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Blasphemer - The Sixth Hour - 85%

66Higgs, December 27th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Candlelight Records

The Italian death metal group's third full length delivers an uncompromising retelling of the last days of Jesus Christ, backed by technical brutality and icy, dread-laden riffage. Even the ruthless, Christian-persecuting Romans would tremble with trepidation if they could hear of their acts against Our Lord told in this fashion.

Coming from their earlier effort, "Ritual Theophagy", Blasphemer takes a more blackened approach this time accompanied by improved songwriting, cleaner production and tighter instrumentation. "The Sixth Hour" presents a Behemoth-esque sound, with jagged tremolo leads, dissonant open chords and a general wickedness - provided by guitarists Simone Brigo and Nicolò Brambilla. The pair manages to unleash carnage with their crunchy, biting tone and frenzied riffing, most notably on the tracks "Hail, King of the Jews", "Stabat Mater" and "Lord of Lies", the most ferocious song on the album. The guitarists also prove that evil need not require breakneck speeds, with the crushing and foreboding instrumental "Via Dolorosa" and the trudging main riff of the title track along with its chugging, galloping outro. For the most part, the technicality of their chops shines throughout in the classic black\death style. The drumming, courtesy of Davide Cazziol, pounds through with gusto and keeps the fastest tracks hurtling along due to the machine-gunning double bass and super-tight kit work. Lead vocalist/bassist Clod "The Ripper" De Rosa tears through this biblical tale with devilish thunder. Low and throaty, yet intelligible with strong hooks on "Hail, King of the Jews!" and "I.N.R.I". This vocal style is bypassed briefly with his cries on the title track, plus his eerie sermon-like performance on the album closer, "De Profundis".

Like the biblical tale, even this musical narrative needs some conflict. "Blessed Are the Wounds That Never Bore", a break from the cacophony coming after track 4, is a short acoustic number which may have fared better placed near the end of the album as the build-up of energy from the previous tracks briefly evaporates. Despite the drums driving the momentum and being very well executed, a few more fills here or there from Cazziol wouldn't go amiss. The guitar solos on this release, although delivered with frantic energy, are minimal and too short to be fully indulged whilst a lack of audible bass may also upset those four-string lovers out there.

"The Sixth Hour" may not break any new ground in the blackened death scene, but is still a mighty addition and a clear improvement for Blasphemer in terms of songwriting, composition and vision. Maybe it's time for us to acknowledge and thank Christ, the guy we all love to bash around here, for providing us with the subject matter for this album.