Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Hour of Penance - Sedition

Hour of Penance are a brutal technical death metal band from Italy. They released their fifth full-length, Sedition,  in March.

These guys have established a good track record over the past decade with a series of strong releases, and with new members on drums and vocals the band had the task of showing that they had not lost their edge with these personnel changes. The resulting record is absolutely crushing. All bands in this vein are heavy, but  Sedition  has a sense of flow and cohesion that actually heightens the the intensity. In a simple non-stop barrage the crushing riffs, manic leads, and inhumanly intense drumming might begin to lose its impact and just wash over the listener like white noise. But Hour of Penance don't do that. Instead they introduce traces of melody you can grab hold of like a drowning man clinging to a raft, and then they start pounding away once they're sure you aren't going anywhere. Brief windows appear where you can catch your breath, just enough to keep you going, then the battering continues. The formula really works well, because instead of merely turning on the meat grinder like many brutal bands do, this record grabs hold of you and actively drags you through it.

There three specific features that really stand out to me above the rest in this album. The first is the vocal work. It's not the ultra low guttural burping that many bands think they have to use in order to sound brutal. Instead it's fairly mid-range, but it comes at you with intensity. This is not a deliberate death growl focused on tone, it's a bellowing attack that comes with enough force that it becomes ragged purely as a by-product of its animal ferocity. The second feature is the lead guitar. There are actually some carefully paced and well crafted solos over top of the frothing sea of intensity which stand out as surprisingly melodic. These speak not only of the band's musical capabilities, they also serve the valuable function of keeping the listener engaged as closely as possible with the music. Finally, the drumming is a standout feature from a purely technical standpoint. Its speed and power are driving, battering, and relentless. It is the engine that keeps the brutal technical end of the music crashing forward while you are being lured in by the guitar leads.

I honestly don't listen to much in the brutal technical death metal range because it often feels to me like the bands are so worried about pummeling the listener that they forget to engage their audience's interest. In this case, though, I was pulled in as I was brutalized. As a result, this release stands as one of the best listening experiences I've had with this type of record in recent memory.

Grade: A-
Powerful and intense brutal technical death metal with just enough compositional structure to keep you engaged while it beats you to death. Also, the album artwork is pretty sweet.

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