"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Pathosray - "Sunless Skies" (CD)

Pathosray - "Sunless Skies" CD cover image

"Sunless Skies" track listing:

1. Crown of Thorns
2. Behind the Shadows
3. Aurora
4. Quantic Enigma
5. In Your Arms
6. Sons of the Sunless Sky
7. The Coldest Lullaby
8. Perpetual Eclipse
9. Poltergeist
10. For the Last Time

Reviewed by on June 28, 2009

"A well-rounded album with bold highlights and subtle shadows, representative of progressive metal both past and future."

Italy’s Pathosray are not one of the many progressive metal bands who shun the grounds already trodden by other metal bands in favor of something completely different. Such bands tend more often than not to produce something unfamiliar and inaccessible. Instead, smartly capitalizing on the sounds already developed by such bands as Nevermore, Symphony X, Sun Caged, Ayreon, and Edguy, Pathosray have forged “Sunless Skies,” a merger of musical worlds.

The opener track “Crown of Thorns” starts off the album with sick drumming and heavy guitar action that would have Jeff Loomis of Nevermore smiling, courtesy of drummer Ivan Moni Bidin and guitarist Alessio Velliscig. Keyboardist Gianpaolo Rinaldini enters shortly after with a slamming of analogue synthesizers, giving way to vocalist Marco Sandron, who pulls all the stops. A blend of Russell Allen’s fiery harmony-laden roars, Bruce Dickinson’s force, and Tobias Sammet’s range, Sandron establishes dominance early on and occasionally reaches into Rob Halford’s animalistic falsetto style to craft his own sound. Rinaldini also shines on tracks like the dramatic and longing “In Your Arms” and the bombastic track “Sons of the Sunless Sky.”

This isn’t traditional progressive metal (a paradox, more closely meaning “familiar”) in that neither the guitars nor the keyboards dominate the rhythm section. The second song, “Behind the Shadows” shows the balance of elements in Pathosray’s sound. This attention to dynamic makes the buildup to the melodic guitar solo all the more attention-grabbing. Also, one cannot say enough of the intensity and construction of Sandron’s vocals coming across in glorious three-, four-, and sometimes five-part harmony. Especially in the third song, “Aurora,” which contains a string section, Sandron crafts memorable and melodically impressive layered vocal lines. The fourth song, “Quantic Enigma,” is a keyboard-fest, recalling fellow prog-leaders Ayreon and Sun Caged. Sandron’s vocals also take on a distinctly soulful characteristic in the chorus.

The band is rounded out by the technically savvy Fabio D’Amore on bass, and he doesn’t vie for attention in the mix. Instead, he smartly and effectively assists at crucial moments throughout the album, like the middle of “Sons of the Sunless Sky” and the beginning of “The Coldest Lullaby.” All in all, the band sports some seriously capable musicians, which are like fuel to a fire when coupled with excellent and well-rounded songwriting. The supreme culmination of the band’s talent lies in the monster track “Poltergeist,” which sustains eight-and-a-half minutes of thrills. What’s more to love about this album is that it was mixed and mastered at Fascination Street Studio by Jens Bogren and Johan Ornborg (of Symphony X, Hammerfall, Opeth, and Katatonia fame) in Sweden.

This is everything that is good about progressive metal, and you don’t need to be a total prog nerd to understand it the way it’s presented here. Make this a part of your collection and you will have something to be sincerely proud of.

Highs: Technical prowess, epic feel, great vocal construction and execution.

Lows: Guitar production is a bit muddy at times, but it doesn’t take away much.

Bottom line: A smart onslaught with both subtleties and forceful passages – for fans of Symphony X, Nevermore, and Pain of Salvation.

Rated 5 out of 5 skulls
5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)