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Hour of Penance has raised the stakes on this one. This album should present a challenge to any death metal band. Who dares to try and top this magnificent work, by a magnificent band? After nearly two and a half years since the release of this album, I have yet to hear a better attempt in the death metal scene. That's either saying something about the genre, or the band. I'd hate to say that death metal has become too watered down, but Hour of Penance gives me hope and we can clearly see the results of a finely tuned machine in The Vile Conception.
On an instrumental basis, notes are executed in a concise and direct fashion. Giulio Moschini has displayed some serious chops on this release, and not only is his riffing somewhat catchy but it never fails to intrigue. I don't think I was bored for a moment during the time I spent listening to this album for the first time, and the numerous times proceeding. The man simply has a sheer knack for playing his instrument with a driving force which can be notably heard on tracks like Misconception, Liturgy of Deceivers, The Holy Betrayal, Slavery in a Deaf Decay, and From Hate to Suffering. I'm really looking forward to hearing what this guy does in their upcoming album.
Now onto the bass in this album, which is my solitary criticism. I have to say that coming from such a high caliber band, I truly expected more presence of bass. This was my only disappointment, as you can rarely make out the bass notes from the pummel of the drums combined with the ferocity of the guitar tracks. This is most definitely something that should be corrected during the procession of their next album.
To say that Hour of Penance has an atypical death metal drummer would be an understatement. This is some of the best drumming I've ever heard, and though they do make use of triggers, it is done in such a tasteful fashion that it's easy enough to forgive. I can't begin to express how impressed I was by Mauro's talent on the kit. His fills are timed perfectly, his use of double bass is killer and fortifies the power behind the album, and he's a perfect fit for the band. Stand-out tracks include Misconception, Hideously Conceived, Drowned in the Abyss of Ignorance, Slavery in a Deaf Decay, The Holy Betrayal, and Absence of Truth.
Last, but certainly not least effective, are the vocals on this release. Francesco seriously knows what he's doing. Sure, Alex "Necrotorture" Manco was decent on Pageantry for Martyrs, but I have a hard time matching his skills par with Francesco. Ultimately it comes down to his ability to synchronize the power of his voice inflection with the rhythm of the guitar and drums. Combining these factors, especially in the correct manner, has proved the highest point of interest for me as the listener and is probably the album's most stressed attribute.
I honestly think that the designated title describes this album perfectly. With the exception of an imbalance of bass, this is death metal done right.
Italy, the birth of the greatest empire ever, place of warm water, home of brilliant philosophers, painters, architects and divine brunette female exemplars; cradle of bloody mob organizations, pioneer of uninteresting yet aggressive style of soccer, country that saw Benito Mussolini grow up and take over the country; sounds like the paradise on Earth, right? Well, from the paradise, one demonical quintet was forged and out of fucking nowhere, Hour of Penance appeared. Hour of Fucking Penance, if I’m allowed. This 5-piece collective, probably wouldn’t have smelled a single bit of the (honestly deserved) stench of fame with their efforts from 2003 and 2005, Disturbance and Pageantry for Martyrs, but with The Vile Conception, their world must have been turned upside down, just like it turned mine. Hailing from Rome, HoP have actually created a magnificent piece of modern brutal death metal, which surprisingly delivers a highly intricate, varied, punishing and non-repetitive brand of modern brutality. Emphasized on the massive vocal capacity of the already mythic Francesco Paoli, who joined the outfit after Alex “Necrotorture” Manco departed in the wake of their second full-length release and supported by two insane guitarists, a discrete bassist and an inhuman drummer, The Vile Conception rapidly proved to be one of the best metal records of 2008, becoming one of the most acclaimed brutal death releases to see the light of day, conquering all types of metalheads.
Let’s cut the crap and get straight to the point: This record isn’t all that original and innovative, but the reason that makes it a landmark is because of the way it is seen as a whole. A complete record with almost everything done right consisting on a huge brutal death slab that will leave you floored for weeks.
The best way to impress a listener, at least on my case, is by delivering a great first song, something that happens on this album and that pushed me very hard in order to listen to the entire album. Misconception is not only the first track of the album, but also the first track that heard from them and honestly, I believe this was the reason why I got stuck on this album, even after hearing it in its entirety and feeling a certain disappointment. Yes, the first time I heard The Vile Conception I wasn’t particularly impressed neither I felt the urge to listen it again. But for some reason I kept listening to it from time to time. This was purely because of Misconception, since it was such an addictive and direct song. This track hits the listener like several punches in the stomach, leaving very little space to breathe, as the constant drum blasts corroborate. From the first hook that capture’s the listener in the beginning, passing through the complex middle sections and through the squeezed tiny solo, there’s something really special that is easily acknowledged right from the first audition. Whilst Liturgy of Deceivers offers a more melodic approach, intelligently mixing melody and sheer aggressiveness, the following track demonstrates that Francesco and company aren’t here to get syrupy and pragmatically remember that it is possible to compose complicated riffs and structures, to combine it with a fairly un-technical solo and still sound appeasing. Luckily, as if this wasn’t surprising enough, the next track, Drowned in the Abyss of Ignorance, blasts immediately with a short verse, leading to a total double-bass lead chorus viciously growled in an abnormally fast pace. Incisive breaks are spread throughout the track never reaching an annoying sequence, serving as balsams for the ferocious sections. Gradually the final evolves into an orchestral section that wouldn’t fit too badly an epic movie score. Now, this is what I call brutal death metal!
