The full Let The Legends be True album by Pathless Land.
Mattowarrior is one of the most prolific Metal musicians in the current underground scene and his most known and successful project, Pathless Land is certainly the jewel of the ground. A phenomenal hybrid of multiple Metal styles (but mainly Prog and Power Metal), this project has been Matt’s ultimate musical expression and the group closest to his most sincere musical identity, which is why he has been constantly releasing EPs in recent years, with Alchemy, Mystery and Mastery being their last album, back in 2018.
But now he is working on the follow-up, Bloodlines, which promises to maintain the style of previous albums but with even better hooks, better production and overall a superior release in every sense of the word. And it was a great pleasure to do this interview with Mattowarrior, where we discussed a wide variety of topics, involving music, influences, his career, the songwriting process and a lot of many different things. Hope you enjoy it.
Hi, Matt, thank you for taking the time to be here in MusikHolics. Welcome. How are things going with you right now?
To quote the band Hypocrisy, Chaos and Confusion, but going all right otherwise (laughs).
How the pandemic affected your projects with Pathless Land?
I got sucked into a lot of rabbit holes, with conspiracy theories and politics and all the hatred and division associated with what happened. I probably was sick early on with it and have been fine since, and most people I know have.
It definitely affected things since I’m writing songs related to this for an upcoming release, just with feelings and not necessarily taking one side or another. But it remains yet to be determined what will happen with all this. I believe in humanity. Time will tell if those of us on one side or another were on the right side of history, and if indeed this is being used for the rich and the elite to gain further power or if it’s really ONLY about health, but nevertheless, I wish people would just talk to one another and sort stuff out when they have disagreements over what’s going on and how to handle things whole.
As for Pathless, it’s made it harder to realize a live lineup and even see what kinds of shows under what kinds of conditions I/we would want to play under certain conditions. I am currently in contact with a former local drummer, though I’m not sure if this will be a live lineup for Pathless or a separate project.
What are you currently working on?
Getting the last three songs on Bloodlines done, and then going in and doing better mixes than the rough ones I’ve put out so far. Getting it on bandcamp, and eventually pressing a (limited quantity) CD.
For people that perhaps are not familiar with you and your work, what can you tell them about you?
Pathless Land is a project that started in April 2010, it was originally going to be a side project for the band I was in at the time, Tempest Eternal, but once Tempest Eternal Mark II came about with a new singer and an additional guitarist (and our bassist had left for law school), I decided to bail and make Pathless my main Metal thing.
Originally it was going to be shred mixed with Space Rock, but I found I had tons of songs and ideas I wanted to do with Cyclic Creation/Tempest Eternal (basically the same band with different vocalists) but the drummer didn’t want to play anything “untechnical” at the time so I decided to finish a lot of songs I had started before that weren’t finished for that reason, while still retaining some of that progressive vibe with some of it still as well. It’s been a hard road trying to do a lot myself by myself, and also work full time and have a lot of other things happening in life.
I want to start from the beginning: How did you get into music?
My father bought my brother (RIP) a VHS videocassette of Iron Maiden’s Live After Death for his 17th birthday many years ago. I was a little kid who was told heavy metal was for the delinquents. My parents were divorced, but when I stayed Saturday nights at my dad’s house I would get bored while my brother (who had moved back with my dad from a foster home) was out getting stoned or laid at the local bowling alley so I started watching the tape after my dad had gone to bed upstairs.
It captured my mind and imagination and it was like discovering the Holy Grail. I went on spring break to Texas on vacation with the rest of my family and I begged my mom to get me the cassette tape and I pretty much wore out my cousin’s Walkman listening to it the following two weeks. That was pretty much it.
Which were the albums and bands that influenced you the most?
Well, first it was obviously Maiden. Then I got into thrash like Metallica, Megadeth, Punk like Dri or Suicidal Tendencies, Black Flag, Rollins Band, got into Prog through Pink Floyd and (some) Rush early on (Floyd would be a favorite). Got into Sisters of Mercy, Skinny Puppy, NIN, all sorts of stuff an edgy “Xenennial” would be into, but Emperor, Gamma Ray, Helloween, and Blind Guardian got me back on the Metal path.
