VALE OF PNATH
The Prodigal Empire (2011)
United States, Willowtip Records, Melodic Technical Death Metal
In the past few years technical death metal has been invaded from all sides, Gothenburg tinged metalcore being the flavor of the week. Depending on the opinion (or perhaps age) of the listener, this may be seen in different ways, of which cars could be seen as a good metaphor; enemies of the new school of technical death metal will see these changes as an infectious case of rust that is continually tearing away at the beauty of a classic vehicle. In contrast, fans of the more diversified bands of today may see this as a reinvigorating coat of paint that brings life to a clunky lemon.
Leaving big hunks of metal and returning to metal music, Denver, Colorado’s Vale of Pnath takes their name from Lovecraftian lore; for those familiar with the dark stories of H.P. Lovecraft, his dense and disturbing prose primarily focus on creatures and beings from beyond the understanding of human minds, horrors that literally drive people mad by simply seeing them. Certainly metal subject matter, and something that funeral doom bands like Thergothon and Catacombs have put to metal quite disturbingly. Yet herein lies the problem with Vale of Panth’s debut full length The Prodigal Empire. Rather than transferring the complex words of Lovecraft into the sound of the maddening abyss that birthed Nyarlathotep, this shiny new car of melodic technical death metal sounds like it was painted with American metalcore mixed in Gothenburg.
Released by Willowtip Records, this album has all the guitar squeals, bass clangs, and machine gun drumming we have come to expect in more recent years from polished sounding new bands. Their previous work, a self-titled EP released in 2008, was a focused four tracks of impressive and promising technical death metal. Yet, somewhere between releases, the band decided to embrace melodic pieces commonly found in American metalcore (such as The Human Abstract), similar to the less technical moments of Arsis. These hooks definitely make the band more accessible and help them stand out in a playlist of Severed Savior and Inveracity, yet for seekers of technical proficiency, its exactly these identifying pieces that detract from the band. Yes, they provide for a certain degree of memorability and catchiness, but they seem at odds with the more complex and intricate pieces when the band channels their inner engineers. And moments of Darkest Hour style melodic passages are definitely not the nightmare fuel that H.P. Lovecraft created, only made worse by the high sounding production. Listeners would imagine that the demons crawling from the depths of Kadath bring with them thick bass lines and disturbing atonal squeals, not middle era In Flames melodic licks.
Overall, this is a solid album and kind of like a brand new sports car. Its got some interesting new features (the melodic pieces) and handles well (in the technical department). Fans of recent vehicles like Allegaeon will probably really enjoy it, which Vale of Pnath resemble, especially in the vocals. However, fans that were won over by the Beneath the Massacre-esque Vale of Pnath EP may feel a bit alienated. A well constructed vehicle, its only downfall are the moments when its shiny, bright yellow melodic paint job that betray its sinister and foreboding Lovecraftian manufacturing.
Rating and one-line-metal-verdict:
7/10: Its great musicianship and fans of new technical death metal will like this, but the melodic parts seem like a distraction from the technicality and dark Lovecraftian moments.
Band and release information, as well as album cover from their official page at Willowtip Records: http://www.willowtip.com/releases/details/vale-of-pnath-the-prodigal-empire.aspx