Saturday, October 12, 2013

Arrayan Path - IV: Stigmata

Arrayan Path
IV: Stigmata
Pitch Black Records

When it comes to the Cyprian power metal scene, there’s no doubt that Arrayan Path are the longest serving band on the scene, and the undisputed kings of the growing scene in Greece. With three successful full-length releases to their name, the five piece outfit (Comprising of Astronomikon/Diphtheria/Prodigal Earth vocalist Nicholas Leptos, guitarist Socrates Leptos, Prodigal Earth bassist Paris Lambrou – although producer/mixer/masterer Vagelis Maranis played bass and backing vocals on the album this time around, keyboardist George Kallis and drummer Stefan Dittrich) has returned with a new full-length effort in ‘IV: Stigmata’.
Unlike the band’s last couple of albums (2010’s ‘Terra Incognita’ and 2011’s ‘Ira Imperium’), ‘IV: Stigmata’ signals a new direction for the power metal outfit, both on a musical and lyrical standpoint, with the album’s thematically based stories found in the old Testament of The Bible (As opposed to the mythological Egyptian/Mediterranean overtones of their former releases), which ties in perfectly with the band’s newfound darker and heavier sound.
The band start the album off in a thrash-like manner with ‘Clepsydra’ (Which is an ancient Greek term for the first recorded time measurer - the ‘water clock’), which is a sound that suits the band. Nicholas Leptos’ infectious melodies still stand out like they did before, although his efforts sound far more confident and in synch with the music than ever before, while Nicholas Leptos’ lead guitar work is nothing short of impressive – proving that his guitar playing has again taken another leap forward.
‘The Bible Bleeds’ is every bit as heavy as the opener, but is given a bit of extra depth sonically with a greater presence from Kallis’ keyboards and a guest guitar solo from former guitarist Alexis Kleidaras (He last played with Arrayan Path on ‘Ira Imperium’), while on ‘Midnight And The First-Born Massacre’, Arrayan Path has found the perfect balance of dramatics and heaviness to create one of the album’s defining moments. Nicholas Leptos is a great vocalist, but on this track he really excels at creating chorus structures that go beyond anything else we’ve heard from him in the past – both in terms of range and the way the choruses are arranged. If there’s a track to showcase what Arrayan Path are capable of, it’s this track.
In comparison to the former track, ‘Judas Iscariot’ is a fairly straight forward track that reveals a bit more of a rock sound infiltrating the band’s trademark power metal sound, but the second half of the song sees the band incorporate some Middle Eastern influences on the keyboard front to spice things up, which blends seamlessly with a guest solo performance from Kikis Apostolou (Who helped founder the cult underground Cyprus outfit Armageddon).
The slower paced title track ‘Stigmata’ is a good track, but seems to be lacking a little diversity to lift itself out of what is a bit of a plodding pattern after more than six minutes in running time. The addition of choir-like effects around the middle mark is a welcome addition, but not enough to keep the listener engaged enough for its lengthy duration.
The follow-up track ‘Cursed Canaan’ is another energetic and galloping track that seems to pick the album up around the middle, but sadly lacks a chorus to really take it up to the next level.
But where the former track failed, ‘Pharaoh’s Wish’ succeeds. Nicholas Leptos puts in a varied and powerhouse performance here that gives the song an identity of its own, and with Nicholas Leptos’ tight knit riffing and Apostolou’s stand out solos, the song is another firm favourite.
‘Harbingers Of Death’ maintains the high standard with Nicholas Leptos giving the song a darker edge with his deeper vocal delivery alongside guest lead vocalist Jimmy Mavrommatis (Who is the vocalist for Armageddon), while ‘Disguising Your Soul’ sees the return of the choir effects, but in such a way that works exceeding well as it perfectly complements the moody and dramatic vibe created by Nicholas Leptos’ vocals and Kallis’ heavy keyboard contributions.
Unfortunately, the band’s attempts to create a lengthy epic with ‘The Storyteller’ doesn’t work. Once again, the plodding nature of the tempo and the somewhat bland performance from Nicholas Leptos doesn’t really spark any real changes within the song, and makes the track feel a lot longer than it actually is.
The album does finish off on a high note however, with the band ripping through a re-recorded version of ‘Mystic Moon’, which originally debuted on their ‘Return To Troy’ demo back in 1999. The guest appearance from original drummer Chris Ioannides (Winter’s Verge/Armageddon) is a welcome addition, while the Middle Eastern influences and updated crushing guitar groove to the track is executed perfectly.
It’s a shame that the Arrayan Path’s latest album’s grand finale was delivered with a re-recording and not a new track. But despite a few tracks that fail to generate any real excitement, there’s enough killer tracks throughout ‘IV: Stigmata’ to satisfy any fans of the band’s past work.
All up, ‘IV: Stigmata’ easily ranks as a first class power metal release, and more importantly, one of Arrayan Path’s strongest efforts to date.

For more information on Arrayan Path, check out - https://www.facebook.com/arrayanpath

© Justin Donnelly