Here at the Angry Metal Guy Emporium of Dreams we ask the important questions – the persistent questions, if our comments section is to be believed…  So when I get my mitts on something extreme, a la death metal, I always wonder: did they get it right? There are some bands who are apparently happy to persist in chasing the Kronos endorsed dragon of brutality, though forever destined to never reach our lofty, elitist standards. Some bands plug away releasing record after record of dry, digitized discipline that no one particularly cares to recall. And then there are those acts that manage to seamlessly meld technical proficiency, distinct brutality and that often evasive element of musicality that seasons the broth. Italy’s Hour of Penance have, for me, always been one of those bands, able to reliably mete out the savagery and balance with solid songwriting. Cast the First Stone, clocking in as the band’s seventh outing, thematically follows hot on the heels of predecessor Regicide, but the question here is: do these Italians have another great slab of death metal in the tank, or has the formula begun to fail?

Although hardly polarizing, the band have, on occasion, drawn their share of detractors, criticized for closely following the blueprint laid out by influential acts such as Nile and Behemoth. I, on the other hand, have often found the band’s work a damn sight more reliable than their peers and Regicide was no exception – an album I was surprised to find had received some mixed reviews due to its fractional deviation from the dense pugilism of fan-favorites Paradogma and SeditionCast the First Stone is the natural successor; it minutely dials back the technicality in favor of a streamlined, occasionally melodic approach, but this time  straddles the line neatly between older material by keeping the punishment unashamedly corporal. Holding true to a concept that supposedly revolves around the “millennial conflict between West and East” and inspired by events such as the tragic attack on the Bataclan in Paris, Hour of Penance have, here more than ever, managed to infuse a particular fluidity into the album, with many of the tracks individually distinct without deviating from the concept, avoiding the pitfalls of suffocating inside the narrative.

First up, single “XXI Century Imperial Crusade” is a straight riff fest and definitely sets out of the album’s stall with a vehement message. Perhaps controversially, I find it to be one of the record’s more forgettable moments, especially when compared with the next song and title track, which takes a straight thrash riff and amplifies it infinitely to great effect. “Burning Bright” is a particular standout, showcasing scathing verse riffs, redolent of early Decapitated, all highlighted by lead guitarist, Giulio Moschini, who exhibits more than a flash of melody throughout the record. His fret-board acrobatics are less frenetic than on earlier releases, with plenty of emotive soloing and dramatic leads. “Iron Fist” features a stirring duel lead, which is juxtaposed perfectly with the track’s abjectly liquefying closing riff while vocalist Paolo Pieri maintains the status quo with his ever brutal, thunder diction, and although his voice does have a tendency towards the monotone at times, it serves to match his ferocious rhythms well.

Relative newcomer, skinsman Davide “BrutalDave” Billia, executes a clinic in stamina by demolishing the album with pulverizing blast beats and adept fills. His drum work seems to absorb every iota of available ear space but somehow manages a sound that still feels organic without tending towards the mechanical, particularly evident on the storming “Shroud of Ashes.” I was intrigued to find more than the usual smattering of symphonic tendencies, which successfully accentuate the tracks with the occasional flourish, although not to be compared with the band’s pseudo-offspring (why no…?) Fleshgod Apocalypse and their overt orchestrations. The production is, unsurprisingly, crushed, but in the context of such a busy album, it mingles with the other elements to lend the record a certain kinetic presence.

Hour of Penance play a ubiquitous brand of death metal, and this can’t be denied. But, if like me, you are attracted to the genre’s intrinsic brutish nature, yet find yourself wading through a sea of prosaic quotidian acts, where quantity is king and quality some kind of repellent anathema, then Cast the First Stone will certainly slake the thirst. Consistency isn’t always a dirty word, especially when it’s consistently this good.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5| Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: hourofpenance.bancamp.com | www.hourofpenance.net |facebook.com/hourofpenance
Releases Worldwide: January 27th, 2017

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  • Dr. Wvrm

    I’m pumped for this one. Great review, hombre.

  • BernBern17

    After a slowish start to the year it’s good to see some better stuff starting to come out.

  • Brian

    I, for some bizarre reason, have ‘Paradogma’ and it’s the dictionary definition of lifeless, digital death metal. And dynamics? You’re having a laugh!

    • Ferrous Beuller

      Welcome to a bold new world of opposing opinions.

      • Brian

        Just doing as their new album title commands me. Have a 2nd one while I’m here! *casts irregularly-shaped stone encrusted with steel, iron and other extremely-metal metals in Ferrous Beuller’s direction*

    • Here’s Johnny

      Nope. Nope. and Nope.

    • Agree with this- but these guys have hugely upped their skills starting with ‘regicide’. You might want to check out the newer offerings.

