Album Title: Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment
Label: Independent Release
Date of Release: 17 June 2022
The opportunity to review a debut album and an independent release is something I always struggle to refuse, and so here I am reviewing ‘Through the Vale Of Earthly Torment’, the first full-length record to see the light of day from Truent, a progressive/technical death metal band hailing from Vancouver, Canada. As you’re no doubt aware, I’ve been developing quite the taste for prog/tech death of late, so this is another tick in the box that made a review of this album a certainty.
To add a little more background context to the review, Truent have been around for a few years now, releasing a couple of EPs in 2017 (‘Faith In The Forgotten’) and 2018 (‘To End An Ancient Way Of Life’). They are a quintet comprised of vocalist and acoustic guitarist John Roodenrys, guitarists Daniel Clark (rhythm) and Matthew Pancoust (lead/rhythm), bassist Spence McIntosh, and drummer Nic Landry. They are also not the first outfit to cite the pandemic as the catalyst for the writing and recording of this venture, expressing the fact that it was a form of escapism for them during difficult times. The result is ‘Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment’, an eight-track 32-minute affair that the band declare as being their most diverse offering to date.
The first thing that I can confirm is that the band members can all play their instruments to a high standard – to play technical death metal, that’s more of an implied expectation rather than hopeful optimism though. Nevertheless, it’s a box that can be ticked accordingly. The second comment to make is that ‘Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment’ is heavily reliant on a core of chunky and groovy riffing, rather than a barrage of impossibly fast but precise instrumentalism. Put another way, this is more of a 44-tonne articulated lorry than a helicopter gunship.
Within the material provided with the promo, there are quotes from the band stating:
“There’s a wide mix of subgenres and sounds we explore throughout the album, often within the same song. We incorporate elements of everything from tech death to thrash metal to metallic hardcore into the records core sound of groove-filled progressive death metal.”
If you listen closely, then Truent are not wrong with their assertions; there are a number of different influences on offer within this half-hour record. But, and here’s my problem with this record, it all sounds a little bit forgettable. In a day and age where the quality within this subgenre is off the scale thanks to the likes of Archspire and so forth, this kind of music needs to really sizzle in order to make a big impression on me. The music on ‘The Vale Of Earthly Torment’ is perfectly well played and there are moments that do stand out. However, I don’t get the rush of excitement listening to this album that I do with others within the genre. Ultimately, the song writing just isn’t consistently strong enough engaging enough to hold my attention and excite me.
There are some high points though, starting with ‘Scathe Of Branches’ which has a Gojira vibe mixed with maybe even an early Soilwork or Darkane accent or two, especially when the music goes a little thrashier and the vocals are slightly cleaner and more of a gritty, soaring nature than the normal guttural growls. Then there’s ‘This Verdant Coil’ which is easily the most memorable of all the songs on the album. It features some cool drumming in the early stages in particular, but it’s the groove and the ensuing melodies woven in that make the greatest impact, topped off with a nice lead guitar sound, that’s akin to an air raid siren in a manner of speaking. Of all of the songs by Truent, this is the one that I remember once the disc has finished playing.
Mind you, the acoustic intro of ‘Blood And Dust’ is short but very sweet, whilst the ensuing four-and-a-bit minutes are arguably the most technical of all the material here, a bit of a problem when it’s also the opening track. It also signals the prevalence of chugging, down-tuned djent-like guitar tones which are used throughout the record, an aspect of the music that I need to be stellar in order to really hit my sweet spot.
I realise that I sound particularly harsh towards Truent, and I guess I am. But I also want the criticism to be as constructive as possible, so that the next release from these guys knocks me sideways. They have the talent and the ability to succeed, so I really hope their sophomore release realises their potential. By that, I mean that I want to hear music that is properly memorable, and which carries more of a unique edge to it. Focus on the songs themselves, improve in that area, and maybe cut out a few of the gratuitous chugs while you’re at it. Nevertheless, I would urge fans of this style of music to take a listen to ‘Through The Vale Of Earthly Torment’ just in case I’m way off the mark here.
The Score of Much Metal: 68%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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