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The lava's hot, but the album surely aint - 52%

colin040, December 22nd, 2020

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.

This review was originally written for

Taste the water and begin - 88%

autothrall, March 27th, 2010

As the Russians have proven here, a lot can and will happen in a few years. Mental Home had taken the style they implemented with the Mirrorland EP and capitalized on it in every way possible. Vale is a beautiful and original album of melodic, gothic doom with a unique cultural spin that manifests through the native classical influence in the riffing of the guitars and the bristling synth-work. There was the addition of a new guitar player here, Sergey Kalachov, which allowed Roman Povarov to focus more intently on his keys, and the result is a major payoff. But perhaps the most improved is vocalist/guitarist Sergey Dmitriev, who is now managing not only his gruff, tormented vocals better than the EP (he sounds a little like Johan Edlund on the Clouds album), but successfully implementing both black snarls and death grunts wherever he deems them fit.

Looking back, Vale struck at exactly the right moment where it should have been a smashing success, but whether it was a case of limited distribution or lack of word of mouth, the album didn't quite shudder the walls of heaven. I say this because melodic gothic/doom was at a pretty popular point thanks to Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, Tiamat and their ilk, but also Mental Home were somewhat comparable to the melodic death exploding out of Sweden in the mid 90s. The atmosphere of the album is immense, the guitars like glazed tears on a statue's face on an overcast day, the keyboards perfectly aware of where to appear and where to take the sidelines, and even the lyrics are improved. In fact, this is probably one of the best Russian metal albums I own, and it's not the last time the band would tap their muses and take them for a ride.

"Stranger Dove" begins with scintillating atmospheric synthesizers above a crackling fire, and then the immediacy of a good, stark doom rhythm that trails off with the tail of the synthesizer before a folksy Russian melody arrives. After this, there is much desperation and beauty to the verse, as Dmitriev uses his gothic, breathless vocals to great effect. Also of note are the brief, theatrical pauses used later in the track, and the piano subtext used to flow some of the heavier riffing together. But even this is merely a warm-up to the next two tracks, some of the best of Mental Home's career. "Southern Calm Waters" is both eerie and beautiful, with the perfect miasma of melancholic guitars that twist into an unforgettable pre-verse, there to escalate into an eagles vision of the Volga as it sets its course, carving the land. And then comes the fucking doom! But even as Dmitriev lets rip his gnarliest snarling, the band retains its grace. "Aevin's Cage" is likewise extraordinary, with a saddening surge that gently uplifts around :45 to a wonderful melodic pace before the verse, which once again features one of the most elegant and tear-welling guitar riffs known to man. The climax at about 2:00 is reminiscent of something from Tiamat's Clouds, another excellent album.

On the strength of these opening tracks alone, we'd be looking at a perfect album, but there are five left to go, and sadly the strength does not hold throughout the entire 45 minute experience. But it comes very close. "The Euphoria" returns to winding rivers of sublime, sad synthesizer spiced up in both power chords and cleans, with a loud bass presence courtesy of Denis Samusev. It's a solid track, despite its nearly 8 minutes of content, but there are few surprises lurking about its corners and angles, no glorious payload awaiting delivery as in "Aevin's Cage". Still, it is highly atmospheric and not a crutch. "The Vale" creates a panorama of lush synth and crushing doom, majestic and very even, though it too lacks any decisive riffing that could make a grown man cry. "My Necklace" is a great, if short track that offers a Russian parallel to Amorphis' Tales from the Thousand Lakes (or Elegy), and "Christmas Mercy" moves through segues of whispered, atmospheric tranquility and softly thundering background chords, with a cute little melody at about 5:00. Closer "Their Finest Voyage" ranges from an urgent, rampaging intro to a medieval synth line that would be perfect for your role playing fantasies, until it wallops you with a helping of progressive black/doom.

