SummaryThe lava’s hot, but these tunes surely aint
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After the confusing, yet ambitious Funeral Service demo, Mental Home had dropped their thrash-like nature and become melodic doom/death metal band instead. Sounds about fair, right? It’s just that while the band’s vision got better defined, the riffs mostly went down the drain, even if Vale does a decent job at creating atmosphere. The interplay between those nostalgic lightweight keys and controlled, melodic leads help and Sergey Dmitriev whispers like a wise man and howls with fright, not unlike Johan Edlund before he went through his gothic phase. Indeed, Vale is fronted by a decent vocalist who certainly stands out.
It’s not as if Mental Home weren’t influenced by the right kind of bands and albums either. The humming leads present on “Aevin’s Cage” might have appeared on Paradise Lost’s Icon, while “The Euphoria” and “The Vale” feel like they were inspired by Tiamat’s pre-Wildhoney era. You even hear some aspects which would define albums that would come out later; the elegant lead work reminiscent of “Southern Calm Waters” resembles October Tide’s Rain Without End and the majestic key lines that introduce “Christmas Mercy” foreshadows the same divine gloom of Morgion’s Among Majestic Ruin. Clearly, Vale should be a good album as it features plenty of interesting ingredients.
The problem is that unlike the aforementioned bands, by this time Mental Home struggled to write a good hook and interesting riffs, even if most of their compositions remain slightly interesting from time to time. Songs like “Stranger Dove” and “Southern Calm Waters” sound rather mellow, yet as far as riffs go never get beyond the point of some half-assed palm muted segments appearing here and there, even if the latter still features a welcoming smooth guitar lick leading its chorus. “Aevin’s Cage” opens up with a foreboding melody and quickly turns into a singing lead guitar attack that might have belonged to Greg Macintosh. While not the best song on Vale, it at least turns into some action of melodic doom, unlike the previous two tunes that at best function as decent lullabies. “The Euphoria” sounds like something you’d find on The Astral Sleep, if only that album featured little to no riffs and overlong songs instead and while the sinister vocals and spooky keys definitely contribute to its macabre atmosphere, it’s unfortunately not enough to leave a lasting impression, even if I appreciate Mental Home for trying. Interestingly enough Mental Home seems to do a better job at mimicking Tiamat circa Clouds. “The Vale” feels like an actual standout number and it’s easy to see why: the guitars sound far more engaged and heavier here and the result is a decent replicating of Tiamat circa ’92. Sergey Dmitriev does his best Johan Edlund impression while the dramatic keys float around that melancholic, yet punchy riffs work.
Clearly, Mental Home were at their best when they wrote more engaging and slightly heavier tunes and while you could make a decent EP out of “Aevin’s Cage” and “The Vale”, Vale just doesn’t work as a whole. Why would you bother listening to this since there’s so much better stuff out there? You’re better off hearing the albums this owes its own existence to instead.
Release date: 1996
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