Christian Muenzner is an amazingly skilled guitarist. A former member of the German progressive death metal band Obscura, he’s currently part of the DragonForce-ish power metal act Eternity’s End. He’s also made two solo albums, 2011’s Timewarp and 2014’s Beyond the Wall of Sleep, both of which featured two of his Obscura bandmates, bassist Linus Klausenitzer and drummer Hannes Grossmann. They’re also present on his third solo release, Path of the Hero, which came out earlier this month.
Path of the Hero has little in common with the complicated, jazzy death metal of Obscura. Instead, it’s an entirely instrumental, neoclassical power metal album, much more in the spirit of Eternity’s End. The tracks have titles like “Knight Rider,” “Demon Angel,” “Blades of the Brotherhood,” and “Marchers of Valhalla,” with a few sci-fi references thrown in, like “Deep Space #11” and “Wing Commander.” The keyboards are frequently programmed to sound like harpsichords, and some busy bass flourishes bubble up in the mix here and there, but this is a guitarist’s showcase, and Muenzner is flying around like Wile E. Coyote in his bat-wing suit.
The riffs have a melodic, hard rock crunch, reminiscent of late ’70s and early ’80s hard rock and metal acts like Ronnie James Dio-era Rainbow, or Accept, but when the solos begin, it’s impossible to think of anyone but Yngwie Malmsteen, though the faux-flamenco-isms in the middle of “Blades of the Brotherhood” may also remind some listeners of Al Di Meola.
The first three tracks feel like a trilogy; the riffs are similar, the guitar and keyboard sounds are the same, and they each follow a similar galloping-off-the-cliff trajectory. On “Deep Space #11,” though, Muenzner changes things up, shifting from a lead-footed “funk” groove reminiscent of Extreme by way of Joe Satriani to some jazz fusion explorations, with Klausenitzer getting his turn in the spotlight and keyboardist Jimmy Pitts opting for some retro organ tones. “Discovery” could be an Arch Enemy track, built around a huge, melodic death metal riff straight from the Scandinavians’ catalog. Those are just side trips on the album’s primary mission, though; as Path of the Hero winds down, the synth harpsichords and shredtastic power metal anthems come back.
This is a concise record: nine tracks in just 35 minutes. Muenzner possesses the ability to get in and out, so most of the pieces fly by. That factor, combined with its relative stylistic consistency, makes Path of the Hero an easy listen, if insane guitar shredding is your thing. Those who like this sort of thing will find this to be the sort of thing they like, as the saying goes.