Artist: Vale of Pnath
When it comes to versatile riffs and sinister lyrics, Vale of Pnath are no strangers. Releasing their long awaited EP, Accursed, three years after their sophomore album, Vale of Pnath take a more blackened-symphonic approach to technical death metal this time around.
The EP starts with the track “Shadow and Agony,” about a minute-long track that is meant to build the tension of the EP. The overall atmosphere presented in Accursed is introduced at its core with this intro track, delving right into the next, “The Darkest Gate.” With a chordal entrance, showing off the change of pace in musical style, vocalist Reece Deeter comes in with a trifling scream, followed by ambient blast beats by drummer Eric Brown. The song shows both the new and old of the band, flaunting stylistic and technical riffs while maintaining symphonies in the background. Whereas II had showy-technicality, Accursed shows that the band has matured and no longer needs to prove their technical ability to the world, rather use new tools to add to their already-impressive nature.
Ending “The Darkest Gate” with a primal scream, “Skin Turned Soil” drives right into the listener’s ears, feeling the pounding bass of the drums with the Black Dahlia Murder-esque riffs. Influence from II are also shown, some riffs taking a more melodic approach to the blackened aspects of the album. Bassist Andy Torres shows off his twangy, cut-through tone, reminding the listener that the bassist is, in fact, important. Halfway through the song, Deeter shows off his spoken-word talents, finagling a throaty-gurgle of a voice to give the listener a feeling that he is born of pure evil. As the song begins to show off its fantastic structure, previously-used riffs make a reappearance with minor changes; differences in the blast beats, etc.; Vale of Pnath boast the ability to keep their songs fresh and interesting.
The title-track and lead single, “Accursed,” enters with a ferocious violence previously unseen in prior songs. The symphonies add character and shape to the flavorful track, taking notes from Anaal Nathrakh in the sinister department and applying it to an already-intricate genre. The first-half of the song plays around with riffs and song structure, making the riffs heavier or adding in some fresh licks that the listener will hum at work the next day. Once the first-half ends, the song mellows down to a build, switching from ear to ear with riffs until dropping a bomb into the listener’s ears. Drummer Brown comes in with double-bass like a machine gun, the heaviness heightened by guitarist Vance Valenzuela. The drums and guitar continually complement each other, matching in aggressiveness without being overbearing for the listener’s ears.
The EP comes to a calm as interlude track “Audient Void” plays. The purpose of this track may be to give the listener a breather, or to prepare them for the brutality of the final two songs coming their way. Either way, it successfully makes the listener pause in their place and contemplate what has to come next, the song sounding as if a beast is breathing in a cage.
“Obsidian Realm” comes in hot and heavy, boasting more technicality and lowering the ambience in the first two minutes. Fans of The Prodigal Empire will enjoy this track, throwing back to songs such as “Mental Crucifixion.” “Obsidian Realm” boasts all that the band wants to accomplish: devilish symphonies with fast-paced riffage. The song takes a pause, slowing down halfway to show off Deeter’s high screams. His vocals have taken quite a turn from II, mostly maintaining the blackened scream throughout 90% of the record. Fans of old may have mixed feelings about this, but songs like “The Darkest Gate” still have Deeter showing off his threatening mid-lows.
“Obsidian Realm” ends, with a pattern-based riff meant to fill the listener with a form of anxiety. The end of the EP is almost here, and the band is building the listener’s tension to prepare for what is to come next: quiet pulsing. The ambience takes form, symphonies and piano in the background build a pressure that drives a stake right into the heart of the listener’s ears. Every members’ talents are on display, gatling-gun blast beats emphasized by thick bass tones, massacre-esque chordal guitar, and Deeter’s vocals sounding close to that of Trevor Strnad (The Black Dahlia Murder). Clocking in at six minutes, the riffs are of the same notes, but patterns continually change. Vale of Pnath turn their riffs on their heads, showing what they can make new and exciting.
Overall, the album is too short, which is a good thing. It leaves the listener wanting more, wanting to see the new approach that the band has taken on. With the band maturing as musicians and honing in on other areas, Vale of Pnath are paving their way to success. Introducing atmosphere into technical death metal in the way this band has, it adds a thrilling new texture to this style of music. Technical death metal is on the rise and many musicians are showing off their talents, but Vale of Pnath have the ability to show off their talents without being flashy. They show enough to impress the listener but themselves know they have two albums of pure shredding brutality to back up their name. Although in the songs many of the riffs are repeated, the intricacy of reshaping those riffs are what make this EP so interesting.
For Fans of: Anaal Nathrakh, the Black Dahlia Murder, Emperor