Epic is a word often associated with power metal. Arrayan Path are familiar with said truth and put forth an excellent if not predictable release that does well to project that grand feeling to the listener.
There are two forms of entertainment that I have enjoyed for as long as I can remember. Heavy metal and epic fantasy. I remember when I was in my late teens and the first waves of bands that combined these two favorites started coming over seas from Europe. Bands like Blind Guardian, Hammerfall and Stratovarius incorporated elements of high fantasy and medieval sensibilities and fused them with technical shredding and huge soaring vocals. The results were, as stated above, epic. Arrayan Path was formed in the late 90’s in America (the have since relocated their base to Cyprus) and is every bit of a typical power metal band.
Their 4th studio album, the aptly titled IV: Stigmata is due for release from Pitch Black Records on June 10th this year. Reading the title, and looking at some of the song titles, the release is steeped in religious imagery, though not all of it is Catholic or Christian in nature. The opening track ‘Clepsydra’ (which translates to water thief in Greek) is really everything that a fan of the genre can ask for. Massive crushing riffs? They are there. Technical yet non-mechanic drumming with a ton of double bass? Check that off the list as well. Soaring, majestic vocals that help transport the listener to another place and time? Hell yes. Wrap everything up in a package with a solid rhythm section and some well-placed keyboards and you have all the makings of an excellent power metal release. Nicholas Leptos (vocals) explodes throughout, at times harsh and heavy and others soaring beautifully into near operatic range (the bonus track that was included ‘Charming Paranoia’ is absolutely stunning) that will delight fans of the genre.
Vocals are only one part of the equation, and without equal skill in songwriting and performance behind them they can and will fail. That is not the case here though. The riffs and rhythm on this weighty release (over an hour with the included bonus tracks) are diverse and technical. Joining Nicholas is his brother Socrates on guitar, he shows great technical proficiency along with a good amount of restraint. One aspect of power metal that can hinder a band is when technicality gets in the way of the actual song itself. I am glad to say this does not happen here, and while you get the impression that Socrates knows his way around the fret board he shows the dignity not to drop lead work every 30 seconds to prove so. Stefan Dittrich does a masterful job behind the drum kit, and akin to the guitar work his playing is skilled, but not completely over the top. The production on the drumming (and the release in all) is to be enjoyed. Everything sounds as if it came from people with actual skill and not just studio production magic. The drumming exemplifies this, and really stands out. Paris Lambrou (bass) and George Kallis (keyboards) do a apt job of creating a sonic landscape for the stories that Arrayan Path put forth. Oozing with presence, the band is skilled at presenting a different story with each song.
The only thing that really holds this back from being absolutely perfect is that most of it lends itself to a ‘been there, done that’ type of feeling. This is arguable however, as any genre can feel that way after hearing so many artists trying to perfect the same sound. When one has been listening to power metal for as long as this reviewer has, the bands and songs start to lose their individuality. I will give Arrayan Path credit though, as Leptos vocals are really a step above most others in the genre. For those without much exposure to power metal, this release will blow you away. Even for those of us that have been around the block (or maybe I should say ‘have made this epic journey before’) this release is well worth checking out. They did not re-write the book on power metal but IV:Stigmata shows that they are one of the better authors in the genre.
2. The Bible Bleeds
3. Midnight and the First-Born Massacre
4. Judas Iscariot
6. Cursed Canaan
7. Pharaoh’s Wish
8. Harbingers of Death
9. Disguising Your Soul
10. The Storyteller
11. Mystic Moon (bonus track)
12. Charming Paranoia (download only bonus track)