Reviewed: [November 2019]
Released [2019 Agonia Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
If Italy’s Hour of Penance seemed to have gotten stuck in a bit of groove-oriented rut with 2017’s Cast The First Stone, following a decade-long run of stellar death metal that preceded it, it hasn’t taken the band long to wrestle themselves free. While there is certainly still some groove to be found on their eighth and latest effort Misotheism – notably on the imposing closing track “Occult Den of Snakes” – it is more interspersed and strategically placed to maximize the impact of the otherwise sleek and vicious blackened death metal the band dole out here. And in that way, it’s more effective and less derivative.
Indeed, Misotheism is a dynamic and dramatic work that harks back to The Vile Conception/Sedition era of 2008-2012 when Hour of Penance were arguably at its creative peak – even though guitarist Giulio Moschini is the only holdover from most of the period, and the longest-serving soldier of a band in which none of the original members remain. It marks a rare second album where the entire lineup has carried over, and it is perhaps that confidence and familiarity that has allowed Hour to blossom anew.
Regardless, the album is a scorcher, once you get past the classical intro piece “Mass Crucifixion Kings.” That may hint of Italian cohorts Fleshgod Apocalypse – whose frontman Francesco Paoli served in that role with HOP on Vile Conception and Paradogma, before defecting in 2010 – but the similarities largely end as “Blight And Conquer” blasts off and the orchestral trappings are forgotten the rest of the way.
Though boasting a certain majesty in the guitar swells that punctuate the album, Misotheism is more about intensity and sheer power, guided by the supersonic drumming of Davide “BrutalDave” Billia – also of Beheaded, etc. He proves worthy of the nickname in his furious, blasting tempos and cyclonic fills here – although the “drumminess” of an otherwise resonant mix from the Wiesławscy brothers, who’ve worked with the likes of Behemoth and Vader, among others, is a bit much at times, muffling the rest of the band’s equally relentless attack.
But that’s about my only real complaint with an otherwise sterling album. With its slashing riffs, churning rhythms and Paolo Pieri’s grizzled roar – and the band’s over-riding unbridled energy – Misotheism is as exhilarating as it is punishing. The 10 tracks are complex, but never overbearing, and manage to sound grand without resorting to the usual window dressing, recalling Behemoth’s 2009 masterpiece Evangelion.
Hour Of Penance mark their 20th year this year. And though, again, none of the original members remain, this current lineup is giving the band a second wind with Misotheism after taking a bit of a breather, comparatively, with Cast The First Stone. Here’s hoping they can keep it up.