Album Title: Searching For Eternity
Label: Spectastral Records
Year Of Release: 2015
691. That’s the current number of ‘likes’ that progressive metallers Pantommind have on Facebook. I know very well that social media is in no way the only measure of an artist’s success and neither should it be. But like it or not, it is a snapshot; a barometer of the popularity of a band. And so 691 likes for a band of this quality? That’s unbelievable. But crucially, I think things are about to change in the near future. Let me explain why…
Pantommind are, I think, the only Bulgarian band that features in my music collection, although I stand to be corrected of course. The quintet from Gabrovo in Bulgaria can trace their roots all the way back to 1993, when a group of friends came together through a love of music and called their band ‘Lavender Haze’. In 1995, the name changed to Pantommind, but it wasn’t until 2005 that debut album ‘Shade Of Fate’ was released. 2009 then saw the release of sophomore effort ‘Lunasense’. I have both albums and enjoy the music contained within them, although I wouldn’t have referred to Pantommind as one of my very favourite prog metal artists. As with most bands, line-up changes have played their part, most notably with the departure of drummer Dragomir Minkov to devote more time to surrealist painting. This departure led to a temporary disbanding of Pantommind and so it has taken around six years for the third album to see the light of day. ‘Searching For Eternity’ is the title of this record and, simply, it is a game changer.
Pantommind have not drastically altered their approach to songwriting and execution on ‘Searching For Eternity’. Listeners are still treated to complex and technical progressive metal with melody and atmosphere but the entire band have honed their skills in all departments thus creating an album that delivers a huge step up in terms of overall quality and enjoyment. I’ve lived with this album for about a week now and I have to say I’m hugely impressed with what messrs Tony Ivan (vocals), Pete Christ (guitars, bass keyboards), Ross (guitars), Drago (drums) and Sunny X (keyboards) have to offer.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy this album will largely depend on whether you’re a fan of technical musicianship and huge keyboards within your music. If the answer is no, I suggest you’d be better served listening to something else. If the answer is ‘yes’, read on.
What I personally love about the overall genre of progressive music is that, in general, there are no rules and so musicians are afforded the freedom to pursue their personal visions, unconstrained by convention or prevailing trends. In the case of Pantommind, they have taken no heed of the fact that in 2015, guitar solos are not ‘de rigeur’ and instead deliver song after song chock full of blazing examples of six-string prowess. Some may consider it self-indulgent or over-the-top but personally, I love it. The guitar work is fast and complex but it is also very precise, melodious and expressive. Yes there are fast runs through the scales but there’s so much more on offer than that. A prime example of this being ‘Lost Lullaby’ where the speed is decreased in favour of a much more emotive and thoughtful tone, underpinned by some lovely acoustic guitars and subtle keys. The guitar riffs themselves are also well thought-out and executed with plenty of satisfying chops and headbanging fodder at regular intervals. There’s even room for a few bass flourishes courtesy of Pete Christ which is a nice touch from my point of view.
The aforementioned synths play a huge part in the Pantommind sound, as they bathe every composition in a rich, warm glow, whilst softening the edges and creating depth and atmosphere at the same time. I also rather like the vocal delivery of Tony Ivan. His is a very accomplished clean tone that offers a good range, enabling him to hit both high and low notes without any apparent effort or strain. At times, whilst in the higher register, his vocals are reminiscent of Stu Block (Iced Earth) from his Into Eternity days.
Speaking of reference points, I have to say that there is a definite old-school feel to a lot of the material throughout ‘Searching For Eternity’. As such, I hear elements of early Shadow Gallery, Crimson Glory, Cloudscape and Suspyre alongside hints of 80s Bay Area thrash such as very early Metallica, particularly when Pantommind wheel out the acoustic guitars and slow things down a touch.
References aside, what I particularly like about ‘Searching For Eternity’ is the way in which the technicality never takes over. At no point do I find myself thinking that the music is merely a directionless or disjointed exercise in technical posing or muscle-flexing. Instead, each composition has a clear structure and is held together via some strong melodies, particularly within the choruses. The likes of ‘Moon Horizon’, ‘Tell Me’ and the epic title track are particularly noteworthy thanks to their power and infectious nature. That said, ‘Searching For Eternity’ is a surprisingly consistent record where the quality rarely dips below being excellent.
As I said before, this album could be the game-changer for this group of talented eastern Europeans. Frankly, it deserves to be. Admittedly it will appeal in the main to a niche market but with the right promotion, there’s no reason that ‘Searching For Eternity’ couldn’t propel the name Pantommind into the conscious of a much wider audience of music fans who appreciate high quality heavy progressive music.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.75
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld