Vale of Pnath - III never thought of myself as a tech death fan. Coming from a thrash background, I never needed insane drum machine combos or faster-than-light scales to get my dander up. But after penning one tech death TYMHM this winter, I was struck by the notable divide between Dormant Ordeal and current beau Vale of Pnath. Though ostensibly bucketed under the same moniker, the contradictory pairing of debris-chucking crunch and groove and the lightning speed of unyielding fretwork bookend a remarkably different sonic spectrum. II, the Americans’ sophomore album, offers the latter, but not without drawing on equal parts melody, strict technicality, and deathcore. The result has me wondering how I missed this band in the first place.

Despite dropping debut The Prodigal Empire’s style of twisting ferocity into memorability, II stuffs a hell of a lot of character into its 39-minute runtime. Vale cut close to a Beyond Creation with less deathcore but overlap with The Black Dahlia Murder and Allegaeon in their melodic reliance. The screech-and-growl tandem and harmonious intent of “Heart of Darkness” illustrate II’s prominent TBDM comparisons, but even little moments like the opening drum flourish on “The Horror in Clay” draw my mind right to “Moonlight Equilibrium.” “Reaver,” too, plays off a central TBDM direction that is unexpectedly catchy, given how downright heavy it can be at times. Some of this stems from new vocalist Reece Deeter, who imprints the album with much of its brutality and spirit. His commanding growls tag-team with Alan Paredes’ essential stick-and-move bass work to offset Vale‘s supercharged guitar tones. Highlight “The Serpent’s Lair” distills a myriad of influences into the perfect blend of eclectic depth, murderous rage, and shockingly effective breakdowns. With everyone from Gorod’s Mathieu Pascal and Nicolas Alberny to Ryan Glisan (ex-Allegaeon) guest starring, you can be sure that the solo work on II wants for nothing.

Vale of Pnath 2016

The moderation and intent levied in Vale’s songwriting elevates II above The Prodigal Empire and into the higher echelon of tech death. The band wisely aim for a well-balanced middle ground, only taking as much from their influences as necessary. Vale’s technicality avoids in-your-face First Fragmenty, sticking to tangible construction instead of gluing Yngwie Malmsteen posters to the wall. Likewise, they never stray into full deathcore monotony; their chug sessions, such as on “The Serpent’s Lair,” provide the backbone for an ambush of spiraling rhythms that gladly take center stage. Smatterings of Necrophagist, Obscura, and even Vektor flesh the guitarwork out, while the restrained use of Allegaeon’s love-it-or-hate-it flamenco acoustics pops up now and again.

I find it difficult to gripe about an album of this magnitude. My major issues center on the sadly par-for-the-course DR5 mix and a few tracks that stick around past their natural end point. Overall, II is a fine piece of work that I only wish I’d gotten to sooner in the year. I am proud to say Vale of Pnath have inched me just a little closer to true tech death fandom.

Tracks to Check Out: “The Serpent’s Lair,” “Klendathu,” “The Horror in Clay,” and “Unburied”


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  • AndySynn

    Much as I enjoyed this one, it fell short of “the higher echelon of tech death” for me, simply because, while some of the songs were absolutely stellar, a solid handful of them were just “good”, without leaving much of a lasting impression.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      What is your higher echelon? While I do agree, I gotta say that this one was considerably more enjoyable than First Fragment which received a crap-tonne of praise online.

      • AndySynn

        Yeah, that one definitely struck me as “all flash, no trousers”, so the praise seemed really out of proportion.

        Although both albums have almost the exact same cover art…

        As for top-tier… this year it was Wormed, Fallujah, Mithras, Obscura, Deviant Process.

        And I was surprised by how good The Zenith Passage’s debut was, despite being only one step removed from being the new Faceless album.

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          New Fallujah is basically an exaggerated version of your criticisms of this in my eyes; a few good tracks and a lot of jangled trite. Obscura was entirely jangled trite. I have come to realize I can not trust your opinions surrounding tech-death. I am glad we had this talk.

          • AndySynn

            I’ll pray for you.

        • Kronos

          What? This year’s fallujah album was trash. I totally overrated it by saying it was worth listening to.

          • AndySynn

            By “trash” I’m just going to assume you mean “fantastic, but clearly two songs too long”.

          • Hammersmith

            .. but, the production!

          • Kronos

            Only crushed down to DR6? Have a fucking trophy, Fallujah.

          • Hammersmith

            I did read that they are going to re-release Flesh Prevails with a much more dynamic mix. I liked their latest release, but could have done without the electronica songs.

          • Kronos

            Half of the album was electronics. We’ll see if TFP can really be saved.

          • Hammersmith

            I’m cautiously optimistic about it. TFP was the better record to be sure, but Dreamless was good, especially if you just straight up delete/skip fidelio and les silences. But it’s fine to disagree.

