Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Have you heard the new Hour of Penance yet?

Hour of Penance (Italy): “Regicide” (Prosthetic Rec.)
I sometimes get the impression that whenever a metal band is the object of praise, some attitudes often react with cynicism because some listeners really do perceive themselves as standing apart from what they reject (“mainstream” music culture, including metal, for example), as a means to express a self-assigned mark of so-called uniqueness, oftentimes displaying an unnecessarily excessive pessimism, just to go against the grain.
A case in point is Hour of Penance. Dismissive views have labeled the band a blasting one-trick pony or a Behemoth clone. Sometimes, more favorable reviews highlight the speed, saying that it is fast, intense, so on and so forth, which can also be a polite way of saying that it is a mediocre band with somewhat repetitive songs. In other words, a person says that the band is fast or heavy, as if that really means something in technical death metal; however, fast and heavy, in a “techdeath” context, is like saying that ice is cold.
My own experience listening to this album was interesting from the beginning: the blasting “technical/brutal death metal” of Hour of Penance made sense on the first listen.
The drumming caught my attention, in part, because it’s easy for a listener to connect with a beat. Hour of Penance is not the “fastest” ever, although it is assuredly a blasting album. As I already knew what to expect in terms of speed, what caught my attention was not the blasting. What caught my attention is something else that the drummer is doing: in between the blasting, there are patterns that sneak into the brief spaces at this warp-speed drumming; in the interstices of the frenzy, there are lots of small details that somehow add up to give the album a creative, a distinctive face from other “technical/brutal” blasting albums.
Second, the guitar work is a balance between tendonitis-inducing wizardry and memorable hooks, done at a blasting pace, of course. I like the fact that I can hear the riffs and that it is not simply chugging away with play-on chords. The guitar work is an attractive proposition for the listener wanting to hear the guitar, while still hoping for technical/fast playing. It does not go totally over your head, but it is undoubtedly on the shredding side of death metal; the equilibrium between speed, chaos, absurdity and a bit of melody works well for the band.
The elements—the drumming, guitars and the growling—make up complete songs, compositions that the willing listener can consolidate in her or his mind with the feeling that the music may be talented, fast or extreme, but at bottom, it’s a fun listen. It seems to me that these compositions have the key components that the listener partial to “modern/extreme death metal” will approve in a big way, as there is here much to enjoy. www.hourofpenance.net www.facebook.com/hourofpenance

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