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Hour of Penance – Cast the First Stone Award winner

Hour of Penance
Cast the First Stone
by Erika Kuenstler at 24 January 2017, 3:26 PM

Italian masters of Extreme Death Metal HOUR OF PENANCE are back with their seventh full-length album, “Cast the First Stone”, due for release on 27th January. And in keeping with the current social trend we find ourselves in, things have gotten political. The album artwork takes a strong political stance, featuring a glimpse of crusade-like carnage, with the fatally wounded head of the army on the western side of the field having just beheaded the head of the eastern army, slashing his mount's throat for good measure. Added to the religious undertones of the album's name, and you've already got a pretty explosive package. Given the current political climate and all the terrorist attacks, this is one hell of a controversial topic to tackle, but if anyone can capture senseless brutality, it would be HOUR OF PENANCE.

Spanning just over half an hour, “Cast the First Stone” is a bombastic aural onslaught from start to finish. Starting off with “XXI Century Imperial Crusade”, an ominous atmosphere explodes into a hailstorm of a song. Drummer “BrutalDave” is certainly in fine form, delivering each blast from his kit with surgical precision, giving the song a staccato of  machine-gun fire which carries on throughout the album. This brutal aggression is further enforced by Paolo's spit-fire vocals, tempered only slightly by a searing guitar solo halfway through the song. The title song “Cast the First Stone” is a masterpiece of brilliance and breath-taking technicality. HOUR OF PENANCE really show their mettle here, with a punishing opus that will likely be killer in a live setting. All too many bands in this genre either use their music as a platform to show off how technical they can get, or rely way too much on brutality. However, HOUR OF PENANCE are masters of sparingly using each of these two elements to complement the other, resulting in a powerful melody that comes at you with the unstoppable force of a tank. “Burning Bright” takes the pace up a notch before dropping into a relentless sustained assault, complete with howling sirens adding a sense of urgency. In stark contrast, victorious and triumphant orchestrations lead us into “Iron Fist”, with cascading guitar-work adding skilful flourishes to the melodic foreground, whilst the brutal sections have all the more force behind their punches due to this contrast. At the apex of the album we find “The Chains of Misdeed”, a frenetic maelstrom of a song that absolutely annihilates all in its path, with the inexorable pace being kept up in “Horn of Flies”, where venomously spat vocals team up with maniacal drumming and macabre riffs to create nightmarish soundscapes. “Shroud of Ashes” on the other hand uses chunky bass lines to create an atmosphere of unstoppable decimation, and has my personal vote as the perfect soundtrack to the apocalypse. Penultimately we have “Walls of Cohorts”, which starts out with a slower and more horror-tinged cinematic feel to it before accelerating into the speed riffs we've come to know and love HOUR OF PENANCE for. Closer “Damnatio Memoriae” sees the band seize one last opportunity to steamroller any last resistance left, with a rolling slower-paced song that really cranks the heaviness to the max. Stunning guitar-work adds flair to the song, whilst war-like orchestrations round off the song, bringing the album round full circle.

Overall,  “Cast the First Stone” is a rapid-fire assault that unleashes a sonic blitzkrieg that blazes with technicality. Whilst one could argue that the album lacks moments that truly stand out, there's something to be said for the band's business-like approach to the album. They get in, annihilate your eardrums for half an hour, and then they're gone again. Mission accomplished. HOUR OF PENANCE will likely get quite a bit of backlash thanks to the contentious theme of the album, but it's good to see someone with the balls to speak their mind. “Cast the First Stone” is the ultimate soundtrack if you're in a “Fuck the world” mood, and is an album that I will very likely have on repeat for quite a while to come: the year has only just begun, and already we have an excellent contender for the “Best of 2017” list. Definitely worth checking out!

Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8
Songwriting: 8


4 Star Rating

1. XXI Century Imperial Crusade
2. Cast the First Stone
3. Burning Bright
4. Iron Fist
5. The Chains of Misdeed
6. Horn of Flies
7. Shroud of Ashes
8. Wall of Cohorts
9. Damnatio Memoriae
Giulio Moschini - Guitars
Paolo Pieri - Guitars, Vocals
Marco Mastrobuono - Bass
Davide "BrutalDave" Billia - Drums
Record Label: Prosthetic Records


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