• "Escaping from reality": A review of Pantommind's ''Searching for Eternity''

    Dear readers of my blog,

    it's a pleasure for me to present you my exclusive review of "Searching for Eternity", the third studio album of Bulgarian progressive rock and metal band Pantommind. This is already a serious candidate for the best album of the year. Enjoy and spread the word!

       Pantommind - Searching for Eternity (2015)

    Pantommind is one of the very best progressive metal bands of all times and it’s a shame that the quintet never really got its international breakthrough. One reason might be that the band only released three regular studio records in a career that started twenty-two years ago under the Lavender Haze banner. Things might though change since the band re-released its two previous records Shade of Fate from 2005 and Lunasense from 2009 in an inexpensive digipack edition five years ago. These days, the band and its management put a lot of effort into the promotion of their third output Searching for Eternity. I’ve heard that the band was put on hold two years ago when drummer Dragomir Minov started to focus on surrealist painting and I must admit that his paintings are absolutely stunning. The band had already worked out most songs for a third release at that point and after a lengthy but highly efficient maturation of two years, the quintet finally recorded, mixed and mastered a new record. This really shows how much these artists care about their music. You can immediately hear that the five men are not playing for fame or money but because they are truly inspired and passionate about their creations. This band might have only released three records in twenty-two years but each output is a high-quality milestone of its genre. Searching for Eternity was worth the extended waiting period and is on the same excellent level as its predecessors. The overall sound of the album is a little bit more comparable to the laid back sound of Shade of Fate which recalled progressive rock acts such as Pendragon and Yes than to the more versatile and vivid Lunasense which I feel is more inspired by progressive metal bands such as Fates Warning or Symphony X. Just to give you an idea what to expect from this third record, I might name the first three studio records and the first EP of Dream Theater as comparison or the Chinese progressive rock band Mirage if you need a more recent example but Pantommind especially sound like themselves.

    Something I have always adored about this band is their sound which is filled with mysterious atmospheres, profound soul and appeasing warmth instead of focusing on lengthy tunes where each musician tries to show off his talent. The band really functions as a collective even though each musician itself is absolutely outstanding from a technical point of view. Especially the calmer songs are unbeatable. The uplifting “Moon Horizon” has a soothing sound crowned by a simple yet magical chorus you won’t get out of your head. There is no doubt for me that “Lost Lullaby” is one of the very best progressive metal ballads ever written. The relaxing keyboard sounds, the harmonious and soft acoustic guitar sounds, the temperate, slow and decently employed electric guitar passages and last but not least the charming lead vocals and uplifting back vocals fusion in a simple yet most enchanting way. “Down to the End” has a more longing, melancholic and mystique tone as it starts with a wonderful combination of acoustic and electric guitars before crystal clear vocals take you on a hypnotizing and numbing journey. The song then takes up some speed with memorable vocal lines, powerful riffs and versatile drumming. The perfectly integrated middle section features keyboard-driven symphonic fills and passionate guitar solos. As it’s the case for the very best progressive metal ballads, the circle is closed when the last minute goes slowly back to the mysterious acoustic guitar patterns introduced in the overture. My favourite song on this release is though the incredible title song “Searching for Eternity’’. It’s a slow to mid paced epic close to nine minutes with warm acoustic guitar sounds, longing and slightly distorted guitar sounds, cryptically rumbling bass guitar passages, laid back drum passages, smartly employed and diversified percussion parts and once again absolutely uplifting and hypnotizing lead and backing vocals that invite the listener to dream himself far away. Even among the elevated number of fascinating progressive metal pearls from this band, the title track really stands out as one of their best three songs ever and is an example for a perfectly written genre song.

    Pantommind also has some dynamical mid-tempo tracks in between the appeasing tunes and probably delivers its most balanced record so far. I might point out the two collaborations on this album. Bonus track “Lost (Beautiful Life)” features former Pantommind guitarist and keyboarder Jiip Randam. While the main riff sounds a little bit more clipped, a tad heavier and slightly dystopian, the dreamy vocals and sensitive guitar solos add the warm signature sound of the quintet to the tune. The drum and percussion patterns on this track are particularly great and in combination with the enchanting guitar sounds, the warmly technoid keyboards in the overture and some nature sounds in the closure, this track even recalls the great Mike Oldfield. The vivid “Walk On” features Swedish vocalist Michael Anderson of progressive power metal band Cloudscape and heavy metal outfit Fullfore. His darker, lower and slightly raspy vocals harmonize amazingly with Tony Ivan’s cleaner, more gracious and higher style in the epic chorus that could also come from an Activator or Ayreon record. Tony Ivan proves that he can employ more aggressive and strained vocals on his own in the fittingly tight opener “Not For Me” which is probably the heaviest track on this release that reminds me a little bit of the Allen – Lande project.

    In the end, this perfectly balanced effort doesn’t include any fillers. Even the two instrumental tracks work well as interludes on this sixty-three minute long progressive metal pearl with the faster and almost purely heavy and power metal inspired “Hypnophobia” and its melancholic and almost neofolk driven slow-motion counterpart “Heart”. As all great progressive metal records, this release has both songs that leave an immediate deep impression such as “Not For Me” and “Walk On” and tracks that open up in all their beauty after several spins such as “Searching For Eternity” and “Lost”. It’s the kind of inspiring record to escape from reality for an hour. Listening to this album almost feels like a short holiday for your mind. Despite its progressive and sophisticated style, this release always sounds effortless and fluffy in a positive way. As you might have realized by now, this record is a must-have for any progressive rock and metal fan and already a serious candidate for the album of the year.

    I can only solicit the five outstanding musicians from Gabrovo in Bulgaria to continue making this kind of music. Even if it took them another decade to come around with one more release, I’m confident that all of the highly positive reviewers and true fans of hand-crafted music are willing to wait for them. Since the band wisely reworked three outstanding songs from one of their three demos recorded between 1996 and 2004 on this output, I would like to point out that many more amazing gems are hidden on these demos such as the progressive epic ‘’Let Bygones Be Bygones’’ that would definitely deserve a re-recording. If we want these musicians to carry on, it’s essential to spread the band’s name, to encourage metal fans to buy their music and to write more reviews about their three masterpieces. Believe me, if you care for progressive rock or metal music, you just can’t get around Pantommind.

    Final verdict: 9.5 out of 10

    Links:

    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/PANTOMMIND/125063724183338

    Official homepage: http://www.pantommind.com 

    Pantommind 2015

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