I ain’t gonna describe the whole album, but I tried to put in words these first songs, so you’ll could understand the quality of the opening of the album, so the addictiveness could make sense. Still, I can tell you that are loads of surprises later on, including a huge break with a tremolo riff, sequentially interrupted by precise rhythm guitar strapped together with low ear-grinding growls; lots of mesmerizing technical sections with oppressive chords showing how proficient the guitarists are; jaw-dropping solos with portentous rhythm guitars which evolve rapidly to viscerally short bridges; gloriously triumphant and highly headbangable choruses; an haunting and spine-shilling orchestral section and finally: the mighty ending track, Hierarchy of the Fools. That’s probably one of the great qualities of this release, HoP having managed to organize the tracks with a coherent list, resulting in the right sequence. While Misconception opens the album with that faux sense of security (the pause’s role is very important), Hierarchy of the Fools reveals itself as the perfect ending track, not only because of being one the brightest moments of the whole album, but also due to the way it ends. After several waves of technical yet chic brutality, an intelligent strong composition induces the listener into a double climax, firstly with the gradually intense pre-solo short section and secondly, with the full crescendo, with all the instruments united for the final blast.
Despite all the evident major achievements with this album, The Vile Conception isn’t an easy listen; in fact, it’s quite hard to enjoy it at first. Like I already stated, it took me long before starting to appreciate the whole album and the entire songs and this is basically due to the musical entropy that is happening in all the tracks. With all the chaos generated by all the instruments and voice, the guitars and specially the bass, become very difficult to hear sometimes, something that almost jeopardizes the whole sound experience. The major drawback is actually the almost impossible task that consists in hearing the bass which is really a shame, given the importance of that instrument on death metal. I’d bet that 90% of the time, the bass is close to inaudible, but the guitars aren’t that far from it as well. A substantial guitar volume increase would be a little less than awesome, because, you know, there are actually pretty good riffs in there. Just take a look at verse riff of Drowned in the Abyss of Ignorance and you’ll see what I mean. Shifting between high notes and low notes, with also some descending chords and high pitched picks, turns it into one of the best riffs I’ve heard, without a doubt. But as I was saying, it becomes very hard to distinguish notes so, you should get some HoP tabs, available in Guitar World, or any kind of guitar tab site, just to make it easier for you to discern the guitar notes and assimilate the massive riffs that Giulio Moschini creates.
Now, another thing must be pointed out so you should know right away: Every track of this album has an unusual epic ambience, which is really interesting and praiseworthy. A lot of brutal death out there sounds rather shabby and superficial sometimes, so it’s really refreshing to experience an album where all tracks sound epic as fuck, with really dense textures. Not only do the tracks sound epic but they also have plenty of variation and tremendous diversity, all played at the speed of light, thanks to the skilful guitarrist. One second you’re hearing a full break with a double bass drum fill and in the other you have already crossed through a second-long bridge, to give place to a new completely different riff, that evolves into a fast sweep, successively repeated after entering the chorus.
Yeah, these fuckers pulled off a great job, instrumentally speaking, but as I said, Francesco also has a great contribution for the sound of the band. His tank-heavy growl is immediately recognizable and done in slightly different ways and velocities, bringing either slow death grunts or fast harsh screams and vice-versa. This guy sure has an incredible voice and it has conquered me completely, as I actually choose his voice as one of my favorites, together with Michael Akerfeldt’s.
I wanted to declare my love for Mr. Mauro Mercurio, the drummer. Man, he must be fucking heard to be fucking believed! I mean, he is completely insane; the way he dwells around the whole drum kit throughout the album is unbelievable. I still don’t know how the drum kit survives after each song, because believe me, you wouldn’t want to be incarnated on the drum kit, as soon as Mauro steps on the pedal. The way he changes rhythms, from the bass drum, to the toms and the cymbals is simply amazing and since the drums are so evidenced on this record, is pretty hard to be indifferent to it. Undoubtedly, one of the best drummers on the metal sphere, period.
