Going from a heavier sound to a lighter one seems to almost be a cliche nowadays. The narrative of an extremely heavy band tapping into the myriad of influences that make them tick seems to hold some kind of allure. Whether that allure rests with the artist themselves, drawing more and more bands into this “stripping” gesture, or in the fans themselves is yet unclear and might always be so. The move certainly seems to be popular; many bands have founded their entire career just around such a switch, like Anathema, Alcest and, more recently, Leprous and The Contortionist.
The trick in pulling this change off is first having something interesting to say and then setting off on your new direction. Path of Might can serve as an excellent example; this St. Louis based band first made its appearance on Heavy Blog on the merit of their insanely thick riffs, high octane composition and overall blistering aggression. However, their most recent, Hallowed Gate Style, is a clever departure from all of this. We say “clever” because it’s not a clean break; some of the main sensibilities of the band’s original sound have been maintained, creating a heavy and muscular take on progressive stoner metal/rock.
The basic idea is this movement of “stripping”; where the desert/stoner rock influences were placed beneath the surface on their self titled, 2015 release, these influences have been brought to the forefront. Taking a note from bands like Witchcraft, these renditions are handled with an off-kilter take on the source material. Already-released single “Mega Magicka” for example is a raspy rendition of Black Sabbath ideas, delivered via the honey-laden vocals, filled with a zest that stings and burns. Other places on the album lean more heavily into the guitar tone of the time or turn the groove up a notch to convey the fabled impact of proto-metal’s yesteryear.
However, the Path of Might identity is still very much maintained. The thickly redolent odors of the bass guitar, the crashing tone of the cymbals, the overall size of the groove section and the basic effort focused on overwhelming the listener are all very much present. These rumble in the background of tracks like “Infernal Orchards” or “Locust Storm”, as well as on the previously released (and excellent) “Chapels to the West”. This latter is perhaps the most impressive version of Path of Might’s new direction, an impressive and drawn out journey in the expansive proto-metal of bands like Led Zeppelin.
This combo of expansive and punchy creates a head-turning effect that is crucial when approaching such a laden and prolific genre as progressive stoner/metal. Path of Might establish their uniqueness in the genre by gripping hard to what made the tick originally, creating a heavier hybrid of the progressive influences and the puissant approach of their earlier release. Can we wholeheartedly say that we don’t miss the furious barrage that characterized their first release? We cannot. Something deeply moving was nascent in those massive riffs and there’s a part of us that longs to be pulverized.
But is there enough on Hallowed Gate Style to make up for what was left behind? Assuredly so and even more so; Path of Might bring a refreshing refusal to completely abandon their roots on their new release. This makes the album an essential stepping stone in the by-now insanely impressive 2017, expanding what the community has done with progressive stoner and metal.
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Hallowed Gate Style will be released on Encapsulated Records on November 11th. You can pre-order it here, via the label.