The Path of Memory – Hell is Other People Review

June brings us sun, warmth and an urge to get outdoors. Yet the pandemic still hangs over the world like a mortuary drape, killing the natural buzz that accompanies summer. Stuck as we are between a plague and a good time, the moment may be right for what one-man goth/doom rock project, The Path of Memory is selling. On Hell is Other People, an unidentified member of the Swiss black metal scene drifts from his allegedly natural habitat, crafting an album full of depressing goth-inflected music reflecting the despair that comes from a modern urban existence. At times quite similar to Tiamat, at other times nodding in the general direction of Déhà, and occasionally forcing its way into the storeroom where King Dude keep their sullen goods, The Path of Memory burrows into some pretty dark holes in an effort to burnish your summertime blues. Does that sound more appealing than fun in the sun? If so, read on.

The Tiamat-isms come early and often, starting with opener “Don’t Worry About Me.” The way Path‘s unnamed founder sings reminds of Johan Edlund and the music conveys the same sparse, vaguely ominous atmosphere heard on albums like Wildhoney and Prey. The chorus in particular is a dead ringer for Edlund’s eerie works and it clicks well. Other cuts like “I Tried and Failed” and “Alone, Alive” wear the same influences on their depressive sleeve. At times the mood is brightened by outbreaks of upbeat goth rock, as on the hooky “Let Me Write a Song” and the very bright, The Cure-esque “A Thousand Days and Nights.” These are some of the album’s best moments, which is somewhat ironic. Most of the material is stripped down and minimalist in nature but maintains just enough accessibility to float by without much effort on the listener’s part. The best moments for me appear during the short but poignant instrumental, “Truth” where the guitar-work approaches the morose folk beauty of SIG:AR:TYR.

There are some tough spots on the road to recollection though. “Rancid Song” injects a bit more blackness into the doom rock template but it just doesn’t resonate, feeling awkward rather than dark and moody. The worst stumble comes late, with the rather dull instrumental “Locked Away” leading into closer” I Skulled the World,” which departs from the emo/doom/goth sound. In its place is something approximating cheesy country western with awful lyrics and an attempt at lighthearted humor that falls very flat very quickly. It’s a strange way to end an album that strives so hard to create a grim, downcast mood.

At 35 minutes and with most songs running 2-3 minutes, the writing is generally tight and simplistic, which works for the material more often than not. Mr. Mysterious is a decent if unexceptional vocalist and his forlorn baritone is effective enough in both the bleak and more upbeat cuts. He is very limited though and by the end his one-note delivery grows somewhat tiresome. His guitar-work is quite good at times (see “Truth”) but much of the material is so bare bones, he isn’t required to do much beyond basic chords. This is a rough, raw kind of album without much polish, and at times it almost feels like a demo yet to be completed. Still, there’s potential here, even if it isn’t fully realized.

Hell is Other People is an interesting release with some good moments, but it fares better as sullen background music than as the subject of focused, intense listening. I’d be interested to hear more from The Path of Memory but it would need to ratchet up the overall quality and consistency to really get me on board. If the Summer of COVID has you down in the dumps, you could do worse than spending a few sunny days hiding in the darkness with this thing. You could also do better.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Iron Bonehead
Releases Worldwide: June 19th, 2020

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