Just let me end by adding that this folks are not only great musicians on studio, but also live. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to their gig on SWR Barroselas this year and they absolutely blew everything away. Their gig was complete destruction and chaos, while there was even time for a crowd moshpit and crowdsurfing on stage, between the musicians. If you have the opportunity to see them (they are or were touring with the techdeath masters Origin on Europe), please, do a favor to yourself and don’t miss it. Otherwise, just put a shotgun in your mouth and make a new painting for your bedroom walls.
This is a rare example of stellar musicianship and impressive songwriting, that if you haven’t heard it already, you are even more pathetic than I thought. Buy this record and blame god (or Satan, depending in what you believe) for not having spawned you with the drumming abilities of Mr. Mauro Mercurio.
PS: That cover just kicks ass.
I am most pleased with Hour of Penance's new album 'The Vile Conception". The band displays a very impressive amount of talent through the extreme brutality of their music. The Vile Conception retains a very fast pace, plenty of diversity, and is most heavy, all the while remaining strong, clear, and very audible throughout the entire album. The production of this album is incredible! It's a very amazing and impressive piece of work being that it's so brutal and complex, yet stunningly audible and followable.
What really gets to me about the album though is that I couldn't have asked for a finer example of death metal. The Vile Conception really raises the bar! I've heard only few other albums that have brought me such satisfaction as this one (included are Nile's "Annihilation of the Wicked", & Myrkskog's "Superior Massacre").
As said in a previous review, I would have to agree that the only two things I can criticize are the vocals, and the length. I would have loved for the album to have been longer, but the vocals have grown on me. If you love real, balls-to-the-wall death metal you will not be disappointed with this cd!
'The Holy Betrayal'
Early 2008 has been a good period for death metal, seeing new releases from four of my favourite death metal bands: Monolith Deathcult's "Triumvirate", Hate Eternal's "Fury and Flames", Deicide's "Till Death Do Us Part"... and this one, The Vile Conception by Hour of Penance. All of them are good albums, but for me The Vile Conception clearly stands as the best of the four.
The first two albums by Hour of Penance are both very good brutal death metal albums, featuring:
- Strong, guttural growling vocals (the kind I expect in death).
- Heavy and aggressive guitar riffing, alternating between grinding destruction and catchy, air-guitarable hooks.
- Lots of brutality and blastbeats, but also plenty of diversity and mid- to slow-tempo parts.
- Clear and heavy production with plenty of power and with all instruments audible.
The Vile Conception offers all this and more. In addition to retaining all the elements that make the first two albums good, The Vile Conception also shows advances in key areas:
- The vocal rhythms on the earlier albums tended to be somewhat strange, with awkward pauses, being overall un-catchy. On The Vile Conception, the vocal lines are not only more rhythmic and easier to follow, but also faster and longer, adding a whole new layer of intensity and brutality to the album. (This doesn't sound so impressive when described in words, but it makes a great difference when you hear it.)
- The earlier albums both had several strong songs, but were also plagued by a number of more mediocre songs. The Vile Conception is more consistent, with every song being very worthy of listening.
The lyrics are of the anti-Christian variety. Not my favourite topic, but quite well written (certainly better than the lyrics that bands like Deicide spew out). Better than the gore/torture-based lyrics prevalent on Pageantry for Martyrs. I kind of miss the cryptic horror lyrics on some songs on Disturbance, tho. My favourite lyric on the album is Hideously Conceived, which is a morbid and gruesome alternate interpretation of the myth of the Virgin Mary and her immaculate conception.
I have only two points of criticism:
- The production is mostly very good, but I don't entirely like the way they recorded the vocals. They are too rich in the mid-range frequencies where I would have preferred a more bassy sound.
- The length is only 36 minutes. Very standard for the brutal death genre, but I would have preferred more.
In conclusion, The Vile Conception is an excellent album. The best so far by Hour of Penance and the best death metal album I have seen here in early 2008. I hope Hour of Penance will continue the growth they've shown themselves capable of on this album.
Highlights include Misconception and Hideously Conceived.
Italy's HOUR OF PENANCE bring one of the most neckwrecking albums in death metal with their third full-length "The Vile Conception". From the opening "Misconception" they blast you through a journey that could take a raging elephant and throw it miles away.
A thing that has to be mentioned is the music. The instruments are handled in a way that would make a lot of great musicians jealous. The drums are probably the instrument that stands out the most. It's blasting beyond blasting. Since I am a drummer I feel the jealousy growing in me as I am not that good. Maybe one day...
The music is pretty straight-forward (meaning you can headbang to it almost all the time) wich makes the album pretty easy to get into even after just a few listens.
The vocals performed are really impressive and are a huge improvement since the "Pageantry For Martyrs" album who's vocals were pretty flat.
The most impressive songs on this album are the opener "Misconception", "Hideously Conceived", "The Holy Betrayal" and the album closer "Hierarchy Of The Fools".
Over all "The Vile Conception" are an excellent performed death metal album and it easily reaches the top ranks on my list of death metal albums!