Italy’s Hour Of Penance, a brutal death metal powerhouse, returns with Cast The First Stone, their seventh full-length album. They have always been straightforward brutal death metal, well produced, and always fairly technical. Comparisons to bands such as Origin are warranted, but Hour Of Penance have usually been very straightforward in their approach with a wall of sound that overwhelms the listener.
The approach has always worked well, usually resulting in good, if a bit unoriginal, albums. But, long time fans of Hour Of Penance have probably noticed a drift away from the straight ahead, brutal death metal assaults of albums such as The Vile Conception, and that drift continues on Cast The First Stone as they mix things up a bit.
Of course, the template is still well produced brutal death metal with guttural vocals, blastbeats galore, and with lots of fast riffing. However, a few moments of groove, a few breakdowns, and even some melody creeps into the assault. The results are mixed, however, as the songwriting is rather pedestrian, resulting in an album that’s a bit of a departure, but just not a very memorable one. A melody here, a blastbeat there, a breakdown here, and so on seems to be the formula, and many of the songs tend to blend in to one another.
The songwriting ticks upwards a bit very deep into the album with the last two tracks, “Wall Of Cohorts” and “XXI Century Imperial Crusade,” both being well written. Each has a bit of an epic sweep with the inclusion of keyboards and good guitar solos. Although not as baroque, the songwriting will probably draw comparisons between Hour Of Penance and acts treading the same waters such as Fleshgod Apocalypse and, to a lesser extent, Ex Deo.
But, truth be told, Hour Of Penance are a better band when they’re simply blasting away with straight ahead brutal death metal, and I have a feeling that most long time fans will probably agree with this assessment after listening to Cast The First Stone.
(released January 27, 2017 on Prosthetic Records)