Over the past several years, few scenes in the metal world have rivaled the expansive growth and quality of the music coming out of Denver, Colorado. Khemmis, Primitive Man, Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, In the Company of Serpents, Dreadnought, Of Feather and Bone, Allegaeon, and Green Druid are but a handful of the bands who have established sterling international reputations while based out of the Mile High City, not including acts such as Wayfarer, Bestia Arcana, Aoratos, and Nightbringer who represent other portions of the state with thoroughly transfixing metallic goodness. It’s a great place to be a metal band or live music fan, and has shown no signs of slowing down since its recent explosion. But with so many great bands producing music consistently, it’s all-too-easy for quality groups to miss out on some of that limelight. Often lost (which is just baffling to me) in the Colorado metal band name-drop-apalooza is technical death metal band Vale of Pnath, who dropped two of the subgenres most impressive releases of the past few years in The Prodigal Empire (2011) and II (2016). Infusing their tech-obsessed songwriting with a blackened vocal presence and Lovecraftian vibes, Vale of Pnath have been forging a unique path within their sphere of influence, and their latest EP, Accursed, does nothing to slow their path toward tech death domination.
As a piece of technical death metal, there’s little to fault with Accursed. Guitarists Vance Valenzuela and Harrison Patuto deliver expert performances from start to finish, presenting sequence after sequence of nasty, highly polished riffs with insane levels of energy and technical acumen. It’s everything you should expect from a technical death metal band, and in this phase Vale of Pnath delivers in spades. But one of the most notable (and entertaining) qualities of this EP is its increased focus on the blackened elements of the band’s sound. Vocalist Reece Deeter infuses these tracks with a stirring, black metal-inspired roar that adds a constant sense of menace and dread to the proceedings. Instrumentally the band bring a blackened bent to the music as well. “The Darkest Gate” features drum blasts that highlight this approach, while the atmosphere created by the EP’s production and synthetic instrumentation (especially in “Skin Turned Soil”) further darkens the sonic palette. But above all other elements present here, death metal riffage reigns. The title track and “Obsidian Realm” represent some of the most thoroughly engaging songwriting of the band’s career, while notably allowing Andy Torress’ fantastic bass work to thrum clearly and prominently in the mix. Closer “Spectre of Bone” pulls all of the elements present in its preceding tracks together in a diabolical collage of punishing technical death metal that closes the EP in a blaze of glory.
Another aspect of this EP that I appreciate is its runtime. Seems like a random bit of praise, but I genuinely wish more bands would take the approach that Vale of Pnath have with this release. Clocking in at just over 25-minutes in length, Accursed is an EP that feels very far from a random, slap-dash collection of b-sides being released for a quick buck. Instead, listeners are treated to a developed and consistent release that flows seamlessly and with purpose, giving us a full and robust (albeit shortened) evolution of the band’s sound. If more bands would put this much care into their shorter releases, I’d review a helluva lot more EPs. But as it stands, Vale of Pnath have here given us a release worthy of standing beside its much longer predecessors.
In all, there’s very little about Accursed that’s unworthy of commendation. The instrumentation is superb, the songwriting focused, and the vibe as diverse and interesting as one could hope for in a technical death metal release. Vale of Pnath continue their habit of releasing excellent music, and Accursed further cements their place as one of Denver, Colorado’s premiere metal acts.
Accursed drops May 17th via Willowtip Records, and is available for pre-order on the band’s Bandcamp page.