          • sir_c

            otherwise, there still is Carcass

        • Dr. Wvrm

          I thought you had Dormant Ordeal on your year end list as well. Hard for me to argue with most of your picks, though I didn’t like Fallujah very much either.

          Hey, we disagreed on something. Am I a real writer now?

          • AndySynn

            Oh, I did. I frakkin’ LOVE that album. I guess I just don’t think of it as “Tech Death” in the same way as VoP, etc, so it didn’t occur to me to include it.

        • Hammersmith

          Haven’t seen too many people talking about that Deviant Process, but it was pretty damn good. Kind of snuck in out of nowhere.

          • AndySynn

            Review is imminent (and by imminent I mean, sometime next week).

        • drug_genosh

          no virvum?

          • AndySynn

            You know what… I really do like Illuminance, particularly the mid-album run of songs, but feel like it’s not QUITE at the top level.

            Most of what I find to be the “top-tier” releases tend to hit me with an almighty “WOW” factor. You can instantly tell that they’re something special. Whereas with Virvum I feel like they’re already really good, but only say… half of the album… is truly “special” in that same way.

            Same thing for the new Burial In The Sky. Fantastic album (albeit a little too close to Rivers of Nihil in places), which hints at the possibility of something truly “special” in the future.

          • drug_genosh

            fair enough! different strokes for different folks I guess. For me, virvum was one of my top 5 from last year-just hit me differently I guess; i even like the front & back more than the middle! Also, pretty sure this was their debut too so im hopeful for the next one too!

          • Hammersmith

            Virvum was really impressive, especially considering it was a debut.

      • De2013

        Funny, in the FF review this record was also mentioned by @barttherepairman for the similar cover art.

    • Spear

      Agreed. I still listen to it on occasion, but very little of it sticks with me for very long.

      • Kronos

        I had the same experience.

    • But they have hoodies!

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        The second guy from the left appears to be wearing TWO hoodies!

      • Monsterth Goatom

        And no button-downs.

      • Dr. Scorpion

        And a blond girl!! Now only if we could have some nips like that other promo pic……

    • saillc

      Out of curiosity, what would be the high echelon?

  • antitayyip

    this is pretty impressive..

  • Mr T

    The guy in the middle looks like a Phteven.

    • sir_c

      No he’s phterodactylus

  • Zach Ward

    Oh hell yea. Been waiting for this for some time. One of my fav tech death albums from last year.

    • Dr. Wvrm

      Hello friend.

      • Zach Ward

        Eyy, Nice review m8.

  • Reese Burns

    I really like this one, though that cover art is pretty generic. Looks like a recoloured version of Dasein’s latest, and Winter Thrice by Borknagar.

    • Zach Ward

      Yea but, Vale’s logo is better. Ha!! Take that you critic. I got ya good

      • Reese Burns

        I submit, I submit!

  • Keep at it doc. One day you’ll be able to forget about melody and enjoy Frontierer.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Hey, there’s nothing wrong with gluing Yngwie Malmsteen posters to the wall!

  • Jrod1983

    Not a bad album by any means, just not a great one.
    About a year ago I went on a tech-death kick for a month though, so I may just be burnt out on the genre.
    There’s potential here nonetheless.

  • Diego Molero

    This is pretty good. Last year for tech-death I went mostly with Hannes Grossmann, First Fragment, Virvum and Deviant Process. All 4 albums are great. But this is good too.

  • Dudeguy Jones

    I think the logo is amazing. The record is just okay to me. I really held them up to a super high standard after The Prodigal Empire. Maybe that was why I didn’t allow this one to live up to my expectations.

    A revisit later this year will set the record straight for me, but either way, they killed it with the logo. :P

    • Dudeguy Jones

      And for the record, the cover is a TON like the First Fragment record. I was dying. But I like this one a lot more. Especially wit dat logo, yo.

  • IndignantN00b

    From my POV, Dasein was one of those “game changers”/new setting of the bar that comes along every few years in tech death, and it made this, the new Obscura, etc sound like yesterday’s news. This is well played and hardly a bad album but it’s just not the highest octane available right now- and let’s face it, a part of the fun of the genre is what an arms race it is.

    • Reese Burns

      I prefer Dasein over this, but I’d say that this comes pretty close, but I wasn’t feeling Obscura at last year, so I’m with you there.

      • IndignantN00b

        I definitely prefer this to Akroasis. They all just came out so near to each other that comparisons became inevitable

  • This Vale of Pnath has had some staying power with me by virtue of my 2016 playlist. Glad I follow Willowtip, they had some good ones this yr!

  • sir_c

    mmm I normally like tech death, but like shit sticks to a wet blanket, this does not.