Hour of Penance
Cast the First Stone
Reviewed By Chris Gibbs
Hailing from Rome, Italy, Hour of Penance has been consistently belting out records of technical death metal for the last 14 years without my knowledge; six of them in fact. In that time, they have weathered substantial line-up changes with not one single original member remaining. In fact, the band is actually on their fourth vocalist, although that position has been sustained since 2010 with vocalist/guitarist Paolo Pieri. Since their last record, 2014’s Regicide, the line-up has remained intact, consisting of lead guitarist Giulio Moschini, bassist Marco Mastrobuono, and drummer James Payne.
With all that being said, I am not going to let that impact on how receptive I am to their seventh record and third for Prosthetic Records, Cast the First Stone. Hour of Penance play the kind of death metal that makes your ears prick up, your nose and mouth kind of scrunch up a little that makes you appear both angry and happy as you nod with approval to nobody in particular, just yourself. We all know that face. Opener “XXI Century Imperial Crusade” immediately makes the aural connection to Cannibal Corpse as a comparison, specifically vocally as Paolo delivers in that familiar and brutal but intelligible delivery monopolised by the likes of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher.
The music itself, however, is played at a much more technical and frenetic pace, but the short, sharp, and impactful songs on offer do warrant those Cannibal Corpse references. The title track is one of those songs you find yourself skipping to after those initial listens due to the fantastic melodic lead intro that is not too dissimilar to Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” or Machine Head’s “Be Still and Know”, and some seriously ridiculous lead work continues on the likes of “The Chains of Misdeed” and “Horn of Flies”.
There are some subtle but notable keys and synths throughout the record that assist with giving the songs a little bit of an underlying atmosphere to counter the bludgeoning you’re receiving, but when “Wall of Cohorts” breaks through, they come to the forefront giving off the vibe of an epic Roman death march. Bassist Marco Mastrobuono handled the production and mixing duties and he has done a fine job, although his own instrument is drowned out in the mix by the barrage of death metal riffing and blasting. But, with nine consistent songs in 36 minutes, Hour of Penance has not just cast a stone, they have hurled one heavy fucking boulder!