O, Sweet Father of all that is Dark and Evil, wouldja look at that?!? Italy’s Death Metal Masters HOUR OF PENANCE are back with their seventh album and third for Prosthetic Records entitled Cast the First Stone, coming January 27. Now I don’t know about you guys, but I was really hot on 2014’s Regicide, so I couldn’t wait to get my claws into this one. Some of my favorite bands are the ones that straddle the line between Brutal and Technical Death effortlessly, like these guys do. Title track “Cast the First Stone” is a prime example of this as it starts out with a guitar line reminiscent of IRON MAIDEN before launching into an all-out brute force attack.
Opener “XXI Century Imperial Crusade” drops an assortment of hammers on your head from beginning to end, while “Burning Bright” has plenty of blast beats to go around. The vocals are especially sinister here, making this easily a favorite right away. One thing about this band is that they know exactly how to intro a song in such a fashion that you stop and say, “Whoa! I have GOT to see where this is going!” and that’s exactly what happens with “Iron Fist.” Sure it’s heavy as balls, but the way it draws you in is like magic, and the guitar solos are extremely fluid.
“The Chains of Misdeed” goes straight for the jugular and it comes at the perfect time in the track sequence. All four members come together like a battering ram outside the castle wall and it is pure fucking carnage, I love it! More insane blast beats and slaps in the face abound during “Horn of Flies” and the riffs on this one are really chunky. Somebody call Campbell’s and tell them we have a new Death Metal flavor of stew. Now…imagine agreeing to be the live practice dummy for a martial arts class of about 20 advanced students and that’s the feeling you’ll get when “Shroud of Ashes” comes on. I’m sore just from the first few listens.
“Wall of Cohorts” starts out differently than the rest and shakes things up a bit, opting for a more slow, deliberate, and evil march, like the conquering army bearing down on the sleeping village under cover of darkness. In this case the guitars are the swords, blades sharpened and ready to taste blood, with the rhythm section acting as the catapults laying siege to structures everywhere. Closing the disc is “Damnatio Memoriae.” If “Cohorts” represents the advancing army, then “Memoriae” sounds an awful lot like the victory march as they move on, leaving nothing but scorched earth in their wake.
All told, this is yet another fantastic album from HOUR OF PENANCE. I can’t find a single thing I don’t love, from the relentless guitar attacks to the monstrous vocals to the pummeling bass and drums. THIS is a complete Death Metal record from start to finish, with no holes, gaps, or filler tracks. Cast the First Stone will impress a lot of people when it comes out, I can feel it. And it will surely wind up on some Year End Top Albums lists. I’m already putting it on mine in permanent black marker. Pick up your copy on January 27, you will NOT regret it!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM