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Unrelenting sonic punch to the gut of Christianity - 90%

Roswell47, April 13th, 2010

When most people think of countries known for death metal, Italy probably does not immediately come to mind. Yet it seems that over the last decade or so, Italy has gradually begun proving itself as a source of some of the most truly awesome modern death metal out there (Illogicist, Blasphemer, Septycal Gorge, Vomit the Soul, Fleshgod Apocalypse, etc.). Hour of Penance is one of the strongest bands leading this Italian onslaught. Their 2008 release, The Vile Conception, was the best album of their career up to that point and one of the best brutal death metal albums released that year. Now Hour of Penance has returned with the newest slab of brutality, Paradogma and it definitely has been worth the wait.

Paradogma manages to not only match the quality of The Vile Conception, but also exceeds it in some areas. The production is thicker and meatier, yet somehow clearer than The Vile Conception. This helps magnify Hour of Penance's already intense attack to insane levels. Similar to modern Behemoth, many of the songs have the feeling of a steamrolling tank barreling ahead at top speed. On Paradogma, Hour of Penance's songs are also more distinguishable than they have been in the past. They achieve this by having more tempo variation within the songs, memorable yet complicated riffs, and leads that really stick in your head. Actually, most of the songs are downright catchy...especially when they blend all of these various elements within one single song like in "The Woeful Eucharisty" or "Malevolence of the Righteous." In fact, the album is packed full of winning tracks. There's really not a bad one in the bunch. The closest they come is the last track, "Apotheosis," which feels more or less tacked on to the end of the album. It does not sound anything like the preceding half hour. Its riffs are more repetitive and the vocals are yelled rather than growled. It sounds more like an outro with an eerie soundtrack vibe than an actual song. Maybe the intention was for the track to wind things down at the end of the album after the beat-down that was delivered earlier. If so, it serves its purpose, even if it feels a tad unnecessary and out of place. Lyrically, the whole album is essentially anti-religion (although you probably guessed that by looking at the cover), yet they never get too heavy-handed to the point of unintentional humor like Aeon has been known to do. Being from the home of Roman Catholicism, it seems totally justifiable for them to tread these well-worn lyrical topics. Franceso Paoli (also of Fleshgod Apocalypse) delivers these lyrics with severe intensity. His growls are stronger than ever. The guitars benefit immensely from the clear production and cut through the mix with ease. The bass guitar and the drums rumble along beneath everything, laying a massive foundation. The drums are obviously triggered, but they fit perfectly with the music and manage to sound huge without sounding too fake or drowning out the other instruments.

While Paradogma is not really anything you haven't heard before, it is still destined to be one of the year's best brutal death metal releases. This album delivers an unrelenting sonic punch to the gut of Christianity with intensity, precision, and power. Old fans should be pleased. Hour of Penance has managed to make an album that retains the excellence of The Vile Conception, yet sounds just different enough from their previous releases to keep things interesting. To the uninitiated: Hour of Penance does not sound quite like any one band, but if a blend of modern Behemoth, Krisiun, Nile, and just a pinch of Cannibal Corpse sounds good to you, you owe it to yourself to check this out.

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