I don't even remember how I got my hands on this album, but I've had it for almost as long as I've been into power metal. Valkiria is a power metal outfit from Chile who produced The Pathway as their one and only studio album. I know little about the band, who they are, or what happened to them, but their one shot has left a light but lasting impression upon me.
One at first gets the impression that this is going to be a science-fiction inspired album, with the rather cool and spacey intro track. However, Valkiria quickly turns the tables back to traditional melodic power metal with the driving "Only A Dream". Quite pleasant, if a little bit jarring (the production on this album is not the greatest), the band puts their strong point out front immediately: they know darn well how to write and perform their guitar leads. The Pathway has some very cool and melodically sensible guitar work, even if it's not overly flashy.
Vocally, this is fairly middle of the road. Lead vocalist Jaime Salva is nothing special, to be sure, but he generally is able to do the rest of the band justice. He succumbs a bit to the typical failing of this genre in that he starts losing power and tone when he begins to reach his high range. That said, he presents a rather solid mid-range that supports the band's ample instrumental talents, and life goes on. The piano on this album is a little bit sparse, but I look forward to it every time it is featured in a brief interlude. Rather than play with the typical synths (though these are included at times) as this genre tends to do, Valkiria sticks with a more traditional upright sound that is rather refreshing and fun. The drumming is solid but seems to occasionally have trouble keeping the band together. The percussive hyperactivity is doubled-edged in this respect but generally displays above average talent.
A few problems present themselves in "Betray", as the band adds some vocal and keyboard effects that I think detract from the music as a whole. The middle of the album tends to stagnate a bit, in part because of the addition of some rather mediocre female vocals on "I Feel". Energy is regenerated anew by the energetic "Scepter Of Power", but doesn't reach the potential that the band is capable of, despite some really excellent guitar and drum work. The next couple of tracks are nothing special, and one gets the feeling that the album is petering out with Valkiria having capitalized on all of its talent until...
"El Angel De La Espada Sagrada" calls the listener to attention with its commanding and resonating guitar intro, which turns into a driving mid-tempo rocker. Suddenly, the listener is surrounded by Spanish lyrics rather than the English that has been standard up to this point, and it sounds much more natural. The songs swings back and forth between an excellent guitar-dominated stomp and a sweeping mellow chorus that the band emerges from with conviction. After chilling me with this newfound mastery of variation and decisive guitar work, the band launches into an extended and thoroughly proficient solo section before varying the dynamics again by dropping into a ballad-like bridge. Once again, the triumphant call of the guitar rings out, rallying the band back into a rousing outro and concluding a jaw-dropping five minute experience. Unfortunately, you've no time to recover. "En Busca Del Talisman" picks up right where the last track left off. Though we don't get quite the same energy, this one's another top-notch Spanish-sung epic (and a bit longer, at almost 8 minutes) that doesn't wear out its welcome.
These last couple of songs tend to send a chill down my spine, despite the inconsistency of the rest of the album. It's a pity that Valkiria is no longer together, since for a brief moment the band puts together some of the strongest power metal that I've ever heard from this part of the world. I don't know how difficult The Pathway is to find, but any fan of the genre owes themself the musical bliss that this album provides at its best. This is a good album, with touches of absolute brilliance, and highly recommended to those searching for something off the beaten path.
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The Protagonist's Rating: 7.75 out of 10