Though the last 25 or so minutes of the album are good, and still a vast improvement over the bands groundwork from Mirrorland, it does grow a little disappointing that the band isn't about to slam your emotions with another "Southern Calm Waters" or "Aevin's Cage", and that's really the only complaint I have about Vale. It sets you up for such anticipation and then lets you down easily. However, it's still good enough to listen through the entire disc, and it's still superior to so much of the drawling gothic ladydoom that was beginning to pop up in Europe, which would plague us with years on end of shitty female-fronted acts that appeal to suckers with bad fairy tattoos and a Harry Potter fetish. I often debate whether I enjoy this album more than its powerful symphonic follow-up Black Art, and I'll have to answer yes for the purposes of this review. Vale has a beautiful subtlety to it which makes it memory durable, while Black Art is straight to the face, over the top orchestrated bliss (though still quite good). If you've got good taste, or f you enjoy albums such as Tiamat's Clouds, Paradise Lost Icon, or Pyogenesis Sweet X-Rated Nothings, and have somehow missed this, Christmas is early this year. Enjoy!

Highlights: Southern Calm Waters, Aevin's Cage, The Euphoria, My Necklace


A Dark Journey Of Perfection - 100%

Nathan13, February 4th, 2007

I discovered Mental Home for myself from a song of theirs off The End Records first sampler. That song was 'Southern Calm Waters' which originates from this recording that I am reviewing currently. I came into possession of Vale a short time ago, and it was extremely hard to find. The copy I own came from an auction on ebay and, let me tell you, I was surprised to finally find a copy of it there.

Mental Home is one of the bands that are completely underrated in the true sense of the word. It's always a pleasure to discover a band who, unheard of, create brilliance in darkness and prove beyond a doubt that knowledge of such great music is not something that is owned by the general public. At the same time, it is a pity that their music has not graced as many stereo speakers.

From listening to their album Black Art (purchased long before Vale), I knew it would be extremely difficult to surpass that awesome recording. I realize that Vale was recorded before that album, but the unavailability changed things up a bit. Disappointment was a long forgotten worry when the sound of Vale finally arrived.

This album flows just like the lava portrayed on the cover (and from what I've seen so far; this band really knows how to correctly interpret their music into cover art). The darkness is prevalent, and that's what interests me towards such bands. The guitar is at the forefront of the music and this is welcomed indeed. Due to the sheer trance inducing enslavement of the riffs, its almost impossible to stop listening to.

Keyboards are also done tastefully with this band. They mesh perfectly with the other instruments in the background, though show up when the mood allows. Their music is tight, and all contributions from fellow band members are thrown in the mix to create something of utter beauty.

Vocals help create the essence of Mental Home, and here they completely inform you what their vision is all about. Clean vocals, or what you may perceive them to be, do not accompany the other instruments. A blackened tone is audible in many avenues of the songs, and of a quality on par with a selected few (of Scandinavian descent I would suppose). Yet, a lessened harsh vocal consumes the majority of the music.

This album completely envelops the listener and will not let go, and if you give into it (which is quite easy); an unrelenting force of dark, catchy, mournful, wicked music will dominate. You'll find here some of the most awesome guitar riffs that have ever been plucked or strummed. They command in such a way, that I am unable to find any flaw.

Total depression - 80%

natrix, April 24th, 2004

Mental Home really deserves a lot of praise with this album. It's quite heavy while being extremely melodic at the same time. This is an excellent combination, but very tricky to pull off. Mental Home does it effortlessly.

Melodies have become very important for this band, and you can hear it right away on "Stranger Dove," the opening of "Southern Calm Waters" (GREAT melodies!), and "The Vale." In addition, there is a really driving feel to a lot of the tracks, especially "My Necklace," which is probably the fastest song they've done (excluding the bonus tracks on Funeral Service). I really like the overall sense of depressing atmosphere on here--everything sounds sad and frustrated.

The keyboards are probably the element you're going to notice most of all, because they show up in all the songs. They're not great, but they do add in a little bit of extra effect. Especially great is the midsection of "The Euphoria," which sounds like some sort of funeral march. Clean guitars are used quite a lot, on "The Vale" and over the main melodic riff in "Southern Calm Waters."

Most importantly, they haven't lost sight of their heavier qualities. The rhythm guitars have a really nasty sound to them, and play powerchorded stuff all the time, with the bass backing it up strongly. This is like a heavier, more riff focused Tiamat, especially when it comes to the vocals, which sound almost exactly like Johan Edlund.

My main gripe comes with the last two songs--they just don't seem interesting to me at all. That's okay, because the other six songs are really exceptional. The production is pretty good on here as well. It's not the super clean stuff, but you can hear everything. Comparing this to Mirrorland, I can definately say this is a lot heavier, and much darker, as well as musically mature.