Oh, the glory days of pagan metal, remember when Ensiferum released Victory Songs? When Equilibrium let loose their epic masterpiece Sagas? When Turisas were at the height of their songwriting? What would you give to go back to those days? As it turns out, you don’t have to give a lot, all it takes is Atlas Pain‘s new album Tales Of A Pathfinder. Somehow, the freezing winds of the northern sea reached the north of Italy where four men are looking to revive the faltering genre mixture between folk, epic and viking metal with an album that sounds taken straight out of 2008. Conceptually, Atlas Pain do not concern themselves with bloody battle stories but rather tales of times and people in a steampunk cladding.
The Italians’ venerated heroes are obvious; Tales Of A Pathfinder is about 60% Equilibrium, some Ensiferum and a dash of Turisas. The opening track “The Moving Empire” with its speedy Finnish riffs, aggressive growls, galloping drums and sweet keyboard melodies could very well have been written by Ensiferum, down to the heroic chorus. Subsequently, Atlas Pain lean heavier towards the Equilibrium side of things: the iconic harmonious guitar leads and catchy, positive choruses of tracks like “Hagakure’s Way”, “The Great Run” or “Homeland” reminds greatly of hits like “Was Lange Währt”, “The Unknown Episode”, “Koyaaniskatsi” or “Heimat” of more recent Equilibrium records. Especially the 11 minute “Homeland” almost reads too close a tribute to the German folk outfit as some of those guitar melodies are way too similar to “Heimat” and “The Unknown Episode”. In 11 minutes, however, you can achieve much more and Atlas Pain do prove they are great songwriters. Broad sections in this track are without vocals, and the band knows how to spin epic compositions, diverse influences and tempo changes to an entertaining experience similar to masterpieces like Equilibrium‘s “Mana”. Some of the arrangements are too simple, some melodies too obvious for Atlas Pain to create a real magnum opus, but the talent is there.
After a diverting 50 minutes of a wild ride through the rather young history of that part of folk metal which is more interested in catchy melodies, happy feelings and raising your horn, you are left wanting for more. Not a second on Tales Of A Pathfinder is boring and Atlas Pain understand which aspects of the genre to emulate to create simple, catchy, but worthwhile and absorbing tracks much like the aforementioned bands do. Tales Of A Pathfinder is far from a groundbreaking release, but it successfully rides the wave of a trend started in the early 2000s and dearly missed since around 2010 when some of the old guard decided to change their style and the genre became less crowded. Atlas Pain are a huge insider tip for anyone who loves straightforward folk metal like Ensiferum and Equilibrium.