Vale of Pnath are a technical death metal group from Denver Colorado. The name comes from H.P. Lovecraft’s Dream cycle. The Vale of Pnath is a dark pit in the underworld where the ghouls throw the bones of those they have eaten. It’s also filled with giant worm like creatures. The name is actually a pretty good summary of what you get lyrically, which is not too surprising given the genre. Musically it’s mostly straight ahead death, but there are definitely strong technical elements, just not to the extent that they define the song structure as much as say, an Obscura album. Not a knock, just an observation.
The guitar work is stellar, and contributes most of the technical elements to The Prodigal Empire. The guitars add a lot of melody and soloing fireworks to an almost constant heavy riffing underneath, which does flesh out the songs and keep things interesting. Production-wise The Prodigal Empire is very clean, which I appreciate with technical music. The bass is sort of hard to hear, it has it’s moments but being so low in the mix it’s really not easy to give it an accurate review. The band would benefit from intricate bass lines that were easier to hear. The drumming here is mostly what one would expect from a death metal record, but there are moments of technical prowess that keep it from becoming monotonous. Vocally there is nothing unexpected, low growl, high growl, we have heard it before, however this is not necessarily a bad thing as the vocals are competent and do fit the genre, placement is perfect and they never seem to get in the way of the musical parts to which the guitars are drawing attention.
Standout tracks on The Prodigal Empire include Legacy of Loss, the title track The Prodigal Empire, both of which start heavy and stay that way, including the technical aspects. Mental Crucifixion seems to strain a little too much to be a technical death track, it succeeds but only to a certain degree. Brain Butchers ups the pace after Metal Crucifixion and brings back a better synergy with the death and tech parts of the album. Borne Extinction relies a little too heavily on the wicked witch vocals and low key music. Poisoned by Prosperity starts off with a musical interlude, then gets heavy and ends with acoustic guitars. Poisoned by Prosperity manages to be quite excellent if a little bit formulaic for an instrumental. Times of Reckoning has one of the more melodic death riffs on the album, you’ll like it or not depending on how you like the blending of the technical and melodic aspects. The stops about three quarters of the way through the track are excellent. Sightless is probably the most straight ahead death track on the album. The closer Cerulean Empire is where the band seems to employ all the techniques they have at their disposal, and they do combine them well.
Overall The Prodigal Empire is a good effort from Vale on Pnath. I happen to like Lovecraft, if you do as well you will probably appreciate the imagery here. The Prodigal Empire is a solid technical death release, nothing ground breaking really, but still well worth checking out.