Lion Music's continued attempts to branch out a bit in their roster comes to a jarring climax with the label's release of Pathfinder from Japanese atmospheric rock/metal band Early Cross. The band is comprised of Natasha Vaichuk (Vocals), Hiroaki Kato (6 & 12 String Guitars, Bouzouki, Pianos, Mellotrons, Organs), Yugo Maeda (Bass) and Yushi Soutome (Drums). As far removed from most of the fare that we've come to expect on the label, Early Cross feature stunning female vocals over brooding, gothic tinged metal which reminds of The Gathering, Porcupine Tree, Riverside, and Opeth.
Let's get this out of the way right off the bat; Natasha Vaichuk is an incredible singer. You'll be hard pressed not to be completely swept away by her gorgeous vocal performance here. She's just soaring majestically on tracks like "Cry Havoc" and "Hymn to the Fallen", delivering poignant, emotional passages that tear at your very soul. Her playful vocals on the pastoral "Cairn" adds a joyful element over the acoustic guitars and Mellotron landscapes. Unfortunately, I can't say I'm overly excited by much of the music on Pathfinder. Yes, it's lush and dreamy at times, and some of the melodies they've created are very nice, but too much of the album gets stuck in first gear and you just wish the band would turn it up a bit. There are some fleeting moments of aggression on the epic "The Pilgrimage", which otherwise is a pretty well crafted slice of atmospheric metal, post rock, & prog rock. Oh, and "The Fog" has some killer Mellotron passages, which are always a good thing!
There are no doubt going to be listeners who will fall completely in love with Pathfinder, as they should, because there's a lot to like here. The vocals for me were the absolute highlight, and while I'm not one who is going to fall into the 'love' camp with this album, I think if you veer towards atmospheric metal/post rock/prog rock, and have a weakness for really gorgeous female vocals, I think there's a good bet this one will push all the right buttons for you.
01. Ashes & Yarrow.
02. Cry Havoc.
03. Hymn to the Fallen.
04. In the Half Light of the Canyon.
06. The Pilgrimage
07. The Fog