as I remember commenting on their debut, these Poles do it so well. And 'Fifth Element', despite all of its inherent ostentatiousness, is an enjoyable journey from start to finish.
The album commences with 'Ventus Ignis Terra Aqua', an instrumental piece with concomitant narration. The enunciation of each of the title's Latin words brings to mind Lovecraft-esque 'Necronomicon' incantations à la Raimi's 'Evil Dead', as if an unseen entity is being summoned. And as if responding to such a summoning, it's Pathfinder who burst forth with full-on symphonic metal fury as the lengthy title track starts the album good and proper. Musically, in every respect, the Poles are flawless with technicality balanced out well against the track's melodic charms but the effect is abated somewhat when the vocals kick in at around the forty second mark. Apart from some misplaced Dani Filth style screeching as a precursor to the expected idiomatic power metal vocals, the lyrical inclusion of "fucking" in the opening two lines - "You're lost, beyond your fucking mind, beyond your fucking dreams" - is, dare I say, contextually tacky and will no doubt engender a little laughter from some listeners (as it did me). A shame, as it temporarily detracts from the fantastical sonic cinema within which they're attempting to draw you in. Fortunately, this transpires to be a temporary blip as, from thereon, the rest of the album contains no such distractions.
Simon Kostro's vocals are an indubitable strength of Pathfinder's overall sound as he manages to exercise his wide-ranging voice but without succumbing to the strained histrionics of power metal vocalists such as Fabio Lione; Ralf Scheepers; Andi Deris et al...and that's not to knock any of the aforementioned singers as they each excel with their chosen style, rather it's refreshing to hear a frontman for a power metal act who isn't over-stretching his voice at the high end. As with 'Beyond the Space, Beyond the Time', the operatic tones of Agata Lejba-Migdalska have been sporadically utilised once again as well as the use of a choir to amplify the music's symphonic significance at key moments. Generally, the musicianship of each band member cannot be faulted with highly skilled performances from all, and each element combines to form a musically exciting experience rich with symphonic grandeur and power metal gusto. It's all been done before but Pathfinder, with the release of their second album, prove themselves up there with the best.
Review by Mark Holmes
2nd July 2012
1) Ventus Ignis Terra Aqua
2) Fifth Element
3) Ready to Die Between Stars
4) The Day When I Turn Back Time
6) March to the Darkest Horizon
7) Yin Yang
8) Elemental Power; 9) Ad Futuram Rei Memoriam
10) When the Sunrise Breaks the Darkness
12) Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a musically exciting experience rich with symphonic grandeur and power metal gusto."