The debut album “Ares Vallis” of groove metal band Pathfinders from French Fontainebleau was released this Spring by Music Records, offering almost one hour of modern metal with some allusions towards djent, metalcore and alt. rock.
Pathfinders is a young band, but their music doesn’t sound unexperienced or too painfully ripped off, “Ares Vallis” is canonically solid groove metal album with strong individualistic signs. There’s no doubt about some Gojira hints in their music, it’s not so easy to ignore the impact on French prog groove movement in the music of Gojira, and that’s a good start to follow, because the uniqueness of this band is absolutely terrifying. But Pathfinders are not so strongly influenced by technical side, preferring the intense simplicity and emotional patterns. And visually and lyrically they are obsessed with cosmic themes, especially with exploration of Mars and possible future of these investigations.
Sometimes “Ares Vallis” sounds too ordinary and minimalistic for such a genre – so simple lines, so even structures, so classical attitude, like the compositions “Damned Earth” or “Ghosts of Mars”, leaning more towards traditional melodic metalcore. Some quirky messiness and chaotic disarray alludes on gentle djent or even math rock (“Impostors” or “Bad Guardians”), but nonetheless technical traits aren’t the big thing here. Of course, some kind of experimental thinking and out-of-boundaries attitude occasionally drops by on “Ares Vallis”, like post-hardcore vibes on “Precious Star”. Grunge and punk rock elements are also presented during this record, and rawer sound is indeed welcomed on those (“Evolution” or “Explode Inside”). The saddest and slowest track “The Light” opposes the mischievous and joyous “Peste Noire”, but with atmospheric touches and pensive mood. The entire atmospheric aura is obtained during instrumental passages, though they much prefer straightforward and disruptive manner, especially with guitar riffs. Of course, melodic metalcore or traditional grooveness doesn’t dominate all the time, the aggressive directness and more complicated punky craziness also dwells on this relatively diversified album.
And the most precious moments belong to the voice of their singer Clément Levy, his emotional impact really decorates this album beyond imagination. Yes, the voice in metalcore/mathcore genres is a strong weapon, especially in an emotional matter, but “Ares Vallis” borrows all the experimental possibilities due to his screamo howls. And he shows not only aggression, anxiety, horror or desperation with his voice, but also he sings cleanly, recites or uses typical hardcore technique. And that’s for good reason, because the instrumental parts from time to time are too insipid or bland, so this emotional singing boiling smoothens the boredom away.
It seems Pathfinders are on their way to find their true path, occupying the vast groove/hardcore niche but with strategic inclinations towards alt. rock, melodic metalcore, djent or even punk rock. And all these experimental moves and insecure attempts to break groove metal boundaries make this album a bit unfinished and ragged, and this sort of incompletion finishes off the holistic perception of the music. But this is only a debut album, these French guys have a lot of potential and love for candid alt. metal, so no doubt, that their evolution will be remarkable in the future.
Release date: April 16th 2021
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