Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vale of Pnath - The Prodigal Empire

The Prodigal Empire is the latest release by one of Colorado’s finest technical death acts, Vale of Pnath. People that are very up-to-date on the latest technical death stuff, following awesome labels like Unique Leader, Subliminal Groove, and Willowtip, have probably already heard of these guys. Although I would consider myself to be pretty in-tune with the underground brutal death and tech death scene, I wasn’t aware of these guys until a year after they released this album. A lot of the technical death bands that have been popping up during the past three or so years are pretty mediocre. Some, though, like Back Door to Asylum, Dystrophic, Foreboding Ether, Soreption, and Cerebric Turmoil, have shown immense potential of becoming huge. Vale of Pnath isn’t exactly one of the most unique, but by far one of the better bands of the bunch.

In technical death, precision is pretty much one of the most important concepts. Yes, having interesting composition and a strong structure is important, but precision and complexity is what the genre is all about (hence the name TECHNICAL death). If someone has an idea in their head, and can’t execute it, they might as well not be even trying. But in the case of Vale of Pnath, anything having to do with precision and complexity is completely void of error. In technical death metal, the member of the band that usually ends up having the most trouble with precision and staying on track is the drummer. This genre, in particular, has an immense number of drummers known for their skill, creativity, talent, speed and technicality. Decrepit Birth, The Black Dahlia Murder, The Faceless, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Spawn of Possession, Inherit Disease, Brain Drill, Obscura, and many more technical death bands all have drummers that are considered by many to be among the best out there; so that alone gives Vale of Pnath a lot to live up to. And yes, I know that these guys aren’t trying to be best tech death band ever, they’re new. But don’t let that lower your expectations, because this drummer is a monster.

The drummer is not to be fucked with. Not just his speed, but his ability to NEVER step out of line alone makes him easily comparable with some of the better and more known drummers in the genre. His blast beats are generic, which is something that I would like to see him work with on the next record, but they’re still crushing. But his blast beats are the only complaint that I have. Each fill that’s thrown out there is executed differently, some of them being so interesting that a few people might have to repeat that one section before continuing on with the rest of the song. This happened to me over and over again with tracks like Legacy of Loss, Borne Extinction, Sightless, and Time of Reckoning. This attention-grabbing ability that the drummer has is something that can only be found in the best bands of the technical death genre. On top of all that awesome shit, the way his drums sound is very unique. Yes, there are certain things about how he sounds that can be found on other records by other bands (for you nitpickers), but no other drummer has put together a sound identical to that of the drums on The Prodigal Empire.

Vale of Pnath has a vocalist that sounds extremely similar to the vocals from Kansas tech death group Origin. All of the vocals are exhales, primarily growls, and occasionally some screams. For those of you that haven’t heard anything by Origin (there’s a problem if you haven’t) and need a little bit more of a description than what I just gave you, I’ll elaborate a bit more. The growls aren’t the extremely deep and guttural growls you might like hearing (i.e. Opeth, The Faceless, Amorphis, Whitechapel, Scar Symmetry, etc.). These growls are deep, but not like that. They’re more so in the realms of being a lower mid-ranged growl, which is a pretty comfortable and easily interpreted spot if you ask me. The difference between the vocals of Origin and the vocals of Vale of Pnath is that Vale of Pnath does a lot more screaming. Most of the time, the screams are played along with the growls, but every single song on this record has plenty of material that has just screaming without any other vocal accompaniment. Are the screams any good? They’re not really what I would consider my favorite, but they sure as fucking hell aren’t shitty screams. So there isn’t really any problem in the vocal department.

The one trait that sets Vale of Pnath apart from the rest of the tech death genre is that they’re melodic. The recent technical death scene that seems to be putting WAY too much emphasis on brutality and technicality is what Vale of Pnath are not being a part of; these fuckers want to give you something different. And yes, these guys are by no means the first technical death band to take a melodic approach on the genre (bands like Arsis, Neuraxis, Atheist, and The Black Dahlia Murder have all been doing it for at least ten years), but they should be considered to be one of the best and most original at it. Playing tech death in a melodic form is not an easy task to jump on, that much I do know. This alone makes it even MORE difficult to be as original as possible. Vale of Pnath take numerous traits from the generic zone and the really underground scene and use them to compose their own unique and original sound. I cannot stress enough how good these guys are at what they do; this is a band that WILL go places.

Vale of Pnath have released one of the best technical death debuts since Oracles by Fleshgod Apocalypse. The Prodigal Empire is an album that I would recommend to technical death enthusiasts (and fans), asshole elitists that think all new death metal is crap, extreme metal fans, and people that love quality music. Having an approach that is both interesting and original, Vale of Pnath has released an album that gets my score of 18/20. This is not an album that you should listen to with low expectations, because they will be completely obliterated.