Arrayan Path - Dawn of Aquarius

Arrayan Path Dawn of Aquarius cover
Arrayan Path
Dawn of Aquarius
Pitch Black Records
Although I tout myself as a worldly metal head my knowledge of Asian, African and Middle-Eastern outfits is shamefully lacking as I primarily set my sights on either Europe or the Western Hemisphere. Thankfully, I’ve been recently presented with Arrayan Path, an epic power metal band with American roots now based in Cyprus and its sixth full-length, “Dawn of Aquarius”, released under Pitch Black Records.
To my ears the sextet’s sound can be described as thus: if you could somehow cram Gamma Ray’s “No World Order”, Hollow’s “Architect of the Mind” and a wee bit of Wolf’s “Legions of Bastards” into a golden lantern and imbue such a potent mix with exotic synthesizers and a dash of Persian flair, upon rubbing it while pronouncing the magic words a genie in the form of “Dawn of Aquarius” would unequivocally waft out. While the actual guitar riffs and battery aren’t quite as “ravenous” as Wolf’s or Gamma Ray’s, they similarly possess an eldritch and darkly atmospheric bent whilst the lead breaks are as “hot rockin’” and poignant. The comparison to the now defunct Hollow mainly manifests itself by way of the vocals, which possess the same clear resonance as Andreas Stoltz while also evoking a luridly prophetic sentiment. Some of the punchy guitar riffs also smack of Hollow’s; the start of “Dark Daughter of the Snake” reminds me a lot of “Cogito” from the aforementioned “Architect of the Mind”. This goes for some of the acoustic and more subdued passages as well, such as the beginning of opener “Equilibrium” even if it rather evokes a Palestinian bazaar/marketplace ambiance than a mystical sci-fi instilling surround. Nicholas Leptos’s more despondent crooning – such as on the second half of “The Hundred Names of Kali Ma” – also brings to mind Wolf, or more precisely, Niklas Stalvind’s haunting tenor which is so prevalent on most of the choruses from said “Legions of Bastards” from 2011.
The production is crystal clear and allows Paris Lambrou’s up front and top heavy bass lines to match the dual guitars in intensity and output, whilst drummer Steffan Dittrich provides each track with its own identity by way of unorthodox tempo changes and cultural elements, like the exotic tambourine taps interceding “Dark Daughter of the Snake” (dig its accompanying snake charmer style synths!). Axemen Alexis Kleideras and Socrates Leptos’ rhythm playing is very mercurial, much more so than Wolf or Gamma Ray, which, despite their high-intensity, adhere to formulaic song structures (think a verse, chorus, and verse format, with the ubiquitous solos around the two thirds mark). This is another factor in my comparing Arrayan Path to Hollow. Some tracks are absolutely unpredictable. “The Flower Born of Itself” alternates between crunchy power chords and twirling tight-rope stylized licks, while “She Who is Primordial” starts off with ticking time bomb chatter and liberating guitar lick before reverting to a choppy slapdash riffing pattern and further rapture evoking keys. Faster, atypical power metal bombast, evil ripping solos included, can be found on “Garland of Skulls”, a wicked closer, which wraps this one up with a bow, or in this case, another kind of decoration, gruesome as it may be...
On “Dawn of Aquarius” guitar and synth leads alike “fly in the face of prophets”; in other words, they unexpectedly surge with as much melody and vigor as its members can muster. Both types compliment each wonderfully in short mellifluous bursts without falling prey to overkill. George Kallis does a stellar job on the keyboard and proves he’s not only a complimentary but essential and integral band member. While my favorite “guitar” tracks are “Dark Daughter of the Snake” and “She Who is Primordial”, the magnificent opus which is “So It Shall Be Written” is a must as well. Not only does he magnificently umbrella the track as a whole, but also throws in his fair share of fireworks in the form of a couple debilitating synth solos; in fact, the second one is somewhat of a dead-ringer for the Double Dragon street-fighter video game from days of yore! The thrash-y guitar riffs and energetic drum beats of the title track are equally enhanced by Kallis’ antiquity evoking keys.
While most of the songs are memorably refreshing and possess high replay value, a couple fall short of these noteworthy achievements; “The Hundred Names of Kali Ma” and “The Eleventh Mantra” are a tad convoluted – soporific even – due to bloated guitar riffs, which overly focus on setting and mood as opposed to shred factor, while the vocals get a little too church choir like for my tastes. I could go even further and dwell on the album’s extensive, hour long length and high number of tracks – thirteen in all – but that would be akin to viewing the glass as half full instead of revelling in an otherwise portentous discovery. That said, I’m grateful to have encountered Arrayan Path – to the point where I’m compelled to take a retro-active look at its prolific discography, as well as further uncover Middle-Eastern heavy metal. For now “Dawn of Aquarius” is an excellent start.