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These Roman speed freaks have the blood of Nile running ardently through their veins. The influence is so strong and proud that I suspect the track Spires was named in tribute to the former Nile frontman. Rather than being outright clones, however, there is enough aggressive originality to make this a refreshing listen (and certainly the poetic lyrics are very much their own).
On the surface the components are effective rather than stunning; the vocals, the leads, the rhythms and the general sound. Scratch the surface and you realise how excellent the song arrangements are. There is a mature ebb and flow to the tracks that embodies other influences and techniques whilst sounding completely sincere to the listener. Like a mad dog on a slack leash, there is a natural impulsiveness to the way the music dynamically changes tempo, breaks down and is restored. Riffs are repeated with subtle variations and alterations to the harmony.
The band understand the full breadth of Nile's essence, with a healthy dose of early Hate Eternal at full speed and the 'Vile' to 'Bloodthirst' era of Cannibal Corpse during the mid-paced, misshapen parts. There are also undercurrents of classic evil black metal harmonies (as in Dawn of Cerberus) and early Malevolent Creation (the outro to N.E.M.A. for example). It is also satisfying to hear catchy Iniquity-style detuned riffing in Soul Addicted (a song from 2000) and Blood Tribute for further crunchy mid-paced solidity and crisp staccato passages.
I look forward to hearing the second full length release and hope that the drums and guitars will be produced with a little more density whilst keeping the clarity similar. More importantly, Hour of Penance should develop a more distinguishable personality, building on their sturdy foundation of song-writing skills.
[originally written for Diabolical Conquest webzine]
The Scandinavian scene tends to overwhelm the metal press, and that's understandable, but a lot of great southern European bands get overshadowed. Hour of Penance is one of those bands. They play mid-paced, very tight technical death metal in the vein of classic Suffocation or Immolation, and their debut full-length, "Disturbance," is on par with the classics of the brutal death genre.
The real standout feature of this album is the songwriting - tight, dynamic, and enduring upon repeated listens. The musicianship and vox are excellent all around, yet none of the instruments get in the way, although the drummer's technique stands out as especially accomplished. This is a band that knows how to write and play as an organic unit ("From Hate to Suffering," track 4, is a total exemplar of careful and effective songrwriting and performance in death metal). For this style of music, that's perfect. The clear and LOUD yet chunky production lends the overall presentation additional force, and the mix is just right.
If you're into brutal, technical death metal, this album's for you. I'd rate it higher, but - as with a lot material in this genre - the songs don't have quite enough variety to sustain a full listening of the album straight through, and I find that when I come back to it (which I often do) I seem to gravitate towards the first half, which is perhaps more inspired. Still, this is a great underground death metal album (and band) that deserves to be ranked amongst the best in the scene.