Review Summary: An excellent melodic death album that does not match some of the bigger acts out today, but is great in its own right.
Local metal scenes can conjure a great number of bands that just fade away into obscurity. Some of these bands deserve to be forgotten, while others are marvellous gems that just should have been ‘discovered’. Pathogen, a melodic death band from Perth, Western Australia, doesn’t garner the description of ‘marvellous’, yet it does not deserve to be forgotten either. Rather, they have a strong fan-base, and play a very distinctive style of melo-death, but it seems that their studio history does not reflect the strength of the band. Pathogen formed in 1995, and released two consecutive demos, one in 1996 and the other 1997. After that came Bloodline, released in 2005. Whether or not this sparse discography reflects the bands work ethic, or if it is because of a difficulty in maintaining a solid line-up (Pathogen has had no less than 15 members over the course of its life), I would not be able to tell you. Nonetheless, Bloodline is an excellent melodic death album, which overcomes several moments of blandness to give you an epic release that simply oozes melody.
I’ll begin by stating that the vocalist who performed on Bloodline is no longer a part of the band. Mike Lenane was with Pathogen for a number of years but departed sometime after Bloodline was released. I am unsure of the circumstances surrounding his departure, but I doubt it had anything to do with his voice. A good way to describe it is as a controlled screech. His vocal range is limited to the upper levels of the spectrum, but he somehow manages to keep his voice out of monotony. There is also a great connection between his voice and the type of music the band plays, so the vocals definitely are a plus for the album.
A lot of melodic-death today prides itself on its technical prowess, but Pathogen does not follow in this vein. The music on Bloodline is generally quite simple. My 15 year old friend managed to tab some of their better songs all by himself (although he is a very accomplished guitar player). This is not to say Pathogen are bad at playing their instruments, they are actually very good; they just keep the technicality to a minimum in favour of greater melody. This however does result in some poor solos which I did not really enjoy. Even still, there are some great sections that are quite heavy but still sound very melodic. There are very few moments on the album when the melody is not apparent, especially because of the bands staple acoustic passages. That brings us to one of the strongest aspects of Bloodline. Almost every song is strengthened by some amazingly melodic and melancholic acoustic sections. An example would be the one in the song ‘Shallow’, which builds up to a brilliant climax. This I think sets Bloodline apart from a lot of other melo-death, because it is getting more and more common for melodic death bands to entirely abandon softer moments within the heavy music. Even so, there may be people put off by this, so it’s entirely dependent on the type of melodic-death you’re after.
As I said before, there is more melody than technicality in the guitar work, so when you come across a song that relinquishes the melody, the song turns out not that great. This is the case for two songs in the middle of the album, ‘Eviscerated’ and ‘C.O.W’. However, as a means of strengthening both these songs, Pathogen has incorporated some average brutality. There is a breakdown on ‘Eviscerated’, which is pretty cool at first but gets boring fast. On ‘C.O.W’, there is a great riff which really sets fire to the mosh, but the rest of the song is very poor. After these two songs the album returns to its original melodic form, albeit not as good. This is another flaw that Bloodline has: the first half of the album is much better than the second. I still enjoy the songs found at the end of the album, but I definitely listen to the first 5 songs much more than the last 6.
I am going to come back to the acoustic passages again in order to point out something which makes this album a lot better for me. The way an album is started really is an important thing for me, because I like to think of listening to albums the same way that I think of reading a book. If the book has a good introduction, and each chapter flows smoothly from one to the other, it makes the book a much better read. This goes the same for albums. If there is a great introduction, and there are good transitions between the songs, it makes the album a much more enjoyable listen. To me, listening to a bunch of un-related songs is like reading a book that has completely random chapters that do not fit together. There needs to be cohesiveness in an album. I believe Pathogen have accomplished this. I’ll mention the introduction. It is one of my favourite introductions, and really showcases the type of music that is going to be played to you for the remainder of the album. There is a brilliant acoustic melody, which then is uplifted by the heavier side of the music. The same goes for the concluding track. Both tracks aren’t named (they’re just called ‘...’ on the album), and are great bookends for the album.
Pathogen has made a good melodic death album, which unfortunately suffers from some flaws which can’t really be overlooked. I do not think that this album deserves to be forgotten, but this might be case unless Pathogen pushes forward and expands on what they gave us with Bloodline. I thought very long about the rating to give this album. I felt that 3.5 was too little, and 4 too much, and I can’t give a rating between the two. However, I finally decided to give the album a 4, because I really did listen to it for a long time, and I still do put it on every now and then.
- Incredibly melodic
- Great acoustic passages
- Vocals are good
- Has a couple poor songs
- Might bore some people due to a lack of technicality
- The vocals are very similar throughout the album, which can be seen as a con
- Solos could be better