Back in 2016, I first heard Path of Might‘s “Mountain of Flowers & Fruit”, from their self-titled release, and I was instantly in love. Something about that groove fit the track name so well, filled with the honey sweetness and fecund rot that the title evokes, and I was simply hooked. Ever since then, I have been following the band on their path to perfecting the Path of Might sound. While much of it stayed in communication with the realms of the progressive stoner I loved them for, Path of Might never really stopped experimenting. Chapels to the West which followed the self-titled release, and even more so Hallowed Gate Style, their third album, saw the band experimenting with more psychedelic and ambient song structures and sound. While I loved those releases and their direction, I had always felt like there was more that Path of Might could do with the sound, that there was some superior balance still out there for the band to reach.
And so I waited, knowing that my time would come and I would get the crowning jewel of Path of Might’s career eventually. Today, dear reader, I am glad to tell you that the wait is over because Deep Chrome exists. On it, Path of Might return in many ways to the elements which made me fall in love with them originally but blend them with the more expansive and progressive elements that made me see their promise in a way they never have before. The structure of each track and of the album at larger beautifully lends itself to an ever broadening spiral of a trip, setting up the listener for journey of epic proportion, from the thick base of grooves and evocative stoner metal to the ever-whirling and unfolding spaces of psychedelic and progressive rock.
OK, let’s start with the third track, “Mercenary Territory”, because it’s honestly my favorite Path of Might track of all time. Everything that makes the band so good is right there: the amazing, heart-wrenchingly evocative vocals. The molasses thick bass, riding close tandem with the deep drums, the redolent synths which filigree the guitar lines, and those guitar lines themselves, so expressive and ever winding. The verses on this track make my heart sing as everything mentioned above blends into one moving whole. And that’s before the track breaks everything down after the halfway mark into an evolving and high octane instrumental segments that calls to mind King Crimson‘s wilder experimentations. There, everything blends together and for the first time the guitars begin to channel some psychedelic vibes at the height of the storm, right before everything collapses back into the main riff of the track and another plunge into a wild solo.
This kind of progressive stoner metal rules the album for another few tracks, finding new and better ways to take your breath away. The sea-change begins on the epic and expressive doom that is “Supergolden”; the slower, and “larger” chords signal that something is happening, that this is catharsis, that things won’t sound the same on the other side. And, indeed, the aptly named “See You at the End of the World” is the beginning of the end of the journey. But as it collapses, over the next three tracks, Deep Chrome suddenly starts to live up to its name in a different way. Gone is the groove, replaced with expansive, undulating, and feedback laden chords, all circling around a repeating theme. While the music definitely stays heavy, it’s much “looser”, more far-flung and out there, grandiose in a trippy, hallucination fueled sort of way. Not to mention “Antimatter”, which fully delves into the realm of ambience, before it crashes into the closing track “Armitage”.
That track is…something else. Growls suddenly arrive, beautifully blending with the even more pronounced synths that contrast them. We are firmly in doom metal territory now, harkening back to the unbearable heaviness that Path of Might have wielded before. By the time “Armitage” ends, we are breathless; as we look back at everything we’ve heard on the release, it’s hard not to get the feeling of miles traveled, of the many different “landscapes” we encountered along the way. The other thing that becomes apparent is how little we felt the changes along the way, how perfectly everything on this release fits together in a way that previous Path of Might releases could only aspire to. This then, is what finally convinces us that Deep Chrome is Path of Might’s masterpiece: it bears the seamless marks of such a work, the joints and pivots that make the music work oiled and fixed to a tee, the whole gleaming with even more light than the parts should lend it.