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Hour of Penance -- Paradogma - 92%

IslanderNCS, April 3rd, 2010

Rome's Hour of Penance have now released their fourth album. Entitled Paradogma, it's a worthy follow-up to this collective's widely praised third offering, The Vile Conception.
The band's modus operandi on Paradogma is straight-forward, but no less compelling for its simplicity: Play blackened death metal, play it really fast, and make the music vicious.

That is not to say the album falls prey to monotony. The songs most assuredly do not all sound alike. They are creatively structured to feed your need for brutality while striking that primordial chord in your brain stem that makes you want to jump and move. Paradogma swallows you up in a miasma of dark fury that seethes in its intensity, yet infects you with hooks and melodies that will cause the songs to re-play in your head long after the music stops. It's simply one of the best modern death-metal albums I've heard so far this year.

I’ll start by segmenting the band's assault into its sharp-edged component pieces. I’m compelled to begin with Mauro Mercurio's drumming: It's jaw-dropping in its speed, power, and variety, and it dominates the sound on this album. In fact, I found myself unintentionally focusing on what he was doing to such an extent that at times the rest of the music began to blur around the edges of my consciousness. The blast beats and double bass are inhumanly fast and brutally propulsive, but equally transfixing are Mercurio's rapid shifts in both rhythms and the attention he devotes to different drums in his kit. And just for good measure, in case your attention somehow begins to wander over to one of the other instruments, he periodically punctuates the percussive maelstrom with single-note, reverberating slams that sound like bombs going off. Silvano Leone's bass is locked in tightly with Mercurio's drumming and his playing is nimble and sharp.

On any given song, Giulio Moschini may establish an ominous, distorted melody with his grinding riffs sawing away like industrial blades cracking concrete, but then may break into an even more rhythmic riff that makes your head want to start banging away, and then may bolt into a solo of either furious or hauntingly ethereal quality. His blazing riffs and the way they interact with the rhythm section infuse the songs with memorable grooves. Francesco Paoli's vocals are simply awesome -- deep, gurgling growls, giving way to hair-raising howls, and frequently matching the speed and intensity of the rhythm section with rapid-fire staccato bursts of words tumbling over each other.

On Paradogma, Hour of Penance have managed to create memorable songs despite maintaining a generally fast and furious technical attack. One song departs dramatically from the generally prevailing tempo. "Spiritual Ravishment" is a self-contained study in contrasts. It launches itself in a pummeling assault on the senses with perhaps the most ravaging combination of drumming and riffing on the album, but then shifts without warning into an extended mid-tempo instrumental, as a synthesizer takes over with a combination of rhythmic throbbing and brooding melody, accompanied only by Mercurio's solitary pounding.

I should add one final word about the last song on the album, called "Apotheosis". I’m not saying that it’s my favorite track (and I’m not sure I could pick a favorite even at gunpoint), but it probably is the most infectious. As the volume builds at the start, an almost industrial-style rhythm is established, and then the music shifts down into a slower pace as Paoli begins to shout out angry words. Following a short bridge, Moschini starts hammering out a prolonged, repetitive, massively compulsive riff, Mercurio puts on a display behind the kit, and the sound of bells chime in the background. It’s a fitting end to a wonderful collection of music.