I love Bathory, Celtic Frost, Danzig/Misfits/Samhain, Dio, Mercyful Fate./King Diamond, Manowar, I dig some prog Metal, especially old Queensryche, Fates Warning or Voivod, old Symphony X, a lot of melodeath from back in the day, I was into Devin Townsend for quite a while, Uli Jon Roth, Michael Schenker. I also love Coltrane, Mozart, or even crying to old Bonnie Tyler songs once in a while (laughs).
I kinda stopped at the more progressive metalcore bands of the late 2000s and still like bands like Between the Buried and Me, but then I’m on this AOR/Hard Rock/Glam Metal kick the past 5 years or so with Whitesnake, Dokken, Rainbow, Scorpions, Yngwie, all sorts of stuff.
I’d have to say overall my two favorite bands probably of all time are Iron Maiden and Pink Floyd, because other than Punk most of the other stuff I’ve got into flowed from them. I could go on and on, but would say if I had to list two who are the biggest those would probably be it.
If you had to recommend five albums to people that you consider underrated, which would you recommend?
That’s a tough question because I’ve been into so much stuff over the years, but can say at least lately since I’ve been into a lot of obscure AOR and hard rock, so I’d say:
Fortune – Fortune (1988).
Dare – Out of the Silence (1988).
Iron Savior – Unification (1998). I especially love the space themes and guitar sounds.
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II (2020) – Best album I’ve heard in 20 years for sure. Just pure Rock/Hard Rock/Metal/AOR or whatever goodness. They deserve to be a much bigger band.
GG Allin – Banned in Boston. Yeah, weird choice but his early stuff isn’t as “shocking” and was just great early 70s proto punk and power pop influenced punk. I can’t get enough of his early work.
I think Arsis is an underrated band in the tech Metal genre. I think Canadian Metal and Tech Metal bands ranging from Voivod to Gorod are underrated compared to how popular Djent has gotten for a more proggy style of metal, and I really dig VHS Glitch as far as an underrated Synthwave act (another genre I really like though its overplayed now).
My favorite albums of the last three years are:
2019- Beast In Black – From Hell With Love (damn, I love that band)
2020-H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
2021-Nestor – Kids in a Ghost Town (cool AOR/Hard Rock, from Sweden like H.E.A.T are)
As far as I know, you have been with Pathless Land for quite some time now. How would you say you have progressed as a musician throughout the years?
Getting better albeit very slowly at recording and production, trying to advance on all instruments as well, realizing that I could get my message across better with a singer instead of me as one, but overall valuing melody more than I did in the past.
And what about your songwriting process? How do you think you have changed in that department?
Back in my former bands and even a bit in the early days with Pathless, I would throw together songs with riffs and try to write stuff on top of it, but the riffs would often be the most important thing. I joined the band Axxxed (aka Midi Warlord and Internet Bad Boys) and the main singer/songwriter of that group, Abram, kind of taught me how to write songs instead of what sometimes amounted to collections of riffs so that influenced the direction immensely.
I still like technical metal and technical music like I played with my former groups Cyclic Creation or Tempest Eternal but if there’s no hook (even in more extreme stuff with extreme vocals) than it’s not as quality, period. I also started coming up with vocal melodies and taglines or lyrics that would accomplish this. Case in point with the Dungeon Master, it was a chorus that came about me joking around with friends walking around a mall one day. I recorded it and wrote a song around it. I think it’s a winning combination to be able to write super cool proggy or Metal riffs but then have hooks melodies and lyrics that really fit the puzzle.
2016 remaster of Bloodlines.
The music of Pathless Land is quite interesting because it combines different vocal styles, time signatures and manages to add both aggression and melody to the songs. How do you accomplish in songs that are five or six minutes long?
It’s tough to put so many things together and to try to flow at the same time. The name itself “Pathless Land” was named after the instrumental Journey to the Pathless Land and you have that spiritual side with Krishnamurti that influenced the name, but it also has another meaning- that there would be no set subgenre of Metal that would be played. I guess roughly it’s Power Metal with a side of Prog but a whole lot of other stuff. As for the question, it’s a drawn out process but it has gotten easier with time, and the music probably is flowing a lot better.
Like the song Bloodlines, which was on the second demo release, but I revamped it for the upcoming album and it has a lot more twists and turns and better flow and more melody with a lot of the riffs in the “progressive” section.
Lyrically speaking, what are usually your influences for ideas?
