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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.