Saturday, February 21, 2009

Review: Paindivision - One Path (2008)

Paindivision [ Website | MySpace ]
One Path
Riot! Entertainment

Paindivision is a bonecrushing Australian band with a couple of members who've done a few laps around the Heavy Metal block. Guitarist and founding member Stu Marshall spent four years in Dungeon, while Pete Hunt (newly ensconced behind the drum kit) is fresh from Razor Of Occam. The benefits from bassist Dan Quinlan's experience as a producer for acts such as Deicide are reflected in the top-notch production of Paindivision's latest release, One Path. A brutal blend of traditional Heavy Metal riffs with virtuoso guitar leads and solos, Paindivision's trend-defying sound is pure ear candy to any fan of good ol' Heavy Metal.

One Path is, first and foremost, a guitar-driven album. Marshall and his former student Mark Hobson, to put it as boldly as I can, have the chops and the chemistry to be as powerful of a one-two punch as Tipton/Downing (Judas Priest) or Murray/Smith (Iron Maiden). Their runs are consistently as convoluted as any Himalayan goat path, from the harmonized fret tickling on "Flames of the Reaper" to the absolutely pulverizing riffs on "Nightmare". Every song features just enough six-string acrobatics to hold the listener's attention without falling into the morass of directionless wankery. Marshall and Hobson also refuse to allow their contributions to lighten the overall crushing tone, instead infusing plenty of menace into their riffs in order to compliment the aggressive stance of the album.

Making sure each song is planted squarely in your face is Quinlan, who not only lays down some mighty heavy bass lines but also serves as Paindivision's drill sergeant. The vocal element is where the artwork of One Path finds relevance, being considerably gruff and almost hardcore in style. While hardcore vocals and traditional riffs may seem to be a discordant combination, Quinlan does a great job of tempering his style to fit the music. "Beyond the Pain" is the one song where the music is molded to the vocals, featuring a good number of subdued breakdowns as Quinlan barks out the lyrics. The latter stages of "Wasting Life", a slow burner of a track dripping with sleazy attitude, finds Quinlan adopting a style that is more than slightly reminiscent of Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains). "Of Flames and Fury", with its liberal use of hi-hat and crash, at times finds Quinlan sounding a bit like a mix of Cantrell and Axl Rose. In my opinion, it's those moments where Quinlan is singing rather than shouting that work best for him.

Counted among the many highlights of One Path is Paindivision's excellent cover of Accept's "Balls To The Wall", one of my favorite '80s metal anthems. Musically they nail it without doing too much to make it their own, but Quinlan's vocals add a bit of venom that the original lacked. "Nightmare" is by far the best original track on the disc, with its true denim & leather qualities and viral riffs. I usually don't pay much attention to intro and outro tracks, but "The Gates of Ashen Wake" and "The Victory March" are actually quite interesting and fit the album accordingly. The former is a bit of a Japanese spoken-word piece having something to do with Samurai, while the album closer features a nice atmospheric bass piece from Quinlan as well as some "happy metal" anthemic six-string shredding.

Since 2005, Paindivision have had considerable success in their native Australia as well as in Japan. One Path not only has enough sizzling guitar work to make an impact in Europe, but it features plenty of raw belligerence to capture attention here in The States. A couple of tracks tend to fall short of the others, but overall One Path is an album most metalheads will want to spin repeatedly.

Track Listing
1The Gates of Ashen Wake1:42
2Flames of the Reaper3:26
3Face It3:37
4Beyond the Pain4:21
6Wasting Life4:42
7One Path3:40
8Of Flame and Fury3:18
9Balls To The Wall (Accept cover)5:27
10The Victory March2:59
Total Runtime37:20

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