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Contender for greatest tech death ever - 100%

Samtropy, September 10th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Prosthetic Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

Hour of Penance is neither the most distinctive and original band, the most tight and technical, nor the most consistently well-produced. In fact this album includes none of their original members, has a slightly off-balance mix, and doesn't sound much different from their previous 3 albums. So why do I think this is one of the best tech death albums ever made?

The songwriting. Every single one of the 14 tracks on this album (the version that includes 3 bonus tracks) is composed with superlative care and quality. Riffs draw you in with relentless intensity and just the right balance of melody, groove, and incomprehensible fast and precise brutality. And while the gothic vibe is inescapable, the atmospheric nuances keep it fresh and intelligent at every turn. This is not one of those albums that has lots of atmospheric filler and ominous interstitial music (although I do enjoy this from Vader, Ade, Bloodtruth, etc) -- it weaves the atmosphere right into the brutal sound. So the experience of listening to this album is more like being in the room with an enthusiastic band just rocking out, and that room happens to also include magical gargoyls or something. There's a lot of catchy melodic riffs with just the right amount of repetition to balance the near relentlessly thick and fast pace of technical grinding.

Paolo Pieri really settles in here on his second outing with the band as vocalist, lyricist, and second guitarist. I honestly haven't read too much into the words here, but they seem to fit the imagery and vocal performances perfectly. His vocal pace and delivery isn't as distinctively fast and frantic as his predecessor Francisco Paoli who left the band a few albums back to form Fleshgod Apocalypse, but it's honest, strong, and fits the music perfectly. Although too low in the mix, Marco Mastrobuono brings a distinct personality the bass parts, which reward repeated close listens. Drummer James Payne (here on his only album with the band) really shines with a wide range of insanely fast and technical beats and fills that support the song above all else. He also does an interesting backwards sort of blast beat with what sounds like a secondary piccolo snare. Lots of color on the drum sounds and performance. The only negative to the album is the rhythm guitar tone, which is a bit over-processed sounding, and probably a bit loud in the mix. Solos are melodic and well-composed, with zero flashy shreddery. Just solid intelligent lead lines.

Highlights are too numerous to list (every single track is perfect), but the easiest song to get hooked would be "Resurgence of the Empire". Recommended if you like 2000's era Behemoth, early Fleshgod Apocalypse.

Easily the best of 2014 so far - 95%

Death_Welder, May 17th, 2014

I've always loved Hour of Penance, even though they seem to get over-looked by quite a bit of the metal community and recently overshadowed by their semi-offspring Fleshgod Apocalypse. All their albums are consistently solid, although not entirely transcending themselves from album to album. That being said, this album is quite fresh and possibly my favorite by them.

It took a solid five listens to sink in for me, but it hit hard and fast like a door was opened and I suddenly found the magic I thought they may have let slip this round. The first thing I noticed in the album is the songs may not be quite as technical or quite as brutal as the past, but the atmosphere is fiery, hell-dripping vitriol of biblical proportions. They really make you feel like they are dragging their naked and humiliated king through the streets of Ancient Rome to be laid to death in front of a shocked public. The grandiosity laced into the tracks is what really sets it apart from Sedition, which was also a tech-death masterpiece, but didn't quite give me that chill like Regicide does.

The first few tracks are above average, but the album really kicks off for me at Resurgence of the Empire, the album's single. The main riff is pretty off-beat for a brutal and/or tech death band that usually plays at the speed of sound, but the atmosphere it brings is a whole lot better in the context of the full album than being released as a single. As far as the instrumentation goes, the riffs all seem purposefully written and they all carry the same conviction as the title track, while the bass is wonderfully audible throughout the album. The drums and vocals are both top-notch, however they both work to enhance the riffs and ideas in the songs rather than try to be standouts. Other than that, the instruments are all performed at a superstar level, akin to Origin or Spawn of Possession.

As opposed to writing a novel here on the band's note choices and time signatures, I'd rather give an honest few paragraphs to convey that this album is stunning. There's a great amount of feeling in these songs that seemed to be missing from some of the earlier uber-tech bands like Necrophagist or Brain Drill. The riffs and songs are memorable, brutal, challenging and just fucking awesome. Above all else, the album combines the OSDM traits of more catchy, memorable riffs and atmosphere with better production techniques and a much higher instrumental proficiency that is found in many post-2000s death metal bands. Hour of Penance really hit every main facet of death metal with this one and it does not go unnoticed.