  • From the 3 songs they’ve released for this album so far, it sounds even better than Regicide, which I thought was a masterpiece.
    Thanks for the great review ! Looking forward to getting this this week

  • antitayyip

    what is the contex with this turkish flag on cover?

    • Martin Knap

      Crussaders fighing Saracens obviously. The flag doesn’t have to be Turkish, it could be just the islamic half-moon.

  • Zach Ward

    Been waiting for this one for a while. Glad it got a 4. Paradogma was truely amazing to me, hope this album will be anywhere near as good, then I’ll thoroughly enjoy the fuck out of it. Also when an album cover is that good, the music must be good or its an even worse dissapointment. You can’t have an amazing album cover and have your music suck.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Why are these guys so fucking great, tho? I still find myself coming back to Regicide from time to time and that record slays everything in a 100 mile radius.

    • That album really put them on the map for me – a vanishingly small number of bands are able to write brutal music that is also memorable and melodic.

  • Jason

    The closing paragraph made me think of this.

  • Westpaceagle

    Thank you for sorting this wheat (brutal wheat?) from the chaff of ho-hum DM. I have neither the time nor inclination to do this work myself, but will gladly reap the reward of what sounds to be a quality slab. Thanks again!

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Really liked it as far as death metal goes. May even put it in my Amazon cart, but still, pretty much every time I get a death metal album, even when the music’s great, I listen to it like 5 times the first week, then nothing. But,still, pretty great song. But, still, $15… But,still…

    • ssorg

      why not bandcamp? is $10 + shipping > $15 from Amazon? you can also do digital-only for $10…

      • EnslavedEld73

        I get a lot of music on emusic.com. They don’t have the bigger releases but they do have a lot of underground metal. Looks like they will be getting the full length of Hour of Penance soon, probably for 6 or 7 bucks.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        I don’t use my cpu to listen to music. The speakers are connected to the PS4 which I use for internet, and it doesn’t work with bandcamp. I can still use spotify on PS4, but it doesn’t always have everything. Then, if I’m listening on the PS4, I can’t do anything else while the music is playing, like watching a sporting event with no sound or something. CDs are just how listening to music is best for me, with my situation. Put on a game, turn off the sound, put on some tunes, get stoned, and just enjoy…

        • ssorg

          understood. For CDs, bandcamp isn’t as easy as amazon, unless having access to the digital versions is important. I do like that bandcamp seems to be committed to giving the artists a fair deal, but in the end, it’s understandable to make decisions based on the bottom line (I do too!)

  • VikingSchism

    I like what I hear here, going to have to make a note to explore more death metal of this style

  • Kryopsis

    Definitely enjoyed two out of the three songs released so far. You’re right Ferrous: the opening track is not particularly memorable and actually gave me the wrong impression until I heard the rest. Unfortunately January 27th is also when the new Kreator is coming out so this album will have to wait a bit.

    • VikingSchism

      I’m waiting for the 27th for this, The Great Old One’s new album, and Undrask’s album, the 27th sounds like a pretty eventful day

      • Kryopsis

        Damn, you’re right! Forgot about those two, even though they’re both on my list. Guess I’ll be very productive at work this Friday while listening to all that Metal!

    • Gage

      Jan 27th is going to hurt my wallet…

  • ArtifeX

    The lead melody and the overall atmosphere of Cast the First Stone reminds me a lot of Necrophobic’s Hrimtursum. Good stuff.

  • Eli Valcik

    I looked at the album art and said to myself “please be good”

    • defjam

      Absolutely agree with you

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    That crushed sound is such a terrible disservice to this

  • gus rodrigues

    wow! really impressed by the embeded song! is their back catalog as good as this one?

    • Matthew

      Yes. They don’t have any weak albums. Most people consider The Vile Conception to be their best album, but I think Sedition is slightly better. You can’t go wrong with them though.

      • Gage

        I just bought their whole discography and I can second that. Every album is worth listening to.

    • Ferrous Beuller

      Sedition is a brute, but if I were you, I’d pick this one up and Regicide and then work your way back.

      • gus rodrigues

        I did exactly that. Regicide is indeed a beast of an album. Will try Sedition and Vile Conception as some of the comments suggested. Love “discovering new bands” with extensive back catalog. I have forsaken my death metal roots for too long…

        • basshole

          Paradogma and Vile is when they had their best lineup. The vocals and drumming are totally insane.

  • Gage

    I’m JUST finding out about these guys and I love them. I’ve got some “research” to catch up on!

  • Matthew

    Very glad to hear that this album shaped up nicely. I’ve always found these guys to be one of the most solid death metal bands out there. Sedition is like my go-to death metal album when I just need something fast, technical, and heavy.

  • Jrod1983

    Another solid release from these guys, love how consistent they are.

  • basshole

    They lost me after their lineup splintered, I may give them another listen..