Pantommind – Searching For Eternity (2015)
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
Pantommind is one of my very favorite progressive metal bands of all time, and it’s a shame that the quintet never really got its international breakthrough. One reason for this might be that the band has only released three regular studio records over a career that started twenty-two years ago (under the Lavender Haze banner).
Things might change soon however, since the band re-released previous records Shade of Fate (from 2005) and Lunasense (from 2009) in the form of an inexpensive dual digipack edition. These days, the band and its management have been putting a lot of effort into the promotion of third studio album, Searching For Eternity. Despite breaking for some time, the band had already worked out most songs for a third release, and after a lengthy but highly efficient maturation period of two years, the quintet finally recorded, mixed, and mastered a new record. This really shows how much these artists care about their music. This band might only have released three records in twenty two years, but each output is a quality, creative milestone of its genre. Searching For Eternity is worth the extended waiting period, and is on the same level of excellence as its predecessors. The overall sound of the album is comparable to the laid back feel of Shade Of Fate – which recalls progressive rock acts such as Pendragon and Yes – rather than to the more versatile and vivid Lunasense, which I feel is more inspired by progressive metal bands such as Fates Warning and Symphony X. Just to give you an idea of what to expect from this third record, I might point at the first three studio records and the first EP of Dream Theater as comparison points, or maybe the Chinese progressive rock band Mirage for a more recent example, though Pantommind indeed has a very unique sound.
Something I have always adored about this band is its 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 himself is technically outstanding. The calmer songs on this album are unbeatable. The uplifting “Moon Horizon” has a soothing sound crowned by a simple yet magical chorus you can’t get out of your head. There is no doubt that, for my taste, “Lost Lullaby” is one of the very best progressive metal ballads ever written. The relaxing keyboard, the gentle, harmonious acoustic guitar, the temperate, slow, and carefully employed electric guitar, and last but not least, the charming lead and uplifting backing vocals fuse in a simple, yet most enchanting way. “Down To The End” has a longing, melancholic, and mysterious tone as it starts with a wonderful combination of acoustic and electric guitars before crystal clear vocals take you on a hypnotizing journey. The song then takes on some speed and adds powerful riffs and versatile drumming. The perfectly integrated middle section features keyboard-driven symphonic fills and passionate guitar solos. As is the case for the very best of progressive metal ballads, the circle is closed when the last minute goes back to the soft acoustic guitar introduced in the overture. My favourite song, however, is the incredible title track “Searching for Eternity’’. It’s a slow- to mid-paced epic closer of nine minutes with warm acoustic guitar, longing, lightly distorted electric guitar, cryptically rumbling bass, smartly diverse percussion, and of course, uplifting vocals that entreat the listener to dream of a place far away. Even among the elevated number of fascinating progressive pearls from this band, the title track really stands out as one of their best ever, and is an example of a perfectly written genre song.
Pantommind also offers some dynamic mid-tempo tracks, and this helps to deliver 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 keyboardist Jiip Randam. While the main riff sounds a 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 vivid “Walk On” features Swedish vocalist Michael Anderson of progressive metal act Cloudscape and heavy metal outfit Fullfore. His darker, lower, and slightly raspy vocals cooperate stunningly with Tony Ivan’s cleaner, more gracious style in an epic chorus that could find a home in an Activator or Ayreon album. 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 during this sixty-three minute metal gem: the faster, almost power metal-inspired “Hypnophobia” and its melancholy, neofolk-sounding slow motion counterpart “Heart”. As with 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 (“Searching For Eternity” and “Lost”). It’s the kind of inspiring record to completely escape from reality to for an hour. Despite its progressive and sophisticated style, this release sounds effortless and fluffy or dreamy in a positive way. As you might have realized by now, I consider this record to be a must-have for any progressive rock and metal fan, and a serious candidate for my album of the year of 2015.
I can only solicit the five outstanding musicians from Gabrovo in Bulgaria to continue making this kind of music. Even if it takes them another decade to come around with another release, I’m confident that all of the reviewers and true fans are willing to wait. Since the band wisely reworked three outstanding songs from one of its three demos (recorded between 1996 and 2004) into this output, I would like to point out that many more comparale gems are hidden amongst these demos for the searching listener. Believe me, if you care for progressive rock or metal music at all, you just can’t miss out on Pantommind.
4.75 // 5