As for lyric,: I like to have a lot of variety. I’m totally from the Maiden and Steve Harris school of writing about a wide variety of topics: you have Bloodlines which is about the subjects discussed by the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail (later by the Da Vinci Code), but yet you also have songs like Believe Again which has a positive message, Centipede which is based on William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, At Saturn’s Gate which is influenced by Clark Ashton Smith (with some rebellious unrelated lyrics at the end, kinda like Megadeth’s Holy Wars…The Punishment Due is about two subjects) but also stuff which has increased like Time Will Tell (If Our Love Is Gonna Last), a totally unabashed, commercial Hair Metal/AOR song that was written about an ex-girlfriend.
What are you looking for when writing lyrics?
I try to tell a story usually. I grew up writing a lot of angst ridden lyrics and I quickly tired of that. I try to challenge myself with writing about a lot of different topics. One thing I try to do, and maybe it’s OCD or something, is to balance out the positive and negative and bring an uplifting message, even when there are songs about organized religion (And cultlike mentalities) like End Times, there’s songs like Believe Again or The Winner’s Edge or even Light Years Collide.
I like to write songs that put one on a journey, or question things, question reality. I would say growing up Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson are probably my biggest influences with lyrics, I also like how Blind Guardian has been able to make such dramatic songs about fantasy subjects, and I really love Jim Morrison and the Doors, and the way they wrote lyrics, especially growing up. I like to write songs about books, movies, personal experiences, the occult, Sci Fi and Fantasy, and relationships as well.
End Times by Pathless Land.
Although you haven’t released a new album since 2018’s Alchemy, Mystery, and Mastery, you have released multiple EPs on an almost yearly basis. What is the reason behind that?
I just wanted to have something out there, be listed on “Metal Archives” a whole bunch and to be honest, I felt I was in competition at times with projects or bands in the area that didn’t put out all too much especially ones I was formerly a part of.
I like people like Frank Zappa or Abram Jones (of Axxxed/Internet Bad Boys as previously mentioned) or Devin Townsend, who release a ton of music. I also decided that I could do it alone to some extent, since Abram has done a lot of it alone or with others depending on the song or time period. Bathory also being an influence since Quorthon would just hired session people and did what he wanted to do.
I just release most things I do. And it’s not only with Pathless or Internet Bad Boys (current name of Axxxed), I’m also in Filled With Lies with another guitarist, Perception is Projection is my Electronic Project, and I even have this budding Black Metal/Dungeon Synth project Thy Bidding that hasn’t gotten off the ground but I do want to do more with that.
Oh yeah, and Bonecrusher, a Black/Thrash project that I did for a role playing character from the eighties I played in a tabletop RPG I attended once a week (it’s his fictional band). I’m also trying to make up for lost time. A lot of my life early on was extremely stagnant and I had a lot of personal challenges with various things in my life, continually working shitty jobs that I’m not happy with at all, but at the end of the day I have music to at least give the world, and I have tons of ideas.
You’re a very active musician. What is the key to be that consistent and prolific with your band?
Not giving up, not letting things get in the way and being almost obsessive about it. I mean, I originally sang for Pathless but made it my mission to find session musicians like singer Deibys Artigas or drummer Glenn Welman and now Juan Marcial (additional keyboards), who could get many of my ideas across.
I live in an area where it’s hard to find people of a high caliber, especially for the style of music I play. It’s an indie rock college town in the midwest United States, not a Northern European Power Metal city. Everyone who does play this stuff all knows each other, and I was sick of compromising in previous projects and wanted to go all the way with ideas I had going back a long time.
I feel like again I’m making up for a lot of years where I wasn’t doing much and kind of overcompensating for that part of it in a way. I have ideas and it’s like I’m compelled to go all the way with them no matter what. It was like growing up when there was a new CD I wanted (this was before downloading and streaming really caught on and was more rare), I’d sometimes take a bus before I had a car and even if it was a three hour trip in a snowstorm, I just HAD to get that album.
I have certain predilections that influence me in this really obsessive way that it’s like it neutralizes the bad thoughts or something if I record all these songs (laughs).
Let The Legends Be True by Pathless Land.
You record and produce everything yourself. Have you ever felt the need of having a producer, perhaps adding another perspective to the recording process?
Yes, absolutely. I was listening to some mixes of the upcoming album on a surround sound system of a former drummer recently and heard a lot of things that need to be fixed. I would absolutely jump at the opportunity to work with others as far as the production side. That’s been the most challenging part, since I don’t have a super expensive studio or equipment. I’m going in and remixing most of the upcoming album because of that experience, and hope to have things a lot more balanced on various systems.
Is there any chance that in the future we might see Pathless Land on a tour?
Yes. I was working on a live lineup just before all the COVID shit went down, had a singer who I was working with (from the area who would be a member and not just a session musician). I don’t know if we’re gonna have social credit scores to be able to play shows or some shit in the future like some chip implanted that shows you’ve had your fiftieth booster (I’m joking), or maybe countries will continue to lock down, but somehow, some way, I’d like to tour and have it be a spectacular show, since I already know what I’d want the staging to look like as well as props and pyro.
Destiny of Retribution by Pathless Land.
What can you tell us about the upcoming album, Bloodlines?
It has 14 songs and was originally going to be a double album. Some of the recordings (at least basic instrumental tracks) go back to 2017, and some of the songs go back way further. It has one instrumental song, and I used a lot of different equipment that has been in my hands over the time it’s been recorded.
I’d say officially it came out of the Dungeon Master EP since that was going to be a start with another local singer, but I decided to use Deibys on every track once that didn’t pan out. It’s also the first release (other than a few of the EPs) that has Glenn Welman drum on every track.
I think there’s tons of variety, doom metal songs like Centipede, thrashy power metal like At Saturn’s Gate (The Resistance Is Due), SIT-era-Maiden inspired songs like Robot’s Revolt and much more. I want this to kinda be my magnum opus, so that’s part of the reason why it’s been delayed and delayed. Originally it was going to be another series of EPs, then a double album, now just a really long album.
I can guarantee by the spring it will be done, depending on a few factors of course.
2021 version of Pathless Land’s Light Years Collide.
A song that I liked quite a lot from the upcoming album is Light Years Collide. What can you tell us about that song?
I was walking around one day and started looking up in space and came up with the first two lines. I used the first two lines and then started a song about space travel, no doubt influenced by late nineties Gamma Ray and Iron Savior which was factoring in my life heavily at the time, and a former member of the band I was in, Tempest Eternal, Matt Devries, helped write the chorus’ hook (though Deibys gets credit for changing it a bit).
Without counting the upcoming record, which Pathless Land release has been your favorite so far?
Age of Discovery. Much of it had solos by another guitarist, Chris Wright, and it was the closest to a live band that I got by having a bass player and him (though I played bass on it myself). It’s rough, but there’s a certain power and variety and atmosphere that I like with that release. I used programmed drums, sang all of it myself, and a lot of the production leaves a lot to be desired.
But I worked the hardest probably on that one than I did anything else to get it to sound right, it’s still my favorite even for with all its flubs, it’s the genuine vibe that I am trying to go for with Pathless Land. I’d say, once Bloodlines is perfected (probably by late winter or early spring from the looks of it) that will be my favorite or at least second favorite.
What goals do you have in the coming years with your band?
Get the production to a higher level, get a full lineup, get a huge stage show and play live for sure. I have the upcoming full length and two additional EPs conceptualized and that’s hopefully it with doing it on my own (or with session musicians).
By that time (next year sometime) I want to bring others into the fold and really bring things to a higher level. I have tons of ideas all the time, but it’s time to open up the project to others to contribute to again (without having to compromise my soul, hopefully).
In addition to Bloodlines, there’s gonna be two EPs hopefully next year: one is a more 80s even more AOR/Traditional Metal sounding one, and then a super extreme one that’s aggressive and full of angst (and might be partially industrial, maybe something like Strapping Young Lad meets Arsis or something like that) about how the world has gone the past three years or so (obviously with some of the traditional Pathless “sound” intact of course and with some positivity in the end too).
We’ll just have to see, but I would love for that to be the next cycle of releases. I then would love to tour the world and elsewhere, and have huge stadium shows, play Wacken and all that jazz.
The Winner’s Edge by Pathless Land.
Any advice for a musician starting out?
Don’t give a shit what others think. Even if it turns out with you just having some cult following, or playing “outsider” music, do whatever the hell you want to do.
Thank you so much for doing this, Matt. It was a pleasure. Any last for our readers? Where can we follow